China - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2020 to May 2020

: In a strategic move to further cement China’s claims in the South China Sea, China’s Natural Resources Ministry and Civil Affairs Ministry release a joint statement with names to 80 geographical features in the Paracel and Spratly islands.

: China’s State Council announces the establishment of two administrative units, one on the Paracel islands and another on the Spratly islands, to manage the day-to-day affairs on the respective islands.

: Malaysian officials report that Haiyang Dizhi 8, a Chinese government survey ship, is in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone and tagging an exploration vessel operated by Petronas, Malaysia’s state oil company.

: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang participates in a videoconference of ASEAN Plus 3 leaders to discuss China’s medical assistance to its neighbors, closer regional coordination on public health measures, and support for a regional cooperation fund to combat the pandemic.

: A Chinese coast guard ship and a Vietnamese fishing vessel collide near the Paracel Islands, raising tension between the two countries as each side lays blame on the other for the incident. China and Vietnam are building up paramilitary forces and fishing fleets to stake claims in the disputed South China Sea.

: Beijing installs two new facilities in the Fiery Cross and Subi Reef to support the research of oceanographers and marine scientists.

: China and Cambodia carry out the “Dragon Gold 2020” exercise, the fourth joint counterterrorism and humanitarian rescue drill. The exercise began in 2016 as part of an effort to deepen bilateral military and security cooperation.

: Border management authorities from China and Vietnam patrol their joint border in the Lao Cai area to strengthen security at points of entry amid the coronavirus outbreak. The two forces agree to take turns leading joint patrol efforts once a month to prevent illegal border crossings and to increase information campaigns targeting border residents to prevent the spread of community transmission of the coronavirus.

: Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi meets Southeast Asian counterparts in Vientiane for the “Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease.” The multilateral forum discusses collective measures to help combat the epidemic and closer coordination between regional public health officials.

: Thailand announces it would no longer participate in a Chinese-led development plan that would dredge and open up a key part of the Mekong River as a regional river trade link connecting China’s Yunnan province with parts of Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. There are increasing concerns over the environmental impact such a large-scale project would have on the ecosystem, especially on decreasing fish stock, sediment flow, and further exacerbation of droughts and floods caused by upstream dams and dredging activities along the Mekong River.

: Chinese President Xi meets visiting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Beijing. The two leaders pledge closer bilateral support to curb the coronavirus outbreak.

: According to a report issued by the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a research unit at Peking University, at least 34 Vietnamese trawlers, some of which are armed with maritime militia, enter and are active in China’s territorial sea in Hainan island. China maintains a major naval and air force base in Hainan island.

: Foreign ministers from ASEAN meet in Vietnam to discuss the latest developments in the South China Sea. The regional diplomats underscored collective concerns over land reclamations and other activities that are affecting regional stability, but they remain encouraged by the progress of substantive negotiations over the early conclusion of an “effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) that is consistent with international law.”

: Chinese President Xi visits Myanmar and meets senior Myanmar leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi. China signs a total of 33 agreements and memorandums of understanding to enhance bilateral investment cooperation, including development of a deep-sea port in the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in western Myanmar.

: Chinese President Xi Jinping meets visiting Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Beijing. The two sides pledge to deepen bilateral infrastructure and economic cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

: China and Indonesia become embroiled in a diplomatic dispute following Chinese coast guard vessels’ activities in the Natuna islands, an area that is part of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone. Indonesia summoned the Chinese ambassador to lodge a formal protest while the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson asserted China’s longstanding rights and interests in the contested waters.

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