The second big issue is the Singapore Apec meeting with the 10 Asean leaders and most importantly the meeting with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein. Releasing Aung San Suu Kyi , Nobel laureate and the political leader of the opposition, should be at the top of the agenda for any government around the world and it should be a collective effort of all governments. It is a shame for the civilized world that a Nobel laureate is imprisoned for years and there is very little action. Obama's strong words to the Burmese junta urging release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the recent visit of US diplomat Kurt Campbell to Myanmar are positive steps as this shows definite US involvement in the Burmese issue.
Obama's Presidency is definitely suggesting that the White House has an eye on Burma and is keeping tabs on the Suu Kyi issue. This is a step forward against the no-talks, no-involvement approach of the other US Presidents. Of course it is not yet time to open trade, investment or other diplomatic relations with Burma as Burma still has among the worst records of Human Rights and Democracy. So the US president will have to walk the fine line and talk the fine talk. Obama's presidency should maintain that sanctions against Burma will only be lifted when there is release of all Burmese political prisoners and especially Suu Kyi.
Of course if Obama's diplomacy helps in the release of Suu Kyi that will be one of his greatest achievements. The political conversation route to releasing Suu Kyi will be the most favored as Obama unlike his predecessor George Bush would not adopt the bombing policy. In recent times the Burmese government has felt the increased pressure to release Suu Kyi from 14 years of house arrest especially after her show trial when she was tried for allowing the visit of an American guest during her house arrest.
The visit to Asia marks the beginning of Obama's involvement in Asian issues and in case of Burma and Suu Kyi, this is a positive direction. Suu Kyi has supported the new approach of the White House. After years of inaction and misdirected action, the US Presidency seems to be taking up the real issues. However these are promises and Obama has to maintain the momentum until these promises are met and until Burma attains complete democracy.
Obama's visit to China, which has mainly focused on trade and climate change, has also been rather significant. He has maintained diplomacy by acknowledging China's power as an emerging global market and an Asian giant. Yet he has subtly but surely talked of issues such as information rights, censorship of information, freedom of expression and internet freedom as all these seem to have been obstructed by the communist government in China.
China is soaring ahead in every way yet there are gross violations in rights related to freedom of expression and information sharing. China really needs to open up to a 21st century information policy instead of maintaining strict control and old fashioned communist policies of monitoring and obstruction. Obama's approach towards China is definitely in the right direction but as with Burma he has to maintain his position towards China and a balance between diplomacy and a gentle reminder to the Chinese government to be more open and democratic in its approach. Obama has been criticized for trying to appease the Chinese government yet at this time, he has to maintain a diplomatic approach towards China's controlling policies rather than taking any aggressive stance.
Obama has to answer many of the controversies back home in the US but his Asia visit has been rather positive. I would already give a four star very fruitful and promising US Presidential visit to Asia which has been hyped as a landmark visit to improve friendship and good relations with the Asian countries. Yet this is just a beginning and points to the directions that Obama will be concentrating on during his Presidency. Obama builds expectations and promises, and this is his forte and like every other issue during and even before his Presidency there are now expectations from his Asian visit that spans from restoring democracy in Burma to emphasizing freedom of expression in China. Although Obama is not expected to solve all problems, any US president is largely seen as a global leader and is expected to deal with the real issues. However, the visit shouldn't be about lot of expectations and no action. It is hoped that the momentum of all these promises and possible actions will be maintained.