U.S. officials to travel to Southeast Asia, Japan to discuss Myanmar

Oct 16, 2021 – 12:11 KYODO NEWS

People stage a rally in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb. 22, 2021, in protest against the Feb. 1 military coup. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

WASHINGTON – The United States said Friday it will send a delegation made up of officials from the State Department and its international development and other agencies to Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia next week as part of efforts to address the crisis in Myanmar triggered by a military coup in February.

The delegation led by State Department Counselor Derek Chollet, who serves as a policy adviser to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, will also make a stop in Japan on its way home to discuss Myanmar and challenges related to the Indo-Pacific, senior State Department officials said, adding that the details are yet to be decided.

uring the trip to Southeast Asia, which will take place from Sunday to next Friday, the officials will seek to expand cooperation with U.S. allies and partners as well as to reinforce the role that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plays in regional stability, the State Department said in a press release.

On the situation in Myanmar, they will reiterate the U.S. commitment to the people there and underscore that the international community, including neighboring countries, has an “urgent responsibility” to pressure the military regime to cease violence, release political prisoners and restore Myanmar to the path of democracy, it said.

In Thailand, Chollet and the team will also discuss cooperation on cross-border humanitarian aid for Myanmar.

The delegation’s planned trip comes as ASEAN foreign ministers are making final arrangements not to invite Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup that ousted Myanmar’s elected government under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to the regional group’s summit meeting later this month.

The decision to exclude Myanmar’s military leader marks a historic shift for 10-member ASEAN from its principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of member countries.

One of the senior State Department officials said Friday it “seems perfectly appropriate and, in fact, completely justified” for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar’s participation in upcoming meetings as the military junta “has so far been completely unwilling to productively engage with ASEAN to respond to the crisis.”

“And so we are supporting all efforts to promote a just and peaceful resolution to the crisis, the restoration of democratic institutions, and we fully respect ASEAN’s decisions there,” the official said.