Ahead of next week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Sydney, Australia, a United States official says that President Bush plans to take advantage of the opportunity to discuss recent events in Burma with Asian Heads of State in attendance.

National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs, Dennis Wilder, speaking at the White House yesterday, said that Burma is definitely on the President’s agenda for bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and Chinese President Hu Jintao, on Wednesday and Thursday of next week, respectively.

“I am sure this [Burma] will be a major topic of discussion at the APEC leaders’ meeting,” Wilder said during his press briefing.

The President is also said to be interested in hearing the views of ASEAN and the region’s other governments while attending next week’s summit.

President Bush will be leaving Washington for the APEC summit on Monday.

Also yesterday, a statement from the White House summed up the president’s views on the most recent abuses of power by government agents and proxies: “I strongly condemn the ongoing actions of the Burmese regime in arresting, harassing, and assaulting pro-democracy activists for organizing or participating in peaceful demonstrations.”

The statement goes on to appeal to the Burmese junta to heed international calls for the release of political prisoners and acceptance of democratic and human rights norms.

The decision by the junta to use physical force in confronting the demonstrators, as opposed to listening and responding to the demands of the protestors, is described as an attempt to take advantage of the current atmosphere of unrest to crackdown on suspected political opponents.