Biden’s First Foreign Policy Test

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A coup in Myanmar has prompted the first insight into what the foreign policy of a Biden presidency will look like. Days of popular demonstrations from the people of Myanmar against the military coup which has imprisoned their democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The non-violent protests are hoping to dislodge the junta which has taken charge of the country. Biden has condemned the coup and sought to impose sanctions on the military leaders who carried out the coup. One of these sanctions involves withholding $1bn of Myanmar finds currently being held in the US and others involve strong exports control and freeze US assets that help the government. 

These sanctions come after a military coup occurred due to alleged electoral fraud which the electoral commission in Myanmar strongly denies. In the election the National League for Democracy won by a landslide. Many of the officials and aides of the government have been arrested and are being held in custody. Biden has to approach this crisis carefully to make sure he upholds his promises to focus on human rights and strengthen relations with allies. He has so far called on the military leaders to release the political leader and activists but if these demands continue to be ignored then it seems the US will work on economic sanctions with allies in the region to apply more pressure. 

While many western countries have condemned the coup alongside the US some have been quiet regarding the issue like China, India and Japan. For a strong international response to the crisis it is important that Biden can at least get India and Japan on board. Myanmar is strategically important for the South East Asia region and a member of ASEAN so regaining stability is vital. Biden will have to be careful not to ask too much of India and Japan in order to get them to exert pressure as they will not want to cut ties with Myanmar. 

There is concern among the international community that human rights may be being violated in Myanmar. Due to this concern Britain and the European Union are proposing sending United Nations monitors in to watch the situation. Any resolutions taken by the UN will have to meet the approval of China and Russia which will mean the language in any resolution will be toned down. The UN has released one statement asking for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi’s release but did not condemn the coup. The situation is precarious and it will need close attention in the coming weeks. Biden will want to end the uncertainty and danger surrounding the coup as quickly and effectively as possible as a statement of intent. 

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