US to invite non-political Myanmar representative to summit with Asean

President Joe Biden plans to host a special summit of US and Asean leaders on March 28 and 29. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States said on Wednesday (March 2) it would follow the lead of Asean by inviting a non-political representative from military-ruled Myanmar to a summit with the 10-country bloc in Washington this month.

US President Joe Biden plans to host a special summit of US 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 spokesman for the US 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 honour the plan agreed with the bloc to end a conflict in the country since the generals seized power.

The conflict 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 recognised the military government, which has been targeted by sanctions imposed by the US, 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.

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