Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has voiced confidence that she will live long enough to see her country hold democratic elections.

Her upbeat assessment came as Foreign Secretary William Hague began an historic visit to the country.

"There will be democratic elections," she told the BBC. "I don't know how long I'm going to live but if I live a normal lifespan, yes.

"I trust the president but I can't yet trust the government for the simple reason that I don't yet know everybody in the government."

Hague met the Burmese foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwi, who committed himself to freeing more political prisoners and said that changes in Burma were "irreversible".

Hague's trip marked the first time a British foreign secretary has visited the country since 1955.

In March 2011, Burma's first elections in 20 years brought in a nominally civilian government. The new administration freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and began talks with her. In December, she registered her National League for Democracy as a political party.

"I am visiting the country to encourage the government to continue on its path of reform and to gauge what more Britain can do to support this process," Hague said.

"Further steps are needed that will have a lasting impact on human rights and political freedom.

"In particular, we hope to see the release of all remaining political prisoners, free and fair by-elections, humanitarian access to people in conflict areas and credible steps towards national reconciliation."

During his two-day visit, Hague was to meet Thein Sein, a former general who was nominated president last year. He will then travel to Rangoon for talks with leaders of the country's ethnic minorities.

After his meeting with the Burmese foreign minister, Hague said: "I have assured him that if they do [free political prisoners], there will be a strongly positive response from the UK and, I believe, the rest of the European Union.

"The foreign minister has reaffirmed commitments that have been made to release political prisoner. He said the changes are irreversible and I welcome that way of thinking. I stressed that the world will judge the government by its actions."