NEW DELHI — President Obama is considering a visit to Myanmar within the next few weeks, according to news reports Thursday, as part of his administration’s bid to bolster democracy and strengthen ties with Asian nations in the region.
Neighboring Cambodia said this week that Obama will attend an Asian summit meeting in its capital of Phnom Penh on Nov. 18. Myanmar has made security arrangements for a Nov. 18-19 presidential visit, an unnamed official in the capital of Naypyidaw told the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse news services, adding that the schedule has not been finalized.
While such a visit would carry risks -– most notably by staking presidential prestige on a government still dominated by generals with a brutal past -– it dovetails with the administration’s visible support for Myanmar’s nascent democracy. It also fits with its so-called pivot strategy aimed at checking China’s influence by bolstering military and political ties with democracies on its periphery.
The timing of the visit, if it does come off, would presumably not be appreciated in Beijing as it prepares for a once-in-a-decade leadership change early next year in which Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to replace Hu Jintao as president. Analysts said little news is expected out of the summit of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations, attended by regional leaders, with any Myanmar trip more likely to grab headlines.