Myanmar's President Thein Sein said Thursday that a strong economy will be vital to the success of democratic reforms, as he appealed for international investment and expertise.
On his first trip to the United States since taking power last year and initiating fast-moving reforms, Thein Sein outlined a vision of a prosperous and pluralistic Myanmar.
However, he suggested that stability and economic growth will be needed to safeguard the political changes.
"If we are able to do that... I don't think there will be any reversal in the political system," he said, when asked whether the democratization process was irreversible.
Thein Sein, in an address to the Asia Society in New York, said impoverished Myanmar can't do it alone.
"I must admit that we don't really have sufficient capital for investment. There's also a shortage of human capacity, human resources, and we also need technical assistance," he said.
Thein Sein said the end of a US ban on imports from the once isolated state and other Western sanctions were opening the way to much foreign direct investment.
He also appealed for exiles, who include some of the country's best educated people, to return.
"Many of our citizens -- doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs -- they're working in foreign countries. That might have something to do with previous political system," he said, adding that steps were being taken to ease immigration barriers for those who have taken foreign citizenship.
The former general in Myanmar's ruling military junta said the country is aiming for GDP growth of 7.7 percent by the end of 2015, with a focus on boosting agricultural production.
"We now have 60 million people. In about 20 or 30 years, the population of our country will increase to 100 million. Then we'll have to worry about our own food security," he said.
Thein Sein also repeated his earlier praise before the United Nations for Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been transformed from political prisoner to popular opposition leader.
Suu Kyi "has played a crucial role in the reform process," he said. "I'm sure she will try to continue working with us."
As for his own future, Thein Shein repeated his desire to serve only one term -- perhaps.
"If I have my way, I only want to serve for one term, but of course the future decision will depend on the wishes of the country and the decision of the people," he said.