WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Wednesday it would follow the lead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by inviting a non-political representative from military-ruled Myanmar to a summit with the 10-country bloc in Washington this month.
President Joe Biden plans to host a special summit of the United States and ASEAN leaders on March 28 and 29.
“The United States supports ASEAN’s decision to invite non-political representatives from Burma to high-level ASEAN events,” a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said, using the former name for Myanmar.
“We similarly have decided to invite a non-political representative from Burma to the summit. The regime has failed to make meaningful progress on ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus and should be held accountable,” the official said.
The official did not respond when asked who the representative might be.
Late last year, ASEAN barred Myanmar’s ruling junta from key meetings over its failure to honor the plan agreed with the bloc to end a conflict in the country since the generals seized power that has killed hundreds of civilians, displaced more than 300,000 people, and triggered an exodus of foreign firms.
ASEAN has since invited a non-political Myanmar representative to meetings, but the junta has declined, arguing that it is the legitimate authority.
ASEAN has not formally recognized the military government, which has been targeted by sanctions imposed by the United States, Britain and the European Union, among others.
The White House summit is part of efforts to step up engagement with a region Washington sees as critical to its efforts to push back against China’s growing power.
The Biden administration has declared the Indo-Pacific and competition with China a principal foreign policy focus, which it is keen to maintain despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Leslie Adler)