On Monday, the Sino-Myanmar natural gas pipeline began pumping to China, part of the Middle Kingdom’s drive to diversify its energy supplies, but, in light of recent diplomatic troubles, China is quick to shine a rosy light on this latest development. The Chinese state media charm offensive went into full swing. Xinhua described the opening ceremony as follows: "When torches flamed in the sky of Namkham Measuring Station of the Myanmar-China Gas Pipeline, a storm of applause and cheers broke out."

After having served for three-and-a-half years as the US Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank under presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush, I finally made my first trip to Myanmar last April, to Mandalay, as a private citizen. In early July I returned, landing in Yangon two days before US Independence Day.

The president of Myanmar has promised to release all political prisoners by the end of this year and said he thought a nationwide ceasefire was possible in the coming weeks for the first time in six decades...Activists had protested his two-day talk with British Prime Minister David Cameron, taking issue with the Asian nation's human rights record.

The pace of Burma’s political, economic, and social reforms is being matched by a boom in investment and construction... Burma’s geostrategic location between India and China and extensive natural resource wealth make it a natural crossroads for Asian trade and a focal point for broader regional integration.

The United States on Monday denounced what it called a spike in anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe and Asia, pointing to restrictions and violence against Muslims including the faith’s minority sects...Secretary of State John Kerry also voiced alarm at what he called rising anti-Jewish sentiment, and filled a position of special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Burma’s ethnic leaders have accused the United States of providing inadequate support for the Southeast Asian country’s peace process and are urging US President Barack Obama to stress the issue during his meeting with Burmese counterpart Thein Sein on Monday at the White House.

Burmese President Thein Sein told a group of about 30 Burmese living in the United States that the development of democracy in his homeland must go hand in hand with economic development and that economic growth must come first.

April 25, 2013

Yet China’s economic power and the many positive ways its economy influences the region have not brought diplomatic advantage. Indeed, its regional relations are in a worse state than for two decades. With Japan they remain so fraught over the contested Diaoyu/Senkaku islands that armed conflict is a serious possibility.