Joe Biden Threatens Sanctions Following Myanmar Coup, Says U.S. Will 'Stand Up for Democracy'

President Joe Biden has called for an international response following the coup by the Myanmar military and said the United States will review sanctions against the country, formerly known as Burma.

In a statement released by the White House on Monday, Biden called the government takeover and detention of Burma's top officials—including leader Aung San Suu Kyi—"a direct assault on the country's transition to democracy and the rule of law."

"In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election," the president said in his first statement on the issue. "For almost a decade, the people of Burma have been steadily working to establish elections, civilian governance, and the peaceful transfer of power. That progress should be respected."

Biden called for the international community to present a unified response to the conflict to pressure the military to relinquish control, release those they detained and lift telecommunication restrictions.

The United States, he said, will also consider sanctions against the Southeast Asian country after removing them over the past decade "based on progress toward democracy."

"The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action," the statement read.

Biden added, "The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack."

Joe Biden statement on Myanmar coup
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about climate change issues in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 27, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Biden said Monday that the United States and its partners will hold accountable people responsible for the coup in Myanmar. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

Troops launched raids early Monday morning against democratically elected leaders of the governing National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and President Win Myint. Television channels went off the air during the coup and phone and internet services were disrupted.

Tensions had been growing between the military and the civilian government since the nation's elections in November. Military leaders, who hold 25 percent of the country's parliamentary seats, have claimed the NLD used electoral fraud in its landslide victory.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken quickly condemned the military's seizure of power. In a statement released late Sunday night, Blinken expressed "grave concern and alarm" over what was unfolding.

"We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8," Blinken said. "The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately."

The United Nations has also strongly condemned the detention of Myanmar's political leaders. Secretary-General António Guterres said the actions "represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar."

China, which shares a 1,300-mile border with Myanmar and is one of the nation's largest investors, said Monday it had "noted" the military coup but did not offer a similar condemnation.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing in Beijing on Monday: "China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar's. We hope that all sides in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitutional and legal framework and maintain political and social stability."