Suu Kyi must be freed : Clinton
By Kittipong Thavevong
The Nation

North Korea urged to drop nuclear plans and return to six-party talks

Phuket - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called on Burma to release pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi as a precondition for the normalisation of ties with the United States.

"It is important" for the world community, particularly Asean member countries, to "encourage the Burmese leadership to open up", she said.

The US hopes for a positive change in Burma but in the end it would be up to Asean to bring that about, she said.

Suu Kyi is now standing trial for allegedly sheltering a foreigner. She had been on house arrest for many years.

Clinton praised Asean collectively for its progress on human rights, saying the development of human rights within the regional grouping was "very welcomed" by the US government.

"Asean is moving in a very positive direction," she said.

But more attempts should be made to pressure Burma to "change their direction", she said.

The secretary of state also announced a return of the superpower to the region, which has a population of almost 600 million.

"The United States is back in Southeast Asia. President Obama and I believe that this region is vital to the global progress, peace and prosperity," she told the media at the Sheraton Grande Laguna hotel.

Clinton spent much of the press conference attempting to persuade North Korea to return to the discussion table on the Korean Peninsula's nuclear crisis.

She said only "irreversible denuclearisation" by North Korea would pave the way for a normalisation of ties with the US and prevent the country from facing global sanctions.

The goal was the betterment of North Korean citizens, she said.

All the five other countries in the six-party talks - the US, Russia, China, South Korea and Japan - were adamant that North Korea would have to halt its nuclear programme.

"We are willing to discuss the future of North Korea only if they agree to talk about denuclearisation," she said.

Clinton came to this resort island to attend the security-related Asean Regional Forum today. She also represented the US at the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with Asean.

Security was tight before and during the press briefing, with all journalists and cameramen covering the event required to pass through a metal detector.