"America is back" in Asia: That's the message Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is meeting in Phuket, Thailand. Showing up is half the battle, however. Clinton is trying to get countries in the region, as well as Russia and China, to tighten the noose around North Korea and find new ways to promote change in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
Just before jetting off to Phuket from Thailand's capital, Bangkok, Clinton sat down with me to talk about the challenges she faces in an intense couple of days of diplomacy. She's raising concerns about North Korea's military cooperation in Myanmar.
There are reports that North Korea is building a series of tunnels in Myanmar. Earlier this summer, the U.S. Navy tracked a ship that some believed was heading to Myanmar, possibly with weapons on board. Clinton said the story of the ship turned out to be "a positive story."
"I worked with my counterparts in China, India and Russia, and we made it clear to Myanmar that they are expected to comply also with the U.N. Security Council resolution that was crafted to prevent the export of technology," she said. "So we are looking at this very closely .... and want to make sure that there is no proliferation from North Korea to Burma."
Asked if there are indications that North Korea might be helping Myanmar with a nuclear program, Clinton said, "You have to assume that North Korea would sell anything to anybody if they could find a market for it, and, you know, the Burmese military junta is very closed and unfortunately impervious to the best efforts of the United Nations, the European Union, their neighbors in the region and the United States, and we have to be cautious and find out what is going on."
Clinton is also trying to find out what is going on inside Myanmar, as the Obama administration reviews its policies toward that government. The policy review has been put on hold because of the latest trial of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
Clinton made clear that she's open to a more positive relationship with Myanmar.
"There is an opportunity for them, but it really hinges on what they do with Aung San Suu Kyi," she said.