President Barack Obama later this month will become the first US leader to visit Myanmar, marking the strongest international endorsement so far of the fragile democratic transition in the once-isolated Southeast Asian country after decades of military rule.
Obama will travel to Myanmar as part of a November 17-20 tour of Southeast Asia, which will also include stops in Thailand and Cambodia, the White House said on Thursday.
It will be his first international trip since winning re-election earlier this week.
He is going ahead with the trip despite recent sectarian violence in western Myanmar, which has drawn concern from the United States and European Union.
UN human rights investigators have criticised the government’s handling of the strife between Buddhists and minority Muslims, and some Myanmar exiles see Obama’s trip as premature, before political reforms have been consolidated.
The visit to Myanmar, the first by a sitting US president, will give Obama a chance to meet president Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to encourage the “ongoing democratic transition,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.