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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement on U.S. Sanctions Against Burma
Washington, D.C., April 22, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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Burma

12:16 P.M.

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department. Let me just tell you what we're going to be doing here today. First, the Secretary of State will have a statement to make on Burma. She will take two or three questions on that subject. If you'd like to ask a question on that subject, please, I'll recognize you. Please let me know.
Following that, the Secretary has a statement to make on Earth Day. This is the first annual State Department report on the environmental matters in foreign policy. After her statement on that, she'll introduce Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary of State Eileen Claussen. They'll have brief statements and they'll be glad to take your questions.
Following that, we'll have our normal State Department briefing; and that should begin in about a half hour from now. Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, yes, good afternoon. I am announcing today that President Clinton has decided to impose a ban on new investment by Americans in Burma. This action is being taken under provisions of law authored by Senator Dianne Feinstein and former Senator and now Secretary of Defense William Cohen.
The decision is based on the President's judgment that the repression by the military authorities of the democratic opposition in Burma has deepened since enactment of the Cohen-Feinstein provisions this past September 30th; and that a state of large-scale repression exists.
As the sponsors intended, we have used the prospect of new investment sanctions as a tool to encourage change. Specifically, we have urged the military authorities in Burma to begin a serious political dialogue with the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and with representatives of Burma's many ethnic minorities. In addition to our own discussions, we have worked with friends in Asia and Europe to make clear to Burma the potential international benefits of a more democratic approach.
Unfortunately, the military leaders in Rangoon have chosen not to listen. Instead, they have clamped down further on democratic political activity. They have severely restricted Aung San Suu Kyi's ability to address her supporters publicly, closed political party offices, arrested peaceful demonstrators, and harassed and intimidated those espousing democratic principles.
The military has also continued a range of other oppressive policies, including violence against civilians and forcible conscription. Regrettably the Burmese Government shows no signs of moderating its insecure and, we believe, ultimately doomed authoritarian policies. It remains embarked upon a course that can lead only to greater isolation, reduced economic vibrancy and steadily increased pressure for political change. This is a dangerous and disappointing direction.
The ban on new U.S. investment in Burma is the latest in a series of sanctions the United States has imposed in response to the utter lack of political freedom in that country, and because its government has failed to cooperate in the war against drugs.
In combination with the earlier actions we and other nations have taken and shareholder concern around the world, we believe this step will deal a further blow to investor confidence in Burma. It will send a message to the military that it will not attract the investment it clearly craves unless it begins a genuine dialogue with its own people.
We remain ready to review these measures and our overall policy towards Burma should events there warrant. We continue to express our admiration and support for Burma's courageous democratic leaders, and we urge nations around the world to join in the call for a peaceful transition in Burma to government that reflects, rather than rejects, the will of the people.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you getting any support from other nations in the region for these steps?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have, in fact, been in close touch with other nations on this, and we have in the past. We are continuing to do that. They have taken some steps of their own. We will be continuing to press them to join us and persuading them that this is in the best interest of the people of Burma and of the region.
MR. BURNS: Carole.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, why isn't this hypocritical to impose tougher sanctions on Burma, which is arguably less important to the United States economically than China, at a time when your government, your State Department has accused China of virtually eradicating political dissent, and people like Wei Jing Shang are still in jail?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Carole, the issue here is that we have consistent principles and flexible tactics. We consistently speak out against human rights violations, no matter where they are committed. We have just now in Geneva on China. We will - I did it when I was in China, so did the Vice President. We will continue to speak out about human rights violations, whether they are in China, Burma or Cuba.
We, however, have to have a flexible approach to how we deal with it, depending upon what our national interests are, and we have to understand where we have strategic relationships that require us to take a different approach. I guess the easiest way to describe it is, different strokes for different folks.
MR. BURNS: The final question to Steve Hurst.
QUESTION: That was my question.
MR. BURNS: That was your question. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, this new sanctions action come in time when some of the businessmen, companies, corporations in this country are showing their criticisms of past sanctions diplomacy. How do you rationalize this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think first of all, we see sanctions - first of all, let me say it is not an easy decision, ever, to impose sanctions. We all understand the cost of them in a number of ways and the difficulty of carrying them out. On the other hand it is a tool of foreign policy that is useful. As I said in my statement, the threat of sanctions is useful, the imposition is also useful.
I think specifically the investment climate itself in Burma, with leadership of the SLORC, is not exactly welcoming to businesses of any kind. I think the businesses themselves find out that operating within an autocratic, authoritarian, arbitrary system is not one that is good for business. So I think that from both counts, this is the correct decision.
I will now give my next statement, and begin by saying, Happy Earth Day.

(The Secretary's remarks ended at 12:31 p.m.)

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