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(LEAD) Donilon urges N. Korea to mull Myanmar-style reform
By Lee Chi-dong
WASHINIGTON, Nov. 15 (Yonhap) -- President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Thursday North Korea can take lessons from Myanmar's move towards reform and democracy.

   "It's an important example for them (the North Koreans) to contemplate," Thomas Donilon said at a forum on Obama's Asia policy, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

   He emphasized that the leadership of Myanmar, which Washington calls Burma, has adopted a path of reform with a focus on its economy.

   Just as with Myanmar earlier, North Korea has long been isolated and has suffered "extreme sanctions from the United States," he said.

   Myanmar's reforms and U.S. support of them have enabled its entry into the international community, he said.

   A stark difference, however, is that North Korea has nuclear weapons, a reason why many question the likelihood that Pyongyang will follow the footsteps of Myanmar in the foreseeable future.

   Donilon acknowledged the reality. The U.S. has demanded North Korea first demonstrate seriousness about denuclearization.

   "We've...laid out fairly clearly what they need to do in terms of that kind of demonstration of seriousness with respect to denuclearization," he said. "And we haven't seen that from them at this point."

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon

As a precondition to full-scale talks, Washington has called on Pyongyang to suspend its uranium-enrichment activity and long-range missile development and also improve relations with Seoul.

   "We haven't seen those kinds of steps from them to date," he said.

   Donilon's rare public remarks came as Obama plans to begin a tour of Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia this weekend.

   The White House official stressed the president's choice of Asia as the destination for his first overseas trip following re-election reflects the strategic importance of the region.

   The Obama administration is pushing for the rebalancing of its resources, military presence, and diplomatic efforts towards Asia and the Pacific.

   Revitalizing alliances with South Korea and Japan is a top priority in the strategy, according to Donilon, who has advised three U.S. presidents since his first position at the White House in 1977, working with President Jimmy Carter.

   Washington has supported the "emergence of Global Korea," which allows Seoul to play a bigger role in global security, such as the Afghan issue and anti-piracy efforts off Somalia, he said.

   "I think the relationship with South Korea, as with Japan, has really advanced to an unprecedented level," he said.

   Donilon said the U.S. will also continue efforts to improve ties with emerging nations like India and promote regional cooperation.

   On China, which announced its new leadership Thursday, he said a key task is to boost "productive and constructive" relations in partnership on global issues and also as a competitor.

   "I think we have put in place the mechanisms to have a productive and constructive relationship and look forward to working with the new leadership team in Beijing," he said.

   "The U.S.-China relationship, of course, has elements of both cooperation and competition. Our consistent policy has been to seek to balance these elements in a way that increases the quality and quantity of our cooperation with China," he added.

   In a once-in-a decade power shift, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping replaced President Hu Jintao as general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, effectively becoming the new leader of the fast-rising nation.

   Donilon also highlighted the Obama government's campaign to reach out to Southeast Asian nations.

   "We are not only rebalancing towards Asia. We are also rebalancing our efforts within Asia," Donilon said, adding Washington is focusing on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations after having heavily invested in Northeast Asia.