US urges 'forceful' Myanmar stance as Southeast Asia ministers meet

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink speaks at a hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on December 08, 2021 in Washington, DC. Photo by Anna Moneymaker / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Washington, Unit States -- The United States urged strong action on Myanmar as Southeast Asian ministers prepared to meet Thursday on how to deal with the military-run country ahead of an upcoming summit.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are holding emergency talks Thursday in Jakarta on Myanmar in advance of the November 10-13 ASEAN and East Asia summits in Cambodia.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia, said the junta that seized power in February 2021 was leading "the complete destruction of all the progress made over the last decade" as the nation transitioned to democracy.

"The brutality of the regime -- wantonly killing, murdering civilians, bombing schools, executing activists, beheading teachers. I think what you'll see from the United States of America at the East Asia Summit is a very forceful call to do more to apply pressure to the regime," Kritenbrink said.

"I think we have some practical ideas in mind," he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"We are not going to sit idly by while this violence continues; we're not going to sit idly by while the junta prepares for what will be completely fake and sham elections that they talk about holding next year," he said.

There has been little progress on an ASEAN five-point plan from April last year, which called for an end to violence, increased humanitarian aid, as well as dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.

Kritenbrink said that the United States has "great respect" for ASEAN but said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during talks in August, voiced "frustration" on the lack of forward movement on Myanmar.

The United States was also working with ASEAN leaders to "ensure that Ukraine meaningfully participates" in the East Asia Summit, Kritenbrink said.

The summit should "send a strong message that big countries cannot simply take what they want from smaller neighbors," he added.

Russia, a Pacific power, has traditionally participated in the East Asia Summit and not Ukraine. But the United States has been seeking to isolate President Vladimir Putin after he launched a full scale invasion of his neighbor in February.

For the summit of the Group of 20 major economies taking place in Bali after the East Asia Summit, the Indonesian hosts have sought a compromise by inviting Putin, a G20 leader, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

© Agence France-Presse

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