WH names first US ambassador to Burma in over 20 years

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, right, meeting with Derek Mitchell, left, U.S Ambassador to Burma, March 14, 2012 in Yangon.
AP Photo

Updated 3:22 p.m. ET

(CBS/AP) WASHINGTON - The Obama administration has named the first full ambassador to Burma, also known as Myanmar, in more than two decades as U.S. political ties warm with the former Southeast Asian pariah state.

As has been long expected, the White House tapped its current special envoy for Burma to become a full ambassador. Derek Mitchell has overseen U.S. engagement with Burma as the country has undergone startling political reform.

"Today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Burma" said President Barack Obama. "Since I announced a new U.S. opening to Burma in November... Burma have made significant progress along the path to democracy. The United States has pledged to respond to positive developments in Burma and to clearly demonstrate America's commitment... That is what we are doing."

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If confirmed by the Senate, Mitchell would be the first U.S. ambassador in the country since 1990. The U.S. is currently represented by a lower-level diplomatic officer.

The announcement came ahead of a meeting Thursday between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Burma's visiting foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

Clinton announced the U.S will suspend sanctions that had blocked American investment in Burma but will keep "relevant laws on the books as an insurance policy" and maintain a U.S. arms embargo.

Washington will issue general licenses to permit investment, saying U.S. oil and gas companies, mining, and financial companies all now free to do business there.

"Today we say to American business to invest in Burma and do it responsibly" Clinton said. "Let's all work together to create jobs, opportunities and support reform."