Biden authorizes sanctions on Myanmar over 'coup'

He also said the U.S. would try to prevent generals from accessing $1 billion.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced he had approved an executive order allowing the United States to sanction individuals and entities connected to the military's seizure of power in Myanmar earlier this month, which the U.S. has labeled a "coup."

Biden said the order would enable the U.S. "to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests, as well as close family members."

"We will identify a first round of targets this week," the president said during brief remarks about Myanmar, also known as Burma. "And we're also going to impose strong exports controls. We're freezing U.S. assets that benefit the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly."

In addition, the president said the U.S. government was "taking steps to prevent the generals from improperly having access to the $1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States."

Demonstrators who took to the streets in Myanmar in recent days to oppose the military's takeover were met by police with warning shots and water cannons, according to The Associated Press. Many protesters were reportedly injured, according to the AP.

As he had done last week, Biden called on Myanmar's military to "relinquish power" and "immediately release the democratic political leaders and activists." He specifically called for the release of the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as its president, Win Myint.

He said that "as protests grow," the U.S. would continue to call out "violence against those asserting their democratic rights."

"The world is watching," Biden said. "We'll be ready to impose additional measures and we'll continue to work with our international partners to urge other nations to join us in these efforts."

The White House had said last week that it was considering actions along these lines.

The president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters last Thursday that the White House was looking at the possibility of issuing an executive order and targeting sanctions on individuals and entities connected to the military.

The United States labeled the Myanmar military's actions a "coup" last week, soon after the military took power.

The military took power amid tensions over the results of November elections in Myanmar, which expanded Aung San Suu Kyi's power and threatened the generals' tight hold on the country's government. The military disputed the outcome.

ABC News' Karson Yiu contributed to this report

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