US open to defence ties with Myanmar: Panetta

SINGAPORE - The United States would be open to forging ties with Myanmar's military if the country continues on a path of democratic reform, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Saturday.

"Obviously we encourage the reforms that they are hoping to put in place," Panetta told delegates at an Asia security summit in Singapore, the Shangri-La Dialogue.

"As you know the State Department has taken steps to relieve some of the sanctions that have been placed on Myanmar and try to encourage them again to move in the right direction," he told representatives from 27 countries at the event, organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies.

"I think part and parcel of that, assuming that they are able to implement reforms and to continue the kind of political efforts at opening up their system, that a part and parcel of that would be discussions with regards to how we can improve our defence relationship with their country as well."

After Myanmar carried out political reforms and freed democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi, international sanctions have been eased on the government.

In Bangkok, Suu Kyi on Friday urged "healthy scepticism" over Myanmar's dramatic reforms, saying only the rule of law could cement recent political progress.

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