Regional Overview

Chronology from Mar 2008 to Jul 2008

: World Trade Organization negotiations in Geneva collapse when the U.S., China, India fail to resolve differences over protection for agricultural goods in developing countries.

: Cambodian National Election Committee announces that Prime Minister Hun Sen won nearly 60 percent of the vote in elections held on July 27 compared with nearly 21 percent for the nearest rival, the main opposition Sam Rainsy Party. International observers raise concerns about voter intimidation.

: The 15th ARF is held in Singapore. Disaster relief dominated discussions. Other topics included North Korea’s nuclear program, terrorism, the border dispute between Cambodia and Thailand, and the current food and energy crisis.

: North Korea signs the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) following the conclusion of the 15th ARF.

: Foreign ministers from the U.S., China, South Korea, Japan, North Korea, and Russia meet on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to discuss progress being made in the Six-Party Talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

: Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with South Korea, China, and Japan hold an ASEAN Plus Three meeting. Plans to carry out the joint statement adopted last year to promote economic, political and socio-cultural cooperation in East Asia are a key topic of discussion. After this meeting, the ministers were joined by Australia, New Zealand, and India for East Asia Summit informal consultations.

: The 41st ASEAN Ministerial Meeting is held in Singapore.

: Burma announces that it has ratified the ASEAN Charter.

: A WTO dispute panel confirms the judgment that China has violated fair trade rules by discriminating against imported auto parts, ruling in favor of the U.S. EU, and Canada.

: Japan announces new guidelines for school teachers that imply Tokyo’s territorial claim to the Dokdo/Takeshima islets. South Korea responds by recalling Ambassador to Japan Kwon Chul-hyun and reinforcing control of islets, saying it is reviewing whether to go ahead with diplomatic events with Japan.

: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak offers to resume dialogue and provide humanitarian aid to North Korea, but the move is overshadowed by the fatal shooting of a South Korean woman by a North Korean soldier at the tourist enclave at Mt. Kumgang.

: Six-Party Talks are held in Beijing after a nine-month hiatus. The four issues on the agenda are development of a verification and monitoring mechanism, an economic aid plan to North Korea, planning for a meeting of the six foreign ministers, and devising the framework for the “third phase” of implementation.

: The G8 summit is held in Hokkaido, Japan. The G8 leaders representing the U.S., Japan, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, Italy and Germany are joined by African leaders and the leaders of China, India and other rapidly growing economies.

: The Russian Duma approves the U.S.-Russia Civilian Nuclear Power Agreement or the so-called 123 Agreement, wherein the U.S. provides aid to help Russia dismantle its nuclear, chemical and other weapons.

: Chinese officials meet representatives of the Dalai Lama in Beijing.

: President Nambaryn Enkhbayar declares a state of emergency in Ulan Bator in response to violence following Parliamentary elections in Mongolia.

: Violence breaks out in Ulan Bator after the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party wins the majority of seats in Parliamentary elections.

: The first shipment of U.S. food aid promised in mid-May arrives in North Korea.

: North Korea and the World Food Program reach agreement on an extensive food aid distribution plan.

: RIMPAC, the world’s largest multinational naval exercise with more than 35 ships, six submarines, and 150 aircraft from more than 10 countries is held in the waters near Hawaii.

: North Korea destroys the cooling tower of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in what is described as a symbolic gesture to show its commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

: North Korea submits the declaration of its nuclear programs to China as the chair of the Six-Party Talks. In response, President Bush announces the lifting of the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act against North Korea, and notifies Congress of his intent to rescind North Korea’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

: President Bush signs a National Emergency Declaration, which reinstates many of the TWEA restrictions due to continuing proliferation threat from North Korea.

: U.S. resumes beef exports to South Korea despite intensified protests.  South Korean quarantine inspections restart as well.

: Secretary of State Rice visits Japan, South Korea, and China.

: China reopens Tibet to foreign tourists.

: The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer Sazanami, carrying earthquake relief supplies, makes a port call in Zhanjiang, becoming the first Japanese warship to visit China since WWII.

: Top nuclear negotiators from the U.S. and South Korea separately meet Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei, the Chair of the Six-Party Talks.

: Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung pays an official visit to the U.S. and meets President Bush.

: Japan ratifies a free trade accord with ASEAN. Under the deal, about 90 percent of trade between Japan and ASEAN will be tariff-free within 10 years.

: Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visits the U.S. and meets President Bush in Washington DC to discuss bilateral cooperation on a broad range of areas including ASEAN, Burma, counterterrorism, defense reform, food security, and regional economic integration.

: Nuclear negotiators from Japan, South Korea and the U.S. meet in Tokyo and reaffirm the need to push forward the Six-Party Talks to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

: Secretary of State Rice restates U.S. willingness to remove Pyongyang from the terrorist-sponsor list if it submits a full declaration of its nuclear activities.

: Japan and China announce an agreement to jointly develop a gas field in the East China Sea, resolving a protracted dispute over how to exploit resources in an area where their maritime border remains unsettled.

: The foreign ministers from South Korea, China, and Japan – Yu Myung-hwan, Yang Jiechi, and Masahiko Komura – meet in Japan and agree to build a formal channel for trilateral cooperation.

: North Korea Foreign Ministry issues a statement denouncing terrorism and its support of efforts to create a mechanism to counter terrorism and sponsors of terrorism.

: Prime Minister Fukuda meets with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Tokyo and the two governments issue a joint statement highlighting the security, strategic, and economic partnership between the two countries.

: The Six-Party Talks Energy and Economic Assistance Working Group meets in Panmunjom in an effort to speed up delivery of energy assistance to North Korea.

: Representatives from Japan and North Korea meet in Beijing to discuss bilateral relations. Following the meeting, North Korea announces that it would reopen an investigation into the past abductions of Japanese citizens and Japan announces that it would lift some sanctions imposed on Pyongyang for its nuclear program.

: Japan PM Fukuda announces a new climate change policy that sets a goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2050 and pledges to contribute up to $1.2 billion to a new multilateral fund that will help developing countries fight global warming.

: Japanese frigate hits and sinks Taiwan fishing boat near Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands; Taipei and Beijing protest the incident.

: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calls for the creation of an all-inclusive Asia Pacific Community by 2020 to help the region maintain security, foster trade, respond to natural disasters and terrorism, and react more quickly to cope with changes brought about by rapid economic growth.

: Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen makes a brief surprise visit to Zamboanga, Philippines.

: The USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier, stationed in Japan for nearly 10 years, departs Yokosuka to be decommissioned.
May 29-June 4, 2008: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visits Guam, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea in conjunction with his attendance at the seventh annual International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue. In a speech in Singapore he states that the U.S. is a Pacific nation with an enduring role in Asia and that U.S. alliance relationships are the foundation of the U.S. security presence in the region.

: Assistant Secretary Hill meets Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in Beijing to discuss a time frame for Pyongyang’s submission of a declaration of its nuclear programs. Hill also holds separate meetings with Chinese Six-Party Talks negotiator Wu Da-wei and Japanese negotiator Saiki Akitaka.

: Sen. John McCain and Sen. Joseph Lieberman provide insight into the Republican candidate’s Asia policy in a Wall Street Journal article titled “Renewing America’s Asia Policy.”

: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visits Beijing. A presidential official said the summit will trigger the upgrading of bilateral ties to a “strategic cooperative partnership” meaning the two countries “will cooperate more comprehensively and diversely.”

: KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung visits China and meets President Hu Jintao.  The visit underscores a rapid improvement in ties since the change in government in Taiwan.

: President Medvedev visits China on his first trip outside the country since being inaugurated and meets President Hu Jintao. They release a joint statement denouncing U.S. plans to build a global missile defense shield.

: Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej visits the Philippines and pledges to sell rice to the Philippines for “negotiable” rates.

: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visits Burma. During his stay, Ban visits the Irrawaddy delta region, meets Gen. Than Shwe, and attends a donor conference.

: Ma Ying-jeou is inaugurated as president of the Republic of China in Taiwan.

: ASEAN foreign ministers hold an emergency meeting in Singapore to discuss the situation in Myanmar. In a major concession, Myanmar agrees to open its doors to medical teams from all ASEAN countries.

: World Health Assembly again rejects “Taiwan” observer application.

: The chief negotiators for the Six-Party Talks from South Korea, the U.S., and Japan hold talks in Washington to discuss how to verify North Korea’s declaration of nuclear programs and stockpiles. This is the first time for the group to meet officially since the Korea-U.S.-Japan Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG) was suspended in 2003.

: Rescue teams from Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Russia, Taiwan, and Hong Kong arrive in China’s quake-devastated region. This is the first time the Chinese government has accepted foreign professionals for a domestic disaster rescue and relief operation.

: A U.S. military court sentences a U.S. Marine to at least three years in prison for sexually abusing a 14-year-old Japanese girl, in a case that triggered mass protests in Okinawa.

: The U.S. announces that it will deliver 500,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea over the next year. North Korea responds by saying that it is “ready to provide all technical conditions necessary for the food delivery.”

: Thailand’s Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says after a visit to Myanmar that the junta leaders would not allow foreign experts into the country for the cyclone relief effort.

: The 8th Russia-China-Indian foreign ministerial meeting is held in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The trilateral meeting is followed by a four-party meeting, adding Brazil’s foreign minister on May 16, to review areas of four-party interaction.

: U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) Commander Adm. Timothy Keating flies to Burma aboard the first U.S. military aid flight to press for a full-scale international relief operation for victims of Cyclone Nargis. At the airport in Rangoon, he meets Burma’s top naval officer in the highest-level military contact between the two countries in decades. Burmese officials promise to consider the request.

: A 7.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter located 90 km from the Sichuan provincial capital of Chengdu kills more than 8,700 people.

: Burma’s junta opens the polls for a referendum on a new constitution, which it says will pave the way for democratic elections in 2010. Pro-democracy campaigners say the ballot will be rigged and accuse the generals of trying to prolong their reign. The military delays the referendum in the areas worst-affected by Cyclone Nargis until May 24.

: The UN High Commissioner on Refugees announces the first trucks with relief goods for victims of Cyclone Nargis cross the border between Thailand and Burma.

: Japan’s Diet passes a bill that permits military use of outer space for defensive purposes.

: Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo accompanied by a business delegation visits North Korea.

: China and Indonesia reject France’s proposal to have UN Security Council put pressure on cyclone-devastated Burma to grant full access to foreign aid workers.

: U.S. State Department representative Sung Kim meets North Korean officials in Pyongyang in what are described by the U.S. State Department spokesperson as “ongoing discussions to rid the North of its nuclear weapons programs.” During the meeting, North Korea turns over 18,000 pages of documents related to its plutonium program dating back to 1986.

: Cobra Gold 2008, a regularly scheduled joint and combined multinational military exercise, is held in Thailand.  Participants include the U.S., Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Indonesia.

: Dmitry Medvedev is inaugurated as Russia’s third president. The following day he appoints outgoing President Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister.

: Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte travels to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing for talks on a range of issues.

: Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Japan. During the visit Hu and PM Fukuda agree to regular summits aimed at easing tensions between the two countries.

: Chinese government representatives meet the Dalai Lama’s representatives in Shenzen. Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the exiled Tibetan government, says the two sides agreed to meet again after discussions “conducted in good atmosphere.”

: Cyclone Nargis strikes Burma, devastating much of the fertile Irrawaddy River delta and the nation’s major city, Rangoon.

: ASEAN trade ministers agree to help each other during the global food crisis and to take measures to maintain the stability of rice prices and boost production.

: South Korean deputy negotiator for the Six-Party Talks meets Japanese chief negotiator Saiki Akidaka in Tokyo for a working-level discussion.

: President Bush defends his decision to release details of alleged North Korean links with Syrian nuclear program in order to send a “message” to U.S. foes North Korea and Iran that they could not hide their own nuclear activity.

: General Secretary of the CCP Central Committee Hu Jintao meets with Lien Chan, honorary chairman of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang (KMT), in Beijing.

: Australia announces that it will withdraw 200 troops from East Timor because security has improved.

: Xinhua news agency announces that Chinese government officials would meet “in the coming days” with a private representative of the Dalai Lama.
April 25-27, 2008: Japanese PM Fukuda visits Russia and meets President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitry Medvedev, who takes office in May. They sign an agreement to pursue their countries’ first joint oil field development project in Russia’s eastern Siberian region and discuss the territorial issue of the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, global warming, and peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

: North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun visits China and meets Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and State Councilor Dai Bingguo. Yang says it is in everyone’s interests to implement the second phase of the Six-Party Talks in a balanced way and Pak says North Korea wants to “denuclearize the Korean peninsula and would like to work with all relevant parties to fulfill obligations.”

: Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej visits Malaysia and meets Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The two agree to work together to fight unrest in Thailand’s south and work to bring peace to the region through economic development.

: A U.S. team, led by Sung Kim, visits Pyongyang to discuss how to verify any declaration North Korea may make about its nuclear programs.

: An Indonesian court sentences Abu Dujana, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings, to 15 years in jail for violating the anti-terror law.

:  Japanese PM Fukuda conveys his intent to raise the issue rising food prices at the G-8 summit scheduled for July in Hokkaido. In letters addressed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and World Bank President Robert Zoellick, he seeks cooperation from both organizations. Fukuda says that “soaring food prices are posing imminent and serious global challenges” and have brought about social unrest.

: South Korean President Lee visits Japan and meets PM Fukuda. They agree to cooperate together with the U.S. on the North Korean nuclear issue, resume discussions on a bilateral Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and hold a trilateral meeting with China within this year.

: Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo tells visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi that China should “face up to the reality that the matter [Tibet] has become an international issue and that it should not affect the Olympics.”

: Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta returns home amid tight security and cheering crowds after two months of treatment for gunshot wounds sustained in a rebel attack.

: South Korea names Kim Sook as the Foreign Ministry’s special representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs chief negotiator for the Six-Party Talks.

: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visits the U.S. and meets President Bush at Camp David.

: China President Hu Jintao meets Taiwan Vice President-elect Vincent Siew on the sidelines of the Boao Forum, the highest-level contact between the two governments since their post-civil war split in 1949.

: The U.S. appoints Scott Marciel as the first U.S. ambassador for ASEAN affairs.  He also serves as deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific.

: The annual Boao Forum for Asia is held on Hainan Island.

: The U.S. and China test for the first time a defense “hot line” designed for consultations in times of crisis.

: Parliamentary elections are held in South Korea. President Lee’s GNP (Grand National Party) holds 153 seats of the 299 seats (from 128 seats), while the opposition liberal UDP (United Democratic Party) plunges from 141 to 81.

: U.S. and North Korean negotiators Christopher Hill and Kim Kye-gwan meet in Singapore, narrow differences in their dispute over Pyongyang’s declaration of its nuclear activities, and reach a tentative agreement.

: China and New Zealand sign a free trade agreement.

: A BBC World Service poll, which surveyed over 17,000 people in 34 countries, indicates Japan is the second most positively viewed country behind Germany.

: The Olympic Torch relay begins its four-month journey around the world.

: Representatives from more than 160 countries begin formal negotiations in Bangkok on a treaty to mitigate climate change.

: Secretary Hill says differences with North Korea “are getting bigger; they are getting smaller.”

: 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.

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

: 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.

: 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.

Date Range