The United States will return an ambassador to Myanmar, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Friday.
"In consultation with members of Congress and at the direction of President Obama, we will start the process of exchanging ambassadors with Burma," Clinton announced at a State Department news conference Friday. "An American ambassador will help strengthen our efforts to support the historic and promising steps that are now unfolding."
The announcement came hours after Myanmar released hundreds of political prisoners--a development observers on the ground in the southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma described as joyous.
"In Yangon #Burma now and big news here," Colette Rausch, an international law expert with the U.S. Institute of Peace, wrote in a tweet early Friday. "More political prisoners being released as I am typing. Releases ongoing over past two hour."
"Today, I join President Obama in welcoming the news that the government has released hundreds of political prisoners, several of whom have languished in prison for decades," Clinton said. "This is a substantial and serious step forward in the government's stated commitment to political reform, and I applaud it, and the entire international community should as well."
Clinton said the United States will take steps to upgrade and normalize relations with Myanmar based on further reforms its civilian leaders have demonstrated since her historic trip to the country in December. Among those she cited, the prisoner release, the decision that dissident Aung Saan Suu Kyi and her party members can stand in elections, and the signing of a ceasefire agreement with the Karen National Union, a minority insurgent group.
"As I said last December, the United States will meet action with action," she said. "Based on the steps taken so far, we will now begin."
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