United States President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced that he will sanction Myanmar’s military leaders for staging a coup in the South Asian country on February 1, reported Reuters.

Biden said the order enabled his administration “to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests as well as close family members”.

The administration would identify the first round of targets this week. The government was also taking steps to prevent the military leaders from having access to $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the United States, the US president said.

“We’re also going to impose strong exports controls,” Biden added. “We’re freezing US 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.”

Biden further called on the military junta to release detained protesters and civilian leaders, including the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and cease their crackdowns on demonstrators, reported CNN. “The military must relinquish power they’ve seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma, as expressed in their November 8 election,” he said.

The US president added that his administration will be ready to impose additional measures on the generals of Myanmar, and will “continue to work with our international partners to urge other nations to join us in these efforts”.

The US State Department last week formally determined that the military takeover in Myanmar constituted a coup d’état, a designation that requires the United States to cut its foreign assistance to the country’s government, reported CNN.

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Since then several American officials have reiterated the country’s position.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday that the international community is attempting every avenue to ensure that democracy and civilian leadership is restored in Myanmar. “We are making no bones about where we stand when it comes to the military’s need to relinquish power,” Price said.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, meanwhile, said that the US’ efforts “would go beyond unilateral actions to include working with our partners and allies, including in the region, to determine the right ways to put pressure on and have engagement”.

Myanmar plunged into a political crisis on February 1 after the country’s military seized power from a government established only five years ago, detaining the Suu Kyi, and other senior figures of the ruling National League for Democracy party. A statement on military-owned television said Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was now in control of the country and that a state of emergency had been imposed for one year.

The sudden transition sparked off widespread protests, with thousands of citizens taking to the streets. Water cannons, tear gas and warning shots were fired by police to break up the crowds as authorities cracked on demonstrations across the country. Two protestors were injured in capital Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday, when the police fired rubber bullets at them.