BALI, INDONESIA - President Obama announced Friday that Secretary of State Clinton will travel to Burma in December, the first secretary of state to do so in more than 50 years. Obama made the announcement with Clinton at his side, saying that for years the persecution of the Burmese people had "challenged our conscience."
"After years of darkness, we've seen flickers of progress in these last several weeks," he said- including the Burmese parliament starting a dialogue of reform with new legislation, media restrictions relaxed, and releasing of political prisoners. He said these are more changes than have been seen in years.
However he noted that more needs to be done and there are still concerns about treatment of minorities and Burma's relationship with North Korea.
He underscored though, it's a turning point. "We want to seize what could be an historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America," Obama said.
He added that if they seize the moment, reconciliation will prevail.
The country, also known as Myanmar, for decades was known for human rights violations, brutal dictatorship at the hands of military leaders.
In a phone conversation on Air Force One Thursday, Obama talked to democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a senior administration official told aFOX News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry. Suu Kyi is the daughter of Burma's founding father and told the Obama that she now endorses U.S. involvement.
Two years ago Obama set his agenda for Burma and imposed sanctions, which he says are still an option if they don't continue on the road to reform.
Despite the persecution under military leaders, Obama had praise for the people of Burma for what they've been through."We have always had a profound respect for the people of Burma, and the promise of their country -- a country with a rich history, at the crossroads of East and West; a people with a quiet dignity and extraordinary potential," Obama said.
Clinton is expected to be there for two days in December where Obama says she'll empower a positive transition in a new chapter for the country.
Obama is in Bali after stops in Hawaii and Australia for summits and meetings focusing on military and economic pivoting to the Asia-Pacific region. He sais the U.S. will now move to emphasize and work with the region in a number of fronts, including increased U.S. military presence that he announced in Australia and a series of new trade deals.
While in Bali, he's taking part of the in Association of Southeast Asia Nations, or ASEAN.
FOX News Chief White House Correspondent Ed Henry contributed to this report.