Regional Overview

Chronology from Jan 2019 to May 2019

: US Trade Representative Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continue trade talks with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Beijing.

: USS William P. Lawrence and USS Stethem sail the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating “the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

: Japanese PM Abe makes official visit to the White House to discuss bilateral trade, focusing on the automobile industry, with President Trump.

: North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country criticizes South Korea for committing “acts of perfidy” in conducting joint air drills with the United States during what it views as a “crucial moment” on the peninsula.

: China protests the Vendemiaire’s April 7 transit through the Taiwan Strait, claiming that the French warship had “illegally entered China’s territorial waters.”

: Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is hosted by President Xi in Beijing and gathers leaders and representatives from 150 countries.

: US officials report that the French frigate Vendemiaire was “shadowed” by Chinese military when it transited the Taiwan Strait on April 7.

: Two Japan MSDF P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft join the Indian Navy for a joint anti-submarine warfare exercise off Western India.

: North Korean Chairman Kim travels to Russia to meet President Putin in Vladivostok.

: FM Kono announces that Japan has removed its call to “maximize pressure on North Korea by all available means” from its Diplomatic Bluebook 2019, in favor of working to resolve the issue of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens.

: People’s Liberation Army Navy marks its 70th anniversary with a naval review off Qingdao featuring its new nuclear submarines and destroyers. Ships from 13 countries including India, Japan, Australia, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines participate.

: Cambodian PM Hun Sen and Thai PM Prayut Chan-O-Cha inaugurate the reopening of the cross-border rail link that closed 45 years ago. During the event the two leaders sign an agreement to operationalize international rail services and Thailand presented Cambodia with a four-car diesel train.

: The air forces of the United States, South Korea, and Australia undertake two weeks of “scaled-back” joint air drills around the Korean Peninsula, replacing the previous large-scale Max Thunder drill.

: Three churches and four hotels are targeted in coordinated bombings across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing over 300 people and injuring over 500.

: Japanese FM Kono and Defense Minister Iwaya meet US Secretary of State Pompeo and Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan in Washington DC for a “2+2” Security Consultative Committee meeting that focuses on bilateral “coordination on the evolving regional security environment.”

: Malaysian PM Mahathir 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 the PM’s office as “a significant contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative,” and integral in fostering long-term bilateral relations between Malaysia and China.

: Korean Central News Agency reports that Kim Jong Un observed the testing of Pyongyang’s new “tactical guided weapon.”

: The US and Sri Lankan navies cancel the 2019 Cooperation Afloat and Readiness Training exercise four days earlier than scheduled. The 25th iteration was based out of Hambantota Port, but was suspended following the Easter Sunday attacks.

: US Special Representative for North Korea Biegun travels to Moscow “to discuss efforts to advance the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.”

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

: Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense and Japan’s Ministry of Defense separately report PLAAF jets and planes flying over the Bashi Channel to conduct exercises in the Western Pacific.

: Japanese Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi meets US Trade Representative Lighthizer in Washington DC for the first round of negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement.

: Indian Navy sends the warships INS Kolkata and INS Shakti to the second Indian Navy-Vietnam Peoples’ Navy Bilateral Exercise at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.

: Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense signs a $1.02 billion contract with South Korea’s Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) for three diesel-electric submarines, following final delivery of a previous batch of submarines from the South Korean shipbuilder on April 11.

: The US Navy sends the USS Stethem and a P-8A maritime patrol aircraft to assist search and rescue operations after a Japanese ASDF F-35 jet disappears off northeast Japan during a training flight.

: South Korea President Moon Jae-in travels to Washington DC to meet President Trump for a summit on North Korean diplomacy.

: Malaysian authorities detain 41 Rohingya migrants who arrived by boat on a beach in the north of the country.

: Three Russian warships anchor in the Port of Manila for the second “goodwill visit” between the Philippine and Russian navies in 2019.

: Ninth round of US-China trade talks continue in Washington DC as Vice Premier Liu He meets US Trade Representative Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. A meeting between Liu and President Trump also takes place.

: Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency approves the sale of 24 Seahawk helicopters to India.

: Navy, army, and air force personnel from Australia and India participate in the third AUSINDEX joint maritime exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The three phases of the exercise focus on anti-submarine warfare and improving overall bilateral cooperation and interoperability.

: Philippines presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo 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.

: South Korean soldiers begin searching for Korean War remains at the border without North Korean assistance despite previous agreement at the third Kim-Moon summit that a joint search would take place from April 1 to Oct. 31.

: New Zealand PM Ardern makes her first official visit to China. In addition to presiding over the opening of New Zealand’s new embassy in Beijing, the two countries sign several cooperation agreements in the areas of agriculture, finance, science and technology.

: The 2019 Balikitan exercises take place in Luzon and Palawan. Over 7,000 troops from the US, Philippines, and Australia participate in humanitarian and civic assistance projects as well as land, sea, air, and counterterrorism operations.

: Two PLAAF J-11 fighter jets cross the median line in the Taiwan Strait, prompting Taiwan to dispatch its own planes to warn off the Chinese aircraft. Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs declares the action “provocative” and a violation of “the long-held tacit agreement” of cross-straits relations.

: US Trade Representative Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin hold “a rapid-fire series” of trade talks with Vice Premier Liu He and his delegation in Beijing.

: Seven pro-democracy parties form a coalition to secure a majority in Thailand’s House of Representatives to oppose the military-backed National Council for Peace and Order.

: Prime Minister Modi declares India “a space power” following the success of Mission Shakti, an anti-satellite missile demonstration.

: Free Joseon, a political organization that opposes Kim Jong Un, claims responsibility for raiding the North Korean Embassy in Spain on Feb. 22. Information stolen from the embassy was later shared with the FBI, but the US government claims no involvement in the operation.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry reports that “four to five” North Korean officials returned to work at the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong.

: Two-thirds of Thailand’s 51 million voters turn out for the country’s first election since 2014.

: The USS Curtis Wilbur and USCG Bertholf conduct “a routine Taiwan Strait transit.” It is the first FOIP mission to involve a US Coast Guard vessel.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry announces that North Korea withdrew its staff from the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong following “instructions from the superior authority.”

: President Trump tweets that he is withdrawing “additional large scale Sanctions” against North Korea. His decision contradicts the Treasury Department’s announcement 24 hours earlier that it would pursue sanctions against two Chinese shipping companies for aiding North Korea in evading restrictions imposed by the US and UNSC.

: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen visits Pacific allies Palau, Nauru, and the Marshall Islands to “deepen ties and friendly relations.” Her tour concludes with a stop in Hawaii.

: Two US B-52 bombers join the US Navy and Japan’s ASDF in integrated training near the East China Sea.

: US B-52 bombers conduct an Indo-Pacific “theater familiarization” exercise, flying north from Anderson AFB in Guam to an area east of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula.

: Philippines withdraws from the ICC after the tribunal launched a preliminary examination into “the alleged crimes against humanity of President Rodrigo Duterte and his men.”

: China’s national legislature passes a foreign investment law, effective Jan. 1, 2020, to “provide stronger protection and a better business environment for overseas investors.”

: 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.”

: US Navy, UK Royal Navy, and Japanese MSDF conduct an anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Western Pacific to “support a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

: 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 (ICC) for committing “crimes against humanity” in China’s systematic takeover of the South China Sea.

: Japan rescinds its annual motion to the UN condemning North Korea’s human rights record, “given U.S. efforts to end North Korea’s weapons program and other factors.”

: Two US B-52 bombers conduct “routine training in the vicinity of the South China Sea” before returning to Andersen AFB in Guam. The USS Blue Ridge anchors in Manila Bay after sailing through the South China Sea.

: US and India sign an agreement “to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation,” through building six US nuclear power plants in India.

: UN Panel of Experts on North Korea release a 400-page document showing that the DPRK has broken UN sanctions by increasing oil imports and coal exports through ship-to-ship transfers, trying to sell arms in the Middle East, and hacking banks globally.

: South Korean President Moon makes a three-nation ASEAN tour, stopping in Brunei, Malaysia, and Cambodia.

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

: South Korea FM Kang signs Special Measures Agreement with US Ambassador Harry Harris, formally agreeing to pay $915 million for the upkeep of US Forces, Korea.

: US analysts from 38 North and CSIS’s Beyond Parallel report that North Korea’s Sohae Launch Facility is returning to normal operating status after being moderately dismantled following the Singapore Summit, analysis based on commercial satellite imagery acquired on March 6.

: Taiwan’s deputy defense minister announces that Taiwan has submitted an official request to purchase new fighter jets from the United States.

: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed makes his first official visit since returning to office in 2018 to Manila to meet President Duterte.

: Deputy Foreign Minister of Japan Mori Takeo meets Russian counterpart Igor Morgulov in Moscow to discuss improved bilateral relations in 2019.

: President Trump decides to withdraw India from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

: South Korean Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Lee Do-hoon visits Washington DC to meet US Special Representative for North Korea Biegun to coordinate plans following the US-DPRK second summit.

: Pakistan’s Navy denies the entrance of an Indian submarine into its waters without having it “deliberately targeted” to further de-escalation efforts between the two countries.

: US and South Korean militaries hold the inaugural Dong Maeng joint military exercise, a scaled-back version of the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve series.

: US Navy joins its partners for the 14th Pacific Partnership. The annual Indo-Pacific multinational humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission aims to strengthen regional ties and “enhance regional interoperability and disaster response capabilities.”

: Pakistan returns captured Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India as a goodwill gesture to deescalate tensions between the countries.

: US Secretary of State Pompeo visits the Philippines and meets President Duterte. Pompeo assures Philippines Foreign Secretary Locsin that the US would respond to “any attack on Philippine aircraft or ships in the South China Sea, ” citing article 4 of the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

: Pakistan’s military shoots down two Indian warplanes in Kashmir and captures one of the pilots.

: President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un meet in Hanoi, Vietnam for their second summit. Negotiations collapse early and end what was planned to be a two-day summit.

: Indian fighter jets conduct a strike in Pakistan. Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale claims that “a very large number of (Jaish-e-Mohammed) terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis” are killed. Pakistan refutes the claim.

: Russian telecom operator Rostelecom says that it had laid 506 miles of fiber-optic cable throughout the Russian-claimed Kuril Islands, and that doing so would improve “the quality of life for the local population.”

: USS Stethem and USNS Cesar Chavez transit the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate “the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

: Senior Chinese and South Korean naval officers attend the annual meeting of Asia-Pacific countries, hosted by Japan’s MSDF, aimed to deepen “mutual understanding among the region’s navies.”

: Okinawan voters reject plans for the construction of a new US air base in Henoko.

: President Trump delays March 1 deadline for increasing tariffs on Chinese imports, citing progress made in trade talks.

: Indian PM Modi visits South Korea and meets President Moon in Seoul to discuss strengthening economic and military ties between the two countries.

: Inaugural Japan-Three Micronesian Countries’ Meeting is held in Koror, Palau to enhance cooperation between Japan, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. Japan announces that it will provide $30.7 million in aid for disaster prevention and mitigation and economic and social development assistance.

: US, Japanese, and Australian troops participate in Cope North, the largest multilateral Pacific Air Forces exercise, designed to strengthen air operations with a focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief training.

: New round of US-China trade talks commence in Washington DC, followed by high-level talks led by US Trade Representative Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

: US and UK navies hold a joint drill in the South China Sea, where crew from HMS Montrose embark and secure USNS Guadalupe in a high seas trafficking simulation.

: Indian PM Modi calls for “the complete isolation of Pakistan” following a suicide car bombing in Kashmir that killed 42 Indian security personnel.

: In testimony to the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Adm. Davidson identifies China’s military as “the principle threat to U.S. interests, U.S. citizens and our allies inside the First Island Chain.”

: Japanese government lodges a “stern protest” with Seoul in reaction to South Korea National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang’s remarks regarding Emperor Akihito.

: Members of US Congress introduce resolutions in the House of Representatives and the Senate that they hope will “reinforce” the trilateral US-Japan-South Korea alliance amidst deteriorating relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

: US and Thailand host Cobra Gold, Asia’s largest multinational military exercise, in Thailand, during which 29 countries participate in staff exercises, humanitarian civic assistance projects, and field training exercises.

: USS Spruance and USS Preble sail within 12 nm of the Spratly Islands as a freedom of navigation operation “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways governed by international law.”

: Spokesperson for the Philippine government announces that the US pledged $5.75 million in intelligence support to assist counterterrorism efforts in the Philippines.

: US trade officials negotiate with Chinese representatives in Beijing to secure a trade deal. President Xi meets US Trade Representative Lighthizer and US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.

: South Korea agrees to increase its contribution to the upkeep of US Forces Korea by 8.2% ($915 million).

: US Special Representative for North Korea Biegun travels to Seoul and Pyongyang to meet South and North Korean counterparts to prepare for a second summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim.

: Following President Trump’s announcement that the US would pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, President Putin announces Russia’s withdrawal.

: European Union-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement enters into force.

: US and Chinese officials, led by US Trade Representative Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, meet in Washington DC to negotiate a trade agreement.

: China’s Ministry of Transport opens a maritime rescue center on Yongshu (Fiery Cross) Reef in Nansha (Spratly) Islands, “to better protect navigation and transport safety in the South China Sea.”

: US Department of Justice files financial fraud charges against Huawei and its CFO Meng Wanzhou in relation to the company’s business activities in Iran.

: USS McCampbell and the USNS Walter S. Diehl transit the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate “US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

: Indian Navy commissions a third air base, INS Kohassa, in the northern Andaman and Nicobar islands.

: Japanese SDF patrol plane flies within close proximity of a South Korean naval vessel in the East China Sea. Japanese FM Kono and South Korean FM Kang Kyung-wha meet on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum to address the incident.

: Japanese PM Abe and Russian President Putin agree to accelerate work on reaching a postwar peace treaty and resolving disputes over the Northern Territories/Kuril Islands, following their summit in Moscow.

: Taiwan’s Defense Ministry tells its citizens not to panic after PLA aircraft fly over the Bashi Channel within close-range of the island.

: Japanese MSDF support ship finds a North Korean-flagged tanker lying next to a vessel of unknown nationality with connected hoses in the East China Sea.  Japan reports details of the incident to the UN Security Council Committee on suspicion of ship-to-ship transfers.

: Following President Trump’s meeting with North Korean Special Envoy Kim Yong Chol, the White House announces that President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un will meet for a second summit in late February.

: Taiwan’s military holds its first large-scale drills of the year on the island’s west coast, aimed at honing its combat readiness and “thwarting an amphibious invasion.”

: North Korean Special Envoy Kim Yong Chol travels to Washington DC to meet Secretary of State Pompeo and Special Representative for North Korea Biegun to “make progress on the commitments President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un made at their summit in Singapore.”

: Prime Minister Morrison makes the first bilateral visit by an Australian prime minister to Vanuatu and Fiji.

: Thailand’s Election Commission announces postponement of the Feb. 24 general election, citing planning conflicts with the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn in May.

: South Korea’s military publishes 2018 defense white paper, which omits the word “enemy” and other “provocative jargon” in reference to North Korea’s government and military, and underscores determination to push for more confidence-building measures in inter-Korean military relations.

: Indian Ambassador to the United States Harsh Vardhan Shringla announces to the US-India Business Council India’s commitment to purchase $5 billion in oil and gas per year, and $18 billion in defense equipment.

: Japanese Defense Minister Iwaya makes a five-day visit to the US and meets Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan in Washington DC. Iwaya also stops in Hawaii on his first visit since taking office, where he is hosted by Adm. Davidson at USINDOPACOM headquarters.

: Japanese FM Kono meets Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow to discuss a peace treaty and settling territorial disputes over the Kuril Islands.

: US and UK navies conduct six days of communication drills, division tactics, and a personnel exchange in the South China Sea.

: South Korean President Moon Jae-in accuses Japan of politicizing South Korea’s Supreme Court decision ordering Japanese firms to pay reparations to Korean forced laborers during Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

: China Central Television announces deployment of DF-26 ballistic missiles in China’s northwest plateau.

: North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un arrives in Beijing to meet President Xi for their fourth meeting in China in less than a year.

: China’s Foreign Ministry lodges “stern representations” with the US in response to the freedom of navigation (FON) operation conducted by the guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell within 12 nm of the Paracel Islands earlier in the day.

: Japanese FM Kono visits India. He holds the 10th Japan-India Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue with Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, pays a courtesy call to PM Modi, and inaugurates the India-Japan Friendship Forum.

: US trade representatives meet Chinese counterparts in Beijing for the first face-to-face meeting to negotiate trade agreements between the two countries since Presidents Trump and Xi called a 90-day truce in trade disputes on Dec. 1, 2018.

: Russian Pacific Fleet Task Force visits Manila for an unofficial visit to strengthen the relationship between the Russian and Philippine navies.  It is the seventh visit of the Russian Navy to Manila since 2012, and consists of goodwill games, a boodle fight, and shipboard tour.

: On his first day as acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan tells Pentagon staff to remember “China, China, China” and that the 2018 National Defense Strategy will guide operations.

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