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Posted at 07:16 AM ET, 12/02/2011

Hillary Clinton in Burma: kisses for Suu Kyi, handshake for the president

There was no giggling when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met the former general who runs Burma’s oppressive government.


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Burma's pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi talk prior to dinner at the U.S. Chief of Mission Residence in Rangoon, Burma, Thursday, Dec. 1. (Saul Loeb - AP)
There were smiles (measured), of course, and handshakes, and ceremonial visits to historic sites and shrines. But the outreach was tempered by wariness and recognition that the first visit of a U.S. secretary of state to Burma in half a century carries with it no small amount of risk. It was only when Clinton sat down to dinner with another of the world’s most famous female leaders that the laughter, and good will, really began to flow.

“For decades, the choices of this country’s leaders kept it apart from the global economy and the community of nations,” Clinton said after meeting President Thein Sein. “While the measures already taken may be unprecedented and welcomed, they are just a beginning.”

Hours later, Clinton sat outside at a glass-and-wrought-iron patio table with Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s best-known opposition leader and a Nobel peace laureate, for an intimate private dinner.

Their choices of hairstyle--Clinton’s tresses held back with a scrunchy, Suu Kyi’s with an cluster of flowers--did not go unnoticed, with the Post’s Style Tumblr writing dubbing the image of them together: “Power to the Ponytails.”

Though the women had spoken previously by telephone, it was the first time that Clinton--who calls Suu Kyi an “inspiration,” had met the dissident leader in person.

Clinton traveled to Suu Kyi’s home on Friday for additional talks. The women greeted each other with kisses on the cheek, and spoke briefly to reporters afterward. They held hands at one point during the news conference, then paused, laughed and hugged before saying goodbye. The chief U.S. diplomat brought a chew toy for the Nobel laureate’s guard dog.

“Chew away, chew away,”Clinton told the pooch.

“Keep your distance,” Suu Kyi warned, “He thinks that people who stand close to me are a threat.”

Two photos from the visit, a telling contrast:


Suu Kyi, right, and Clinton react at Suu Kyi's residence in Rangoon, Burma Friday, Dec. 2. (Saul Loeb - AP)

Myanmar President Thein Sein, right, shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a meeting at the President's Office in Naypyidaw, Burma Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. (Saul Loeb - AP)

Read more stories from around the world:

With visit, U.S. extends a wary hand to Burma

Burma or Myanmar? No easy answer.

Is the Burmese government serious about reform?

By  |  07:16 AM ET, 12/02/2011

Tags:  World, Burma, Hillary Clinton, Aung San Suu Kyi

 
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