WASHINGTON — Top U.S. diplomat Rex Tillerson will make his first trip to Myanmar this month to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, the State Department said Thursday.
Secretary of State Tillerson travels to the capital Naypyitaw on Nov. 15 to consult with senior leaders and officials after he accompanies President Donald Trump on his five-nation trip to Asia that starts this weekend.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh following a security crackdown in Rakhine, drawing allegations of ethnic cleansing and overshadowing Myanmar's U.S.-backed transition to democracy.
A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday unveiled legislation to impose sanctions and travel restrictions on the senior military officials in Myanmar that the lawmakers say are responsible for atrocities and systematic human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims. The bill's backers are Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Ben Cardin, D-Md., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Todd Young, R-Ind.
Their measure would restrict military cooperation between the U.S. and Myanmar until the State and Defense departments can certify that the violence has been halted. The bill also would authorize humanitarian assistance for Rohingya Mulsims, including refugees in neighboring Bangladesh.
Tillerson travels first to Tokyo, for Trump's meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that starts Sunday.
Tillerson will also join the president for summits with the leaders of South Korea and China, and for regional summits of Asia-Pacific leaders in Vietnam and the Philippines.
In the Philippines, Trump will attend a summit of the U.S. and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. However, he will skip the East Asia Summit that follows it, where other regional powers like China, Russia and India also take part. Tillerson will represent the U.S. at that meeting.