Senior US official visits Myanmar

A senior U.S. official arrived Tuesday in Yangon on an unannounced trip to continue Washington's new policy of engaging the military government, in the first visit since the country's recent elections.

The trip by Joseph Y. Yun, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific, comes after widely criticized Nov. 7 elections that were overwhelmingly won by a military-backed party.

Yun's visit also will allow the U.S. to review its humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, embassy spokeswoman Adrienne Nutzman said.

Yun was scheduled to stay through Friday for a visit that will include talks with senior government officials, ethnic minority groups and "representatives of political parties" — an apparent reference to pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"This trip reflects the ongoing engagement with the government of Burma, democratic groups and the Burmese people," Nutzman said. She did not give details about the talks with government officials.

Suu Kyi was set free in November after seven years under house arrest. She and her now disbanded National League for Democracy did not take part in elections, which have been widely criticized as a sham to cement military rule.

Suu Kyi's lawyer, Nyan Win, said she will meet Yun on Friday.

"As in past engagements, we will continue our call on the Burmese authorities to improve their human rights record, release of political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, and begin genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, and prodemocracy and ethnic leaders toward national reconciliation," Nutzman said.

Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, was the last American official to visit Myanmar, in May.

Relations between Myanmar, also known as Burma, and the U.S. have been strained since its military violently crushed pro-democracy protests in 1988. Since then, Washington has been Myanmar's strongest critic, applying political and economic sanctions against the junta for its poor human rights record and failure to hand over power to a democratically elected government.

Last year President Barack Obama reversed the Bush administration's isolation of Myanmar in favor of dialogue with the junta, launching a policy of engaging the junta in hopes of coaxing democratic change.