US to review foreign assistance to Myanmar after military coup

The U.S. State Department will conduct a review of its foreign assistance to Myanmar after determining that the military takeover in the Asian country this week constituted a coup, senior officials said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened new sanctions against the generals who seized power in Myanmar and detained elected leaders including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi early on Monday.

In a briefing with reporters, State Department officials said Washington has not been in direct contact with the coup leaders in Myanmar or the deposed civilian government leaders.

Under U.S. law, the assessment that a coup has taken place automatically puts restrictions on U.S. assistance, but officials said humanitarian aid, including to the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, and programs that promote democracy or benefit civil society would continue.

“In addition, we will take a broader review of our assistance programs to ensure they align with recent events,” a State Department official said.

U.S. officials would also conduct a review of sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders and companies associated with them, the official said.

State Department officials briefed staff from the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday about the situation but did not preview new sanctions, according to aides who were on the call.

U.S. officials were trying to work with European and Asian allies who have contacts with Myanmar’s military but had not made much progress, lawmakers were told, according to an aide.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has close ties to Suu Kyi, said in a statement he had spoken to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday about the situation in Myanmar and urged the administration to “impose significant costs on the military for its attack on democracy.”