Regional Overview

Chronology from Jan 2008 to Mar 2008

: North Korea fires multiple short-range ship-to-ship missiles into its territorial waters in the West Sea. The U.S. responds by saying the tests are “not constructive” and urging the North to focus on nuclear disarmament.

: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visits Washington and meets President Bush. They call for Chinese leaders to meet the Dalai Lama to defuse tensions in Tibet.

: North Korea states it has “never enriched uranium nor rendered nuclear cooperation to any other country.”

: South Korea supports a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva expressing deep concern about continuing reports of systematic violations in North Korea It was adopted with 22 countries in favor, 7 against, and 18 abstentions. South Korea was absent or abstained from similar votes in the past.

: President Bush calls President Hu Jintao to discuss the opportunities created by the Taiwan elections, the situation in Tibet, Burma, and North Korea.

: South Korea Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan visits the U.S. in preparation for an upcoming visit by President Lee Myung-bak. He meets Secretary of State Rice.

: Ma Ying-jeou wins the presidential elections in Taiwan with 58 percent of the votes. In his acceptance speech he says that he would pursue closer economic relations with mainland China, confidence-building measures to reduce the chance of an accidental war, and eventually a peace agreement with Beijing.

:   Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan makes his first visit as foreign minister to China to plan for a likely May state visit by President Lee to Beijing.

: South Korea’s Business Institute of Sustainable Development announces that W5.5 trillion ($5.5 billion) in lost productivity occurred in 2007 as a result of “yellow dust” from China.

: Secretary of State Rice and Secretary of Defense Gates visit Russia and meet President Putin and President-elect Medvedev. Gates and Rice saw Putin and Medvedev before talks with Russian defense and foreign ministers on a broad range of bilateral, strategic issues, including missile defense, post START arrangements, and cooperation on nonproliferation as well as counterterrorism.

: Protests against Chinese rule in Tibet turn violent with shops and vehicles torched and at least two people reportedly killed by security forces in Lhasa. The protests that began on March 10, the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule, were initially led by hundreds of Buddhist monks, but have since attracted large numbers of ordinary Tibetans. The U.S. and the European Union lead international calls for restraint by China in its response to the protests.

: The Chinese and Russian Defense Ministries open a direct telephone line. In their first telephone conversation over the line, Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan tells Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov that the link reflects the level of political trust and strategic coordination between the two countries.  Cao said the line will ensure timely consultations and coordination on hot issues.

: China releases its annual report on human rights in the U.S., which calls the U.S. record “tattered and shocking,” and criticizes the U.S. for its high crime rates, large prison population, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

: Assistant Secretary Hill and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan hold talks in Geneva aimed at breaking the deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear program. Hill describes the discussion as a good consultation. State Department Head of Korean affairs Sung Kim remains in Geneva and has an additional meeting with representatives from North Korea on March 14.

: Department of State releases its annual report on human rights. Unlike previous years, China is not listed as among the top 10 most systematic human rights violators, but is described as an authoritarian regime that denies its people basic human rights and freedoms, tortures prisoners, and restricts the media.

: Indonesian President Yudhoyono visits Iran, Senegal, and the United Arab Emirates. In Iran, he meets President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program, investment, and trade. In Senegal, he attends the 11th Organization of the Islamic Conference.

: Chinese vessels harass a U.S. Navy research ship in international waters inside China’s 200 NM Exclusive Economic Zone in the South China Sea.

:   Malaysian elections enable the Barisan Nasional (BN) to retain power but show dramatic new inroads by opposition parties.

: Suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, accused of flouting UN embargoes and wanted by Interpol, is arrested in Bangkok

:  Announcement is made that Presidents Lee and Bush will meet at Camp David for a private dinner and summit in mid-April.  This will be the first time that leaders from the U.S. and ROK will meet there instead of the White House.

: U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visits Burma. It is Gambari’s fifth visit since he was appointed in early 2006 and his third since a crackdown on monk-led protests in September last year. Although Gen. Than Shwe refused to meet him, he met Aung San Suu Kyi twice as well as Information Minister Brig. Gen. Kyaw Hsan and several junior ministers.

: China announces that it will increase military spending this year by 17.6 percent, roughly equal to last year’s increase. A Chinese spokesman said the country’s decade-long military buildup does “not pose a threat to any country.”

: Dmitry Medvedev is elected president of the Russian Federation.

: The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) is held in Lima, Peru with 21 representatives from its member countries attending the meeting. There were discussions on this year’s agenda items including regional economic integration such as the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), structural reform, economic and technical cooperation, reform of APEC and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Specifics for the APEC Summit Meeting to be held in Lima in November were agreed.

: The U.S. and South Korea conduct military exercise Key Resolve to provide training in aspects of reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of forces from bases outside of South Korea. The joint military exercise is characterized as designed to prepare for Seoul’s plans to retake wartime command of its forces.

: U.S. Marine arrested on suspicion of raping a 14 year-old girl is released by Japanese authorities after the girl drops the accusation against him.

: Former Thai PM Thaksin returns from exile. He has been living outside Thailand since the military coup that deposed him in September 2006. He still faces a number of challenges, including an indictment for corruption.

: President Bush says that he will attend the Beijing Olympics in August as a sports fan, but vows not to be “shy” about pushing China on human rights as well as Darfur and Myanmar.

: The New York Philharmonic Orchestra performs a landmark concert in North Korea. The concert was broadcast live on local television and included the national anthems of both countries, music by two U.S. composers, and a Korean folk song. The visit entailed the largest U.S. presence in North Korea since the end of the Korean War.

: Lee Myung-bak inaugurated the 17th president of South Korea. Immediately following his inauguration, Lee holds separate talks with Japanese PM Fukuda, Chinese State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov, and Secretary Rice.

:   Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits South Korea, China, and Japan. While in South Korea she attends inauguration of Lee Myung-bak and meets officials from China and South Korea to discuss the Six-Party Talks process.

: The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force supply vessel Omi resumes its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean after a four-month hiatus to continue the fight against international terrorism in cooperation with other countries.

: The U.S. Navy successfully hits a U.S. spy satellite. The U.S. describes the shoot-down as necessary over concern that toxic fuel on board the satellite could crash to earth and harm people. Russia and China criticize the action, saying it could harm security in space. China accuses the U.S. of using a double standard and requests the release of data related to the shoot-down.

: Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Australia, Indonesia, India, and Turkey. During the visit, he meets a variety of security and defense officials and pledges arms upgrades and other Pentagon support for Indonesia.

: Burma’s military government announces that a draft of the new constitution has been completed and will be put to a referendum in May, followed by elections in 2010. It bars opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from standing as a candidate because she had a foreign husband.

: China’s State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan visits Japan for talks with PM Fukuda and other leaders.

:   U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney holds unprecedented secret meeting with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

: Secretary Hill visits China, South Korea, and Japan to discuss issues related to the Six-Party Talks. While in Beijing, he also meets North Korea’s Kim Kye Gwan.

: The U.S. and the Philippines conduct the annual bilateral exercise Balikatan. The exercise involves field training, a command post exercise, and execution of humanitarian assistance/civic action projects.

: Beijing accuses the U.S. of fabricating spying allegations and says “China’s so-called espionage in the United States is completely groundless and with ulterior motives.”

:   Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi dissolves Parliament in preparation for snap elections.

: China and Russia submit a new draft for a treaty against space weapons to the UN Conference on Disarmament.

: Japanese PM Fukuda condemns the actions of a U.S. Marine accused of raping a 14-year-old girl, and other officials said the incident may harm relations between the two countries.

: East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta is shot by rebel soldier in a pre-dawn attack on his Dili home, and later airlifted to Australia for treatment. Later Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who was targeted in a separate incident but was unharmed, declares a 48-hour state of emergency, which was subsequently extended to Feb. 23.

: U.S. Defense Department analyst and a former engineer for Boeing are accused in separate spy cases with helping deliver military secrets to the Chinese government. Two immigrants from China and Taiwan accused of working with the defense analyst are also arrested.

: Two Russian bombers fly over the USS Nimitz and are intercepted by U.S. fighter jets in the Western Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, Japan lodges a complaint with Moscow over allegations that a Russian bomber, thought to be one of those involved in the Nimitz fly-over, intruded into Japanese airspace.

: Secretary Hill tells Senate Foreign Relations Committee that linking the Japan abductees to the state sponsor of terrorism list issue is “not in the interest of moving forward with the [Six-Party] Talks” and that costs associated with “phase 3” of the denuclearization process have not yet been identified.

: U.S. lifts sanctions on assistance to Thailand imposed after the 2006 coup.

: Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian inaugurates a runway on Taiping Dao, one of the disputed Spratly Islands and insists the archipelago belongs to Taiwan despite claims by China and several other countries.

: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III visits Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam, Mueller meets senior law enforcement officials to discuss cooperation. In Cambodia he presides over the opening of the Embassy’s Legal Attaché office, which will cover both Cambodia and Vietnam. He also meets Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh.

: Samak Sundaravej, ally of deposed Thai Premier Thaksin, is elected prime minister after winning a majority of votes in Parliament. Samak’s People Power Party (PPP) leads a six-party coalition that controls two-thirds of the seats in Parliament.

: Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, and his delegation visit Pyongyang and meet Kim Jong-il and senior officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Kim reportedly tells Wang that “the present difficulties are temporary and can be conquered. There are no changes in the North’s stance to continue pushing forward the Six-Party Talks persistently and implementing all the agreements.”

: The USS Blue Ridge docks in Hong Kong, the first U.S. warship allowed in since China refused a similar request in November 2007.

: Former Indonesian President Suharto dies.

: A Japanese naval ship departs for the Indian Ocean after the government forced a resumption of a refueling mission supporting the U.S.-led war on terror.

: The foreign ministers of the U.S., France, and UK make a joint statement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland saying “the urgent need for progress towards a transition to democracy and improved human rights in Burma” was a priority for this year’s meeting.

: China and Vietnam agree at the second meeting of the China-Vietnam Steering Committee on Cooperation to properly handle their dispute over the South China Sea to ensure the steady and healthy development of bilateral ties.

: Russia delivers 50,000 tons of fuel oil to North Korea in line with a six-nation deal to resolve the country’s nuclear problem.

: Japan Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo unveils in a speech to the Diet an ambitious diplomatic policy on environmental issues, saying he will lead the world in efforts to convert to a “low-carbon society” and to create a financial mechanism to help developing nations deal with global warming.

: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown visits China. The trip is portrayed in both London and Beijing as of vital importance to strengthening ties between the two countries.

: The UN Security Council says in a statement that it “regretted the slow rate of progress” Myanmar has made meeting objectives it set out last October.  Underscoring the importance of “further progress” toward the goal of reconciliation between the military regime and the opposition, it noted that “an early visit by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari could help facilitate this.”

: President-elect Lee says that South Korea will make no demand during his presidency for apologies about Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula at a meeting at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

: Japan offers a new aid package to Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Burma, and Thailand) while encouraging them to make more progress on human rights and democratization.

: Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte visits China to participate in the fifth U.S.-PRC Senior Dialogue.

: In an apparent reversal of policy, Australia announces that it will not sell uranium to India unless it signs the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.

: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits China to try to boost contacts between the two countries. While there, the two countries sign five agreements including a memorandum of understanding to promote railway cooperation and in the areas of housing, geo-sciences, land resource management, and traditional medicine.

: Adm. Timothy Keating, US Pacific Command commander, visits China and meets officials from the Central Military Commission, the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), Guangzhou Military Area Command and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

: Taiwan’s opposition KMT party wins a landslide victory in the parliamentary polls, winning 81 seats in the legislature, while the DPP wins 27 seats.

: The Replenishment Support Special Measures Bill becomes law in Japan, reauthorizing refueling operations in the Indian Ocean in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visits Malaysia.  Talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi include treatment of Indonesian migrant workers, border issues, and trade and investment.

: Potjaman Shinawatra, the wife of Thaksin Shinawatra, deposed prime minister of Thailand, is arrested on charges of corruption upon her return to Thailand after months of exile. She is released on bail after a short court hearing.

: Surin Pitsuwan assumes the five-year post as secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from Singapore’s Ong Keng Yong.

: Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill visits Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and Moscow for talks with his counterparts in the Six-Party Talks.

: North Korea’s Foreign Ministry announces that Pyongyang “has done what it should do” in providing information regarding its nuclear program and that it has slowed the pace of disablement of the Yongbyon reactor because it “did not think the other parties had fulfilled pledges to supply energy aid in a timely manner.”

Date Range