China - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Sep 2018 to Dec 2019

: The New York Times reports that China is building and developing the longest airstrip at the Dara Sakor International Airport in Cambodia, amid speculation that the airport facilities would turn into a new military base for China. The Cambodian government officially denies the report and insists that there will be no Chinese military presence in Cambodia. Dara Sakor, leased to China for 99 years, is located less than 50 miles from Ream Naval Base, Cambodia’s largest naval base. In July, The Wall Street Journal reported on a secret draft agreement between China and Cambodia that granted China exclusive access to parts of the Ream Naval Base for three decades.

: Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung calls on China to refrain from engaging in provocations that would undermine regional peace and security in the maritime dispute in 2020, when Vietnam takes over the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN.

: Senior Chinese and Indonesian defense chiefs meet in Beijing to discuss the strengthening of bilateral military and security ties. Indonesia is seeking Chinese support to help develop and modernize its defense and weapon systems.

: Wang visits Myanmar and meets Myanmar’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. Both sides pledge to strengthen bilateral cooperation as the two countries celebrate seven decades of diplomatic relations next year. Among other issues, the meeting focuses on the Rakhine issue, with China agreeing to provide repatriation assistance and promote economic development in Rakhine.

: Officials from Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam agree to increase regional law enforcement cooperation and cross-border investigations to address the transnational criminal narcotics networks operating in the lower Mekong area.

: China and ASEAN mark the 16th anniversary of their strategic partnership in the regional ASEAN-related summit in Bangkok, Thailand, with regional leaders agreeing that ASEAN-China relations are advancing across diplomatic, economic, and security fronts. They finalize negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Regional leaders appear optimistic that ASEAN and China are on track and working toward a timely completion of the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, citing the first reading of the single draft negotiating text of the regional accord in mid-2019.

: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets visiting Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua in Manila. Both sides agree to “fast-track” bilateral cooperation through the BRI to develop the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership.

: Senior economic officials and business delegations from China and Vietnam meet in Quang Ninh, Vietnam for the ninth conference on bilateral economic corridor cooperation. Established in 2004, the bilateral discussion focuses on increasing cross-border economic ties, transportation and infrastructure links, and tourism.

: China’s Ministry of National Defense pledges to provide $84 million in aid to Cambodia’s national defense, doubling China’s military aid to Phnom Penh next year.

: Speaking on the sidelines of the Xiangshan Forum, senior Chinese and Vietnamese defense chiefs agree to deepen bilateral military ties and increase communication and cooperation through the ministerial-level defense policy dialogue mechanism.

: China and Singapore agree to upgrade their defense pact to include more frequent high-level dialogues, the establishment of a bilateral hotline, and larger scale joint military exercises.

: Myanmar’s Kachin State government announces that it intends to sign a new deal with China to develop the Namjim Industrial Zone. The project is expected to cost more than $400 million, including around 500 factories and 5,000 buildings, as well as new paved roads and infrastructure projects in and around the development zone.

: A Pew Research Center survey finds that public opinion on China among its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region is turning negative. The regional survey covers five countries, including two Southeast Asian nations, Indonesia and the Philippines. Favorable views of China in Indonesia fell from 73% in 2002 to 36% in 2019.

: China and Thailand sign a shipbuilding agreement that will see the China State Shipbuilding Corp build and transfer an amphibious transport dock ship for Thailand. The ship is expected to be the Royal Thai Navy’s largest navy ship.

: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and visiting Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah meet in Beijing and announce that China and Malaysia agree to set up a new joint dialogue mechanism for discussing South China Sea issues. China has similar bilateral consultative mechanisms on the maritime dispute with Brunei and the Philippines.

: Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry raises objections regarding Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8’s activities in Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, citing a violation of its sovereignty and jurisdiction in the territorial waters.

: Chairman Xi and President Duterte meet in Beijing. The visit marks Duterte’s fifth state visit to China since taking office in 2016, and his eighth meeting with Xi.

: Ships from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) are spotted in waters south of the Philippines. Officials in Manila express deep concerns and note that the passage is not “an act of friendship.”

: China and Laos launch a joint humanitarian rescue exercise near Vientiane. The drill includes medical rescue operations in response to natural disasters. More than 500 soldiers are involved.

: Chinese survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 returns to the Spratly Islands where it has been engaged in a month-long stand-off with the Vietnamese government.

: China’s Maritime Safety Administration conducts training near the Paracel Islands.

: Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin files a diplomatic protest against China after over 100 Chinese fishing vessels were recorded around Philippines’ claimed Pag-asa (Thitu) Island.

: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen commits $40 million to weapons purchases from China “to strengthen the army.”

: Chinese ambassador to Myanmar visits Rakhine state to promote and support establishment of the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, development of a deep sea port in the Bay of Bengal, and an offshore gas terminal.

: China and Malaysia agree to restart the East Coast Rail Link project. The rail project will be managed by a joint venture company of China and Malaysia to operate and maintain the rail line network.

: The Wall Street Journal publishes report indicating that China and Cambodia signed an agreement to establish a Chinese naval base in Cambodia. The two governments publicly deny the report.

: US Department of State calls on China to “cease its bullying behavior” in coercing ASEAN members from pursuing oil and gas activities in the South China Sea.

: Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry accuses Chinese oil survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 of activities that “violated Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” in the South China Sea.

: Southeast Asian leaders meet in Bangkok for the 34th ASEAN Summit. They adopt a joint declaration to combat plastic pollution in oceans and release statements regarding regional economic and security collaboration, the de-escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, and investigations into human rights violations in Myanmar.

: President Rodrigo Duterte calls the sinking of a Philippine fishing boat by a Chinese vessel “just a collision,” warning against military action toward China.

: Philippine government calls for an official investigation into the incident involving the Chinese boat sinking a Filipino fishing boat.

: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang sends a congratulatory message to the newly elected prime minister of Thailand, Prayut Chan-ocha. Li expresses interest in deepening comprehensive strategic cooperation in Sino-Thai relations.

: Chinese vessel sinks a Filipino fishing boat near Reed Bank and leaves the 22 Filipino crewmen stranded.

: Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe and Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen agree to revise a defense pact that would allow for larger bilateral military exercises and an increase in high-level dialogue between defense officials.

: Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping meets Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni in Beijing on the sidelines of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC). They pledge to increase cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges.

: Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry rejects China’s annual fishing ban in the South China Sea, citing sovereignty infringement. The annual ban, which runs from May 1 to Aug. 16 this year, affects the Paracel Islands, parts of the Gulf of Tonkin, and Scarborough Shoal.

:  China and Myanmar agree on a $148 million grant to support economic and technical cooperation between the two governments. Under the agreement, China would provide support for socio-economic projects as well as humanitarian assistance in Myanmar. They also agreed on a Memorandum of Understanding on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor Cooperation Plan (2019-2030) that would establish border economic cooperation zones in Myanmar’s Shan and Kachin states.

: China convenes the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing with a joint statement signed by China and 37 other countries in attendance. A number of infrastructure projects ranging from sea ports to railways are highlighted for their impact on strengthening land and maritime trade routes that would forge stronger economic ties between Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

: Thai officials announce that Thailand will sign a memorandum of cooperation with Laos and China to increase regional connectivity and infrastructure development.

: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announces revival of the $34 billion Bandar Malaysia development project that was suspended in 2017. The Chinese-backed rail and property development project is described by Mahathir’s office as “a significant contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative,” and integral in fostering long-term bilateral relations between Malaysia and China.

: Preliminary results from Indonesia’s general election show incumbent Joko Widodo winning over Prabowo Subianto in the presidential race.

: China and the Philippines convene the Fourth Meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism in Manila. They agree to engage in dialogue to prevent and manage incidents at sea, to build mutual trust and confidence, and to explore prospects for maritime economic cooperation.

: Philippines presidential spokesperson announces that the Department of Foreign Affairs has filed a diplomatic protest against China regarding “the presence of more than 200 Chinese boats” that have been recorded near Philippines-claimed territory in the South China Sea between January and March.

: Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs lodges a protest against China’s Hainan Province’s notice to hold live-fire drills in the Paracel/Hoang Sa islands.

: Chinese Communist Party’s Minister of International Department Song Tao meets Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to discuss bilateral cooperation. They agree to enhance relations through the BRI and through cultural and educational exchanges.

: Communist Party Secretary of Sansha Zhang Jun announces plans to develop Woody Island and two smaller islets in the Paracels into a “national key strategic service and logistics base.”

: Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpacio Morales, and Filipino fishermen file a complaint against Chinese President Xi Jinping before the International Criminal Court for committing “crimes against humanity” in China’s systematic takeover of the South China Sea.

: Vietnamese official reports that a Vietnamese fishing boat was rammed by a Chinese vessel near Discovery Bay in the Paracel Islands on March 6.

: Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen announces at the Munich Security Conference that negotiations for a code of conduct between ASEAN and China aimed at easing tensions in the South China Sea will begin later this month.

: China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand jointly carry out the 78th Mekong River joint patrol. Four vessels from each of the four participant countries are involved in the joint patrol focusing on countering terrorist activities and other cross-border crimes.

: Three PLA Navy escort vessels engage in a five-day visit to the Philippines on their return from an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden.

: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meets visiting Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to discuss the state of bilateral relations. They agree to cooperate on Cambodia’s infrastructure development and through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), jointly implement plans for the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone, and strengthen Lancang-Mekong cooperation.

: China conducts a military exercise that includes nearly 20 drills that draw from its navy, air force, and missile forces in the South China Sea as well as in the Pacific Ocean. The drills simulate combat situations at sea, repel advancing vessels, rescue efforts, and live-fire exercises, and are attempts to better integrate the People’s Liberation Army’s Rocket Force conventional and tactical units in its Southern Theater Command.

: Senior military officials from China and Myanmar hold a bilateral defense meeting in Kunming to exchange views on the border situation in northern Myanmar. Chinese officials express support for Myanmar’s peace process, including the new round of peace talks with minority groups in Myanmar at the Panglong Ethnic conference.

: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets senior officials from Myanmar to discuss border security and the Rakhine issue. Wang pledges that China will play a constructive role in the process and hopes that Myanmar and Bangladesh can finalize the repatriation plans for the Rakhine community at an early date.

: President Xi visits Manila for a state visit and meets Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. They agree to establish the China-Philippines comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

: Senior Chinese and Vietnamese military officials meet for the fifth bilateral border meeting. They pledge defense cooperation for border stability.

: President Xi visits Brunei and meets Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah. They agree to deepen practical cooperation and to elevate bilateral ties to a strategic cooperative partnership.

: President Xi attends the 26th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

: Premier Li Keqiang visits Singapore to attend regional meetings, including the China-ASEAN meeting, ASEAN Plus-Three meeting, and the East Asia Summit.

: Under the Belt and Road Initiative, senior officials from China and Myanmar sign an agreement to develop the first phase of a deep sea port in Myanmar’s Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone.

: President Xi Jinping meets Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Shanghai on the sidelines of the inaugural China International Import Expo. They agree to increase the bilateral partnership along the China-Laos economic corridor and the Lancang-Mekong region.

: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets Philippine counterpart Teodoro Locsin in Davao, the Philippines, and agrees to increase consultation on the final agreement on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Philippines has recently taken over from Singapore as coordinating country for China-ASEAN relations.

: Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe meets Vietnamese Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich in Beijing to discuss ways to improve and expand military and security cooperation between the two armed forces.

: China, Malaysia, and Thailand hold a trilateral military exercise. The exercise focuses on joint planning and coordination for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, and counter-terrorism.

: China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group and Myanmar Railways sign agreement for a feasibility study on a proposed cross-border rail line from Muse to Mandalay. The rail line was proposed in 2011, but the project was suspended in 2014 by the military junta regime amidst public objections to the project. The study will assess the environment and social impact of the rail line.

: China and ASEAN hold their first joint naval exercise off the coast of Guangdong Province. ASEAN will hold a similar confidence building drill with the United States in 2019.

: Results of a new Pew research survey indicate that 73 percent of the respondents in Asia – Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia – favor the United States over China as the leading global power.

: Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng meets Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Singapore for 14th joint meeting for bilateral cooperation. They agree to increase and expand economic ties, as well as to launch negotiations for a treaty to provide clearer legal assurance to economic projects under the Belt and Road initiative.

: Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issues a statement of support for the consensus reached between Laos and Cambodia to resolve border tensions, which includes troop withdrawals and joint patrols.

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