Sen. Cardin starts off hearings on Obama's 'pivot to Asia' with focus on human rights

Acting Secretary of State for East Asia Joseph Yun said the administration shared Cardin's priorities.

“While the rebalance reflects the importance the U.S. government places on our strategic and economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific,” he said, “the dimension that binds the entire strategy together is our strong support for advancing democracy and human rights.”

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President Obama's visit to Burma last year rankled some human rights groups who felt he was moving too fast in loosening trade restrictions in order to head off Chinese inroads into the country. Yun testified Thursday that the administration believes the country is in the midst of a “great shift with regard to respect for human rights and good governance with recent legislative elections and democratic reforms."

“As the president also made clear, there is still a long road ahead,” he said. “That is why we are focused on helping Burma solidify the progress it has made so far and strengthen the hand of those seeking further reform, so that that process becomes irreversible.”

Cardin said helping Burma have free and fair elections in 2015 will be a “top U.S. government priority.”