Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi opened her visit to the United States with talks Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the welfare of Burmese refugees in America.
The 67-year-old Nobel laureate, who arrived on Monday for a nearly three-week visit, met with Clinton at her office in the State Department.
The top U.S. diplomat briefly spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi on the resettlement of Burmese refugees in the United States and the visitor's trip next week to Fort Wayne in Indiana state, home to a large number of Burmese.
There is "so much excitement and enthusiasm about the fact that you can actually come," Clinton told Aung San Suu Kyi, according to journalists and photographers who were allowed a couple of minutes to witness their meeting before they went into closed talks.
Aung San Suu Kyi said she had heard about Fort Wayne while tracking Burmese news when she was under house arrest for nearly two decades during the rule of the previous military junta.
Since 2006, about 55,000 Burmese refugees, most whom were living in Thailand, have been resettled in the United States. Many of them had fled nearly five decades of harsh military rule and fighting between government military troops and armed ethnic groups.
Aung San Suu Kyi will take part later Tuesday in a Washington forum organized by the Asia Society on the ongoing transition in Burma and the challenges facing the country. Clinton will make introductory remarks at the event.
Clinton made a landmark trip to Burma nine months ago in the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years to begin reconciliation with the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein who took over in March last year.
The two countries then named ambassadors to each other's capitals, formalizing diplomatic relations for the first time since Washington withdrew its ambassador in 1990.
The United States also eased investment and financial restrictions to reciprocate nascent reforms in Burma but said it will maintain an import ban amid continuing human rights and ethnic conflict concerns.
The Obama administration is believed to be considering easing a ban on imports from Burma into the U.S., one of the main remaining sanctions imposed on the country. The U.S. Congress last month renewed the ban for another year.
Aung San Suu Kyi may also meet President Barack Obama during her trip, which is her first to the U.S. in 40 years.
The White House has yet to announce whether she will meet Obama but sources say he could hold talks with her despite his hectic re-election campaign.
Just before Aung san Suu Kyi landed at the Dulles airport in Washington Monday, Thein Sein ordered the release of another 514 prisoners, including dozens of political detainees, in an apparent bid to pave the way for the U.S. to further ease sanctions ahead of his trip to attend the U.N. meeting.
Aung San Suu Kyi is also scheduled to attend a high-level meeting organized by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, a day before Thein Sein addresses the General Assembly, reports have said.
Reported by RFA's Burmese service. Written in English by Chris Billing and Parameswaran Ponnudurai.