America condemned, and China noted, the military coup and suspension of democracy in Myanmar as the world divided on largely predictable lines on the importance it attached to the young democracy.
Tony Blinken, the US secretary of state, facing his first major crisis since assuming office last week, expressed America’s “grave concern and alarm”. He called on Myanmar’s military leaders to release all civilian government officials, including state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and to respect the will of the people as expressed in democratic elections on 8 November.
He added the US “stood with the people of Myanmar in their aspirations for freedom, democracy and development”.
By contrast, the Chinese foreign affairs spokesman merely noted the coup, and refused to discuss if China, which has substantial oil and gas interests in Myanmar, had warned against such a move when Chinese foreign minister met its military leadership last month in the wake of the heavy defeat of its proxy party at the polls.
“We have noted what has happened in Myanmar and are in the process of further understanding the situation,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, told a daily news briefing in Beijing.
“China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar’s. We hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability.”
In the meeting last month between Myanmar’s military chief, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who has assumed power, and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, the general set out his claims that the November election had been fraudulent, citing irregularities that echoed many of the claims made by Donald Trump about his election defeat in the same month to Joe Biden.
Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines on Monday largely followed China by insisting the issue was internal to Myanmar.
The UN secretary general, António Guterres, condemned the coup as a serious blow to democratic reforms in the country. The UN has been at the heart of the so far largely fruitless efforts to arrange for tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees stuck in camps in Bangladesh to return to Myanmar.