BY INVITATION

Asean must navigate strategic shifts in Asia

 
-- ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

"FROM now on, it will be 'Man- mar'," responded US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta with a smile, minutes after Myanmar's newly appointed Defence Minister Wai Lwin protested against him using "Burma" at the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus in Siem Reap on Nov 15.

With such a voluntary acceptance, it was clear that US-Myanmar relations had reached a new high. At the recent Asean-US leaders' meeting in Phnom Penh, United States President Barack Obama also used "Myanmar" with the correct pronunciation "Mi-an-mar", much to President Thein Sein's delight.

From Naypyidaw's perspective, the Myanmar nomenclature is the endgame of years of efforts to gain full endorsement from the world's most powerful country for Mr Thein Sein's government and its reform policies.

At this juncture, his government could still tolerate opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's continued usage of "Burma". Nomenclature aside, in the days and months ahead, Myanmar would feature prominently in the US scheme of things, especially in relation to its pivot towards Asia.

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