US - Southeast Asia
Chronology from Jan 2020 to May 2020
: Two US B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomber Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base fly a 32-hour roundtrip sortie over the South China Sea as part of a joint mission of the US Indo-Pacific Command and the US Strategic Command Bomber Task Force.
: United States and ASEAN members states hold a virtual Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers Meeting on COVID-19, co-chaired by Pompeo and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
: State Department condemns attacks on World Health Organization (WHO) officials working to combat COVID-19 in Rakhine State, resulting in the death of one WHO worker.
: Two US warships—the USS America amphibious assault ship and the USS Bunker Hill, a guided missile cruiser—enter contested waters off Malaysia, where a Chinese naval vessel had been tailing a Malaysian state oil company ship conducting oil exploration.
: In lieu of an in-person meeting for the first ASEAN Summit of the year, Hanoi conducts a video summit, chaired by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The in-person summit is tentatively moved to June.
: Following the virtual ASEAN Summit, Prime Minister Phuc hosts a video Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on Coronavirus Disease 2019, which includes China, Japan, and South Korea.
: The Philippines publicly expresses solidarity with Vietnam after the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat, citing a need for all parties in the South China Sea to adhere to international maritime law.
: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, to discuss US assistance to Phomn Penh to combat COVID-19 and continued US concerns about the erosion of democracy and human rights in Cambodia.
: State Department expresses “serious concern” about reports of the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel by Chinese ships in the South China Sea.
: Chinese vessels rams and sink a Vietnamese fishing boat off the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Although China has held the Paracels since 1974, Vietnam continues to assert its claim to the islands.
: The first ASEAN-US High Level Interagency Video Conference to Counter COVID-19 is conducted, co-chaired by Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Qoc Szung and Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell.
: State Department issues statement expressing concern over escalating violence in northern Rakhine and Chin states in Myanmar, citing thousands of locals that are displaced.
: US Indo-Pacific Command announces cancellation of the 2020 Balikatan exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, originally scheduled for May 4-15. They are cancelled due to concerns for the health and safety of participating forces and local populations.
: State Department issues a statement criticizing the conviction of Vietnamese blogger and Radio Free Asia contributor Truon Duy Nhat, who is believed to have been seized in Bangkok in January 2019. Nhat is sentenced to 10 years in prison.
: The 6th Annual Bersama Warrior exercises open in Kuala Lumpur, bringing together US and Malaysian Armed Forces. This year’s meeting is a staff exercise to prepare for the 2021 Combined Post exercise.
: USS Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group visits DaNang for an historic port call that marks the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States. The ship is only the second carrier to visit Vietnam in more than 40 years. While in DaNang, the crew participates in several volunteer activities, including at the Agent Orange Center of DaNang.
: The United States announces it will provide $59 million additional aid for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and host Bangladeshi communities, bringing the total of US humanitarian assistance to $820 million since August 2017, when nearly 1 million Rohingya fled after a crackdown by the Tatamadaw in Rakhine State.
: Muhyiddin Yassin is sworn in as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister, although his predecessor, Mahathir Mohamed, claimed he had majority support in Parliament. Technically, Muhyiddin’s term will run until September 16, 2023, by which point general elections must be called.
: The Trump administration announces it is postponing the US-ASEAN Summit because of travel difficulties and other issues related to COVID-19. No date for a new summit is set.
: Combined counter-terrorism exercises in Palawan between US Army Special Operations Forces and elite contingents of the Philippine 18th Special Forces Company conclude after a month. The exercises are held under the US-sponsored Joint/Combined Exchange Training (JEET) program.
: The 39th iteration of Cobra Gold exercises are held in Thailand, with seven countries participating as full partners and numerous other countries as observers. The world’s longest-running military exercises, this year’s round focuses on amphibious assult, humanitarian civic action and defensive cybersecurity.
: US Coast Guard conducts a “Train the Trainers” course in small boat operations with the Philippine Coast Guard, part of bilateral cooperation to enhance maritime law enforcement capability in the Philippines.
: US Embassy in Manila hosts a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the anniversary of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s raising of the US flag over the embassy grounds during the Battle of Manila in 1945. It is one of a series of events to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
: The USS Paul Hamilton, a guided missile destroyer that is part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, arrives in Singapore for a port visit.
: The Philippine government announces it is in discussions with Russia on a joint military agreement. This is followed by a February 17 meeting between Igor Khavaev, Russian Ambassador to Manila, and Felimon Santos, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The two countries are said to be moving toward completion of a joint military technical agreement.
: The European Union announces that it will suspend a portion of its trade preferences to Cambodia under the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) program that enables lower-income countries to export to the EU without tariffs or quotas, except for military weapons. The decision was based on the Hun Sen regime’s efforts to eliminate the political opposition as well as new curbs on the media and civil society organizations.
: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announces that he intends to terminate the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), beginning a process that, if pursued, will conclude in late 2020.
: Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun meets with Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin in Washington.
: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets Laotian Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith in Washington. Laos is the current ASEAN coordinator for relations with the United States. The two diplomats discuss plans for the (later cancelled) US-ASEAN Summit, scheduled for March 14 in Las Vegas, as well as strengthening the US-Laos Comprehensive Partnership.
: International Court of Justice issues a provisional order on the case against the Myanmar government for genocide against Muslim Rohingya in late 2017. In response to a request from The Gambia, Myanmar is ordered to prevent genocidal acts against the Rohingya while the case in is progress.
: Chinese President Xi Jinping makes his first-ever visit to Myanmar in his capacity as president and the first Chinese head of state to visit in 20 years. He meets State Counselor/Foreign Minister Aung Sang Suu Kyi and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. His visit sparks agreement that the two countries will move forward with the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone and, most important, its planned deepsea port.
: Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly makes his inaugural visit to Singapore and meets Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen; Chief of Singaporean Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Melvyn Ong; and Chief of Navy Rear Adm. Lew Chuen Hong.
: President Joko Widodo visits a military base on the Nantuna Islands to underscore Indonesian sovereignty in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which includes the Nantunas, after Chinese vessels intruded into the EEZ.