US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will seek in talks with Southeast Asian nations next week to push back on China and to pressure Myanmar's junta, a top aide said Friday.
Blinken will travel to Jakarta for talks with foreign ministers of Asean, flying straight from Lithuania where he will join President Joe Biden at a Nato summit focused on Ukraine.
Blinken last month paid a rare visit to Beijing in a bid to keep high tensions in check. But the US says it has also seen little change in policy by China, which has been asserting itself in the dispute-rife South China Sea.
"We have seen an upward trend of unhelpful and coercive and irresponsible Chinese actions in the South China Sea," Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told reporters.
He said that the US shared the view of Southeast Asian nations on unimpeded freedom of navigation in the strategic waterway, where China has made sweeping claims despite protests from Vietnam, the Philippines and other nations.
The US and Asean seek to "push back on behaviour that runs counter to that vision and to those principles, including the many irresponsible acts that we've seen carried out by China over the last several years and in the last several weeks," he said.
The Asean talks are expected also to take up turmoil in Myanmar, where the military ousted the elected government in February 2021 and launched a crackdown that local monitors say has killed more than 3,600 civilians.
Myanmar has been suspected from top-level Asean summits due to its failure to implement a five-point peace plan agreed on two years ago, although Thailand's outgoing army-backed government triggered controversy by recently inviting the junta's top diplomat for talks.
Without criticising Thailand, Kritenbrink said the US expected the bloc to "continue to downgrade Myanmar's representation in the Asean ministerials."
"We also look forward to finding ways to increase pressure on the regime to compel the regime to end its violence and return to a path of democracy," he said.
US officials said it was too early to say whom Blinken would meet individually in Jakarta, where visitors include Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Blinken has refused most contact with Lavrov since the invasion of Ukraine, although they met briefly at Group of 20 talks in March in New Delhi.