The United States is poised to take “nascent steps” to open up military ties with Myanmar as a way of bolstering political reforms undertaken by the former pariah state, a senior US defence official said Wednesday.
The Pentagon said the cooperation likely would take the form of “non-lethal” training for Myanmar officers focusing on humanitarian assistance, military medicine and defense “reform,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
Myanmar already has been invited to attend the Cobra Gold war games in Thailand early next year, as an observer, and has accepted.
“We’re looking at nascent steps on the US-Burmese military-military relationship. We generally support the proposition that carefully calibrated, appropriately targeted and scoped military-to-military contact is effective in advancing overall reform efforts in Burma,” the official said.
“The bottom line is we’re interested, we’re looking at ways to move forward and I think you’ll see appropriately calibrated steps in the near future,” he said.
Relations between the two countries have undergone a sea change since Myanmar’s ruling military ceded power last year.
US President Barack Obama’s visit last month to Yangon underscored the transformation, as both Washington and Myanmar see benefits to bolstering diplomatic and security ties.
The Obama administration, seeking a strategic “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific to counter Beijing’s role, is keen to expand its influence in a country where China has had almost unchallenged dominance.
Senior US military officers, including Lt Gen Francis Wiercinski, the commanding general of the US Army in the Pacific, and civilian defence officials were part of a US government delegation that held talks in Myanmar in October, opening the door to a defense dialogue.