UPDATE 1-Obama departs for Asia, to make historic stop in Myanmar

Reuters Middle East

(Adds comments on North Korea)

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Nov 17 (Reuters) - U.S. President

Barack Obama departed on Saturday for a three-country swing

through Asia, using his first foreign trip since winning

re-election to emphasize his administration's focus on the

region.

Obama will make stops in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. The

highlight of the trip is likely to be the historic stop in

Myanmar, a former pariah state. The White House hopes his visit

will push the country to lock in democratic reforms.

"In addition to the democratic reforms, we've been concerned

about the continued ethnic conflicts in Burma," Ben Rhodes,

deputy national security adviser, told reporters accompanying

Obama aboard Air Force One.

The Obama administration still refers to Myanmar by its

older name, Burma.

Rhodes added the Obama administration is pressing Myanmar to

break its military ties to North Korea, as well, and "we've seen

them take some positive steps in that direction."

The president's tour may be overshadowed, however, by

violence in the Middle East and concerns about tax and spending

talks with lawmakers back home.

Obama is scheduled to return to Washington early Wednesday

morning.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Bill Trott and Eric Walsh)

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