(CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for an end to the "horrors" in Myanmar's Rakhine state Thursday, saying the violence represents a "defining moment" for the country's new civilian government.
Tillerson calls for an end to 'horrors' in Myanmar
He also called the violence, which has disproportionately affected the country's Rohingya Muslim community, "unacceptable," and said the attacks -- which some have deemed ethnic cleansing -- "has to stop."
But Tillerson and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who were addressing reporters at a joint press conference in London, stopped short of criticizing Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, or the government she oversees.
"We appreciate the difficult and complex situation that Aung San Suu Kyi finds herself in," Tillerson said, alluding to the power sharing agreement that gives military leaders vast influence over the country's affairs, "and I think it is important that the global community speak out in support of what we all know the expectation is towards the treatment of people, regardless of their ethnicity."
Johnson, for his part, was asked whether he regrets his recent praise of Suu Kyi in light of her tepid response to the attacks on Rohingya villages by security forces, which she has framed as anti-terrorism operations.
While Johnson insisted that he still has "a great deal of admiration" for Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, he added, "I think it's now vital for her to use that moral capital and that authority to make the point about the suffering of the people of Rakhine."
An estimated 380,000 Rohingya refugees have fled the violence in Myanmar and are currently seeking refuge in Bangladesh, UN Secretary General António Guterres said Wednesday.
"Violence in Myanmar has created a humanitarian catastrophe. Aid has been severely disrupted and 380,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh," Guterres said in a tweet.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is expected to travel to Myanmar in the coming days for discussions on the crisis, after summoning Myanmar's ambassador to express US concerns on Wednesday.
During that meeting, Murphy told the ambassador that Myanmar should publicly acknowledge that Rohingya groups in particular have fled across the border into Bangladesh, a senior State Department official familiar with the conversation told CNN, and that those refugees should now be allowed to return home.