Cyclone 'could delay' Myanmar president's landmark state visit to US
Myanmar President Thein Sein's landmark state visit to the United States could be delayed because of a cyclone threatening to strike his country's northwest coast.
"We have arranged the trip. But it's not certain yet. We will announce [the departure date] depending on the outcome of the cyclone," Aung Min, minister of the president's office, said yesterday. The storm was expected to make landfall in Myanmar early tomorrow.
Myanmar state television said on Monday that Thein Sein would soon make a state visit to the US - the first by a leader of the former pariah nation in almost half a century.
Neither country has announced a firm date for when Obama will welcome the former general, whose quasi-civilian government has won global plaudits for its political reforms since taking power two years ago.
But spokespeople for Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and the US Chamber of Commerce have said Thein Sein was expected to speak in Washington on Monday. The trip would be the first to Washington by a Myanmar leader since military leader Ne Win was invited in 1966 by president Lyndon Johnson.
Thein Sein in September flew to New York, where he addressed the United Nation General Assembly, following a series of visits to Myanmar by US officials including then secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The former junta premier surprised even many sceptics by launching a range of reforms after taking office in 2011 in the wake of controversial elections, freeing hundreds of political prisoners and easing censorship controls.
He has allowed opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi to take a seat in parliament, a dramatic turnaround for the Nobel Peace laureate.