China - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2022 to May 2022

: Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announces that a submarine deal with China could be annulled if a specific term of agreement in the earlier deal is not implemented. Under the terms of the deal, submarine engines were to be provided by Germany and to be fitted on the Chinese S26T Yuan-class submarine that is being built for the Royal Thai Navy. The German company supplying the engines, however, was barred from making the sale to China due to an embargo as they are designated a military item. China had indicated that it would find a suitable replacement with Chinese-made submarine engines.

: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with regional counterparts from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Myanmar. In each of the bilateral meetings, the regional diplomats exchange views on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, as well as on regional security and economic issues, including affirming the significance of ASEAN’s five-point consensus on Myanmar and its implementation, as well enhancing trade and infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative.

: Philippines and the US carry out a 12-day Balikatan military exercise focusing on maritime security, amphibious, urban, and aviation operations, counter-terrorism, and humanitarian assistance. The military drill comes at a time of heightened tensions between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea.

: Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, visits the United States and meets with President Joseph Biden and other senior US officials. The two leaders discuss the state of bilateral ties and regional security issues, including North Korea and Myanmar. In the midst of growing uncertainty in US-China relations, Singapore emphasizes that it would continue to deepen security ties with the US, while urging the two external powers to provide continued leadership in the form of public goods and concrete trade and economic investments in the region.

: Philippines summons China’s ambassador in Manila to explain the “illegal intrusion and lingering presence” of a Chinese navy reconnaissance ship that had entered Philippine waters without permission the previous month. The Philippine Foreign Ministry statement indicates that the Chinese vessel lingered in its waters from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 and ignored repeated demands from the Philippine forces to leave the area.

: Vietnam lodges a complaint and urges China to respect its exclusive economic zone and sovereignty after China had earlier announced military drills in the vicinity of China’s Hainan Islands in South China Sea from March 4-15. 

: According the The Irrawaddy, a Thailand-based English news website on Myanmar, the junta convened an emergency meeting to discuss the implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for Myanmar. The report notes that the junta assumes there is a risk that Myanmar would face invasion by neighbors like China, just as Ukraine has been invaded by its larger and more powerful neighbor. While the junta acknowledges that such an invasion would not occur in normal times, it asserts that China may “take matters into its own hand if and when Myanmar’s military is incapable of protecting Chinese interests in the country.” 

: ASEAN foreign ministers meet in Phnom Penh to discuss the latest developments in regional security. They agree to apply continued pressure on the junta in Myanmar, including the decision that Myanmar could only send nonpolitical representatives to ASEAN meetings and to expedite implementation of the five-point consensus adopted in April 2021. Regional foreign ministers also agree to an early conclusion of a robust code of conduct with China over the South China Sea and aim to finalize the agreement by the end of this year.

: Senior Chinese and Laotian officials meet during a videoconference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations and agree to deepen bilateral economic and security ties. China also agrees to provide additional medical equipment and COVID-19 vaccinations to support Lao’s efforts to combat the pandemic. 

: Philippines welcomes the US State Department’s latest report on the South China Sea, which affirms the validity of the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague’s ruling and the finding that China’s expansive maritime claims are “unlawful.” 

: Vietnam’s foreign ministry officials reject reports from Chinese media that Vietnam has been supporting and arming militia fishing vessels in the maritime dispute.

: Following the opening of the China-Laos high speed railway line in December 2021, China’s plans for extending the pan-Asia railway through Indochina are stalled. Thailand announces that it will review the initial terms of agreement with China on the railway construction, especially the requirement that only Chinese materials and workers be employed for construction and that China be granted rights to develop areas along the railway line. 

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