Regional Overview

Chronology from Sep 2018 to Dec 2018

: The 11-nation Comprehensive Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) enters into force.

: South Korea’s Unification Ministry acknowledges that personal information of 997 North Korean defectors living in South Korea had been leaked earlier in the month, when a computer at the Hana Center in North Gyeongsang Province was hacked.

: US Federal Court judge orders North Korea to pay $501 million in damages to the parents of Otto Warmbier for the “barbaric mistreatment” that led to his death shortly after his return to the United States in June 2017.

: US agrees to exempt the ban on industrial material transfers to North Korea to facilitate continued progress of the inter-Korean rail project that would connect rail lines between the North and South.

: US Department of Justice indicts two Chinese citizens for hacking US businesses and government agencies for sensitive information.  The hackers are members of the group APT 10, or “cloudhopper,” which Justice officials link to China’s Ministry of State Security, underscoring China’s violation of a 2015 agreement to not engage in “state-sponsored hacking for economic gain.”

: Secretary of Defense Mattis resigns from his post, citing fundamental disagreements with President Trump on security issues.

: Japanese diplomats in Moscow lodge official protest against Russia for building four military barracks on the islands Etorofu and Kunishiri, two of the four islands north of Hokkaido whose territory is disputed between the countries.

: US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun travels to Seoul to meet South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon and other officials for a US-ROK working group meeting to improve coordination regarding North Korea.

: Indonesia opens a military base in the Natuna Islands on the southern edge of the South China Sea.  The base is supported by an army battalion, companies of marines and engineers, artillery, and a hangar for an unmanned aerial vehicle squadron.

: Malaysia’s Attorney General files criminal charges against three Goldman Sachs employees for attempting to embezzle $2.7 billion from the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

: Russia and India’s navies participate in Indra Navy 2018, the 10th iteration of the bilateral Russia-India naval exercises, in the Bay of Bengal.

: North and South Korean soldiers cross the MDL to verify the removal of each other’s guard posts.  Each side has removed 11 posts inside the DMZ, with about 50 South Korean posts and 150 North Korean posts remaining.

: US returns the Bells of Balangiga to the Philippines after their removal from the Church of San Lorenzo de Martir following a violent episode between US forces and Filipino revolutionaries over 100 years ago.

: US announces sanctions against three North Korean officials, including an aide close to Kim Jong Un, for human rights abuses and censorship.

: Singapore lodges an official protest against the Malaysian government for extending the port limits of Johor Bahru, thus impeding Singapore’s territorial waters off Tuas.

: Presidents Trump and Xi meet on the sidelines of the G20 Leader’s Summit and the US agrees to not increase tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 to 25 percent for 90 days, during which it hopes to reach an agreement with China to balance their trade relationship.

: Canadian authorities arrest Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou for extradition to the US on charges that she violated US export and sanctions laws by shipping US-origin products to Iran.  The Chinese government strongly protest her arrest.

: China makes official diplomatic protest against the US in response to the Nov. 26 FONOP near the Paracel Islands.

: G20 Leaders’ Summit is held in Buenos Aires.

: Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Xi, and Indian Prime Minister Modi meet for “the first leaders-level summit between their three countries in 12 years,” on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.  The three countries have met in recent years on the foreign ministers-level, as well as in the context of BRICS.

: President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Abe, and Prime Minister Modi meet on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit.

: North and South Korea begin an 18-day joint inspection of two railways in the North, preliminary measures to reconnect cross-border rail lines.

: South Korea’s Supreme Court orders Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate 10 South Koreans for wartime forced labor during World War II. Japanese Foreign Minister Kono Taro calls the ruling unacceptable as the Japanese government considers the issue to have been resolved in a 1965 treaty to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries.

: Two US Navy ships, the USS Stockdale and USNS Pecos, make a “routine” transit of the Taiwan Strait, the third to be conducted there this year.

: Guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville conducts a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea by sailing near the Paracel Islands.  A Chinese vessel shadowed the Chancellorsville as it sailed past the islands, but all interactions “were deemed safe and professional,” according to anonymous US officials.

:   The coast guards of the Philippines and Japan conduct a joint maritime exercise off the coast of Manila, with drills focusing on antipiracy and rescue operations.

: President Xi meets President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, in the first official visit to the Philippines by a Chinese president in 13 years.

: President Xi visits Brunei to meet Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah.

: The 26th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting is held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

: President Xi visits Port Moresby, marking the first-ever Chinese presidential visit to Papua New Guinea.  Xi meets leaders of eight Pacific Island countries that have joined or are strongly considering joining China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

: The 13th East Asia Summit (EAS) is hosted in Singapore by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

:  Vice President Pence meets Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo.

: The 33rd ASEAN Summit and other ASEAN-related meetings are held in Singapore.  Thailand will assume the ASEAN chairmanship on Nov. 15.

: Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mattis meet China’s Director of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi and Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe for the second US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue.

: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed and Prime Minister Abe agree to $1.8 billion in “samurai bonds” that Japan will issue to Malaysia over 10 years and agree to cooperate on Malaysian infrastructure projects and regional security issues.

: Secretary of State Pompeo meeting in New York with North Korean Kim Yong Chol is abruptly canceled.

: First joint military exercises between the armies of India and Japan take place in Northeast India, and focus on counter-terrorism cooperation.

: North Korea Vice Foreign Minister Sin Hong-chol leads a delegation to Moscow to mark the 70th anniversary of the DPRK-Russia agreement on economic and cultural cooperation.  The two countries pledged for closer ties on this occasion.

: South Korea’s Supreme Court upholds a 2013 ruling that ordered a Japanese steelmaker to pay reparations to four South Koreans who were victims of forced labor and unpaid work during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

: US and Japan conduct military exercise Keen Sword.

: US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun visits Seoul to meet South Korean officials.  US and South Korea announce the launch of a joint working group in November to coordinate strategy toward North Korea.

: Prime Minister Modi visits Tokyo and meets Prime Minister Abe for the 13th India-Japan Annual summit.

: Soldiers from North and South Korea, along with the US-led UNC, remove guns and guard posts from the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, signaling progress in the inter-Korean talks as they work to disarm their border.

: Prime Minister Abe travels to Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping and other officials for the first bilateral visit by a Japanese prime minister in more than seven years.

: Two US warships transit the Taiwan Strait during a “routine” operation to demonstrate the US’ “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

: ASEAN navies conduct their first joint exercises with China off Zhajiang in the South China Sea, in an effort to “enhance friendship and confidence.” Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam send ships, while Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Myanmar send observers.  The exercises include maritime safety, medical evacuation, and search and rescue operations.

: Eight countries, including the US and China, express “in-principle” support for nonbinding Guidelines on Air Military Encounters in a joint statement that emerged from the ADMM-Plus.  The multilateral air code is hailed as the first of its kind, and will help reduce tensions between the US and China in the South China Sea.

: Twelfth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is held in Brussels. Leaders from Europe, Asia, the EU and ASEAN discuss “Europe and Asia: Global Partners for Global Challenges.”

: Fifth ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM-Plus) convenes in Singapore. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea are a focus of discussion, as well as disaster relief, maritime research, and antiterrorism efforts.

: Officials from North and South Korea and the United Nations Command (UNC) hold first three-way talks to plan for demilitarizing the border between the two Koreas.

: KCNA accuses the US of threatening inter-Korean negotiations by not loosening sanctions against the state, despite progress in reunifying the two Koreas.

: North and South Korean reunification officials meet in Panmunjom and agree “to begin reconnecting rail and road links.”

: Inaugural ASEAN Leaders’ Gathering, hosted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, is attended by leaders of Southeast Asian nations and the IMF, World Bank and UN.

: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte meets Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Indonesia to discuss delineation of maritime boundaries.  They agree to establish maritime territories “to achieve shared goals for stability in the region.”

: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office rejects US claim that China will develop Hambantota Port into a “forward military base”; he asserts that the Sri Lankan Navy’s Southern Command is being relocated there “to control port security.”

: Deputy division director of China’s Ministry of State Security is arrested in Belgium and extradited to the US.  He is charged with attempting to steal trade secrets from US companies including GE Aviation.

: Prime Minister Abe hosts 10th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in Tokyo; leaders of five Mekong countries – Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – attend.

: During bilateral talks with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Prime Minister Abe pledges support to aid the repatriation process for Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

: Third Japan-India Maritime Exercise (JIMEX) is held in Visakhapatnam; the last iteration was in December 2013. The exercise is designed to improve understanding and interoperability between the two navies.

: Secretary of State Pompeo travels to East Asia with stops in Tokyo, Pyongyang, Seoul, and Beijing. He meets counterparts and heads of state to “reiterate the Administration’s continued focus on the final, fully verifiable, denuclearization of the DPRK, and longstanding commitment to our alliances and partnerships in the region.”

: President Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi meet in New Delhi for annual India-Russia summit.

: Vice President Pence delivers remarks on the Trump administration’s policy toward China at Hudson Institute.

: Japan’s MSDF conducts a joint exercise with the Sri Lankan Navy in the Indian Ocean.  The drill allows MSDF to share know-how on rescue operations and humanitarian assistance, and strengthen ties with Sri Lanka as part of its Indo-Pacific strategy.

: Cybersecurity firm FireEye releases a report that identifies an “elite” group of North Korean hackers, dubbed APT38, whose cyberattacks have netted “hundreds of millions” of dollars. Funds from global bank heists since 2014 have supported the North Korean regime.

: Chinese Defense Ministry says US Navy destroyer that sailed near islands claimed by China in the South China Sea on Sept. 30 posed a threat to its sovereignty and security.

: North Korea’s KCNA states that declaring the end of the 1950-53 Korean War “can never be a bargaining chip” for getting North Korea denuclearized, and said the country “will not particularly hope for it” if the United States does not want the end of war.

: Chinese Foreign Ministry announces that the US-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, which was to take place later in October, has been postponed at the request of the US.

: US Navy carries out a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the Spratly Islands as the USS Decatur, a guided-missile destroyer, sails within 12 nm of Chinese artificial islands at Gaven and Johnson Reefs as part of a 10-hour patrol.

: Soldiers from South and North Korea begin removing landmines located along part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) as agreed in a recent military-military accord. Mine removal will focus on the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom.

: Disagreement emerges at a UN Security Council meeting with the US calling for strict enforcement of UNSC resolutions on North Korea while China and Russia call for a provision to “modify the sanctions measures in light of the DPRK’s compliance” and “to send a positive signal to Pyongyang to encourage concessions.”

: China cancels scheduled port visit of the USS Wasp, an amphibious assault ship, to Hong Kong, and cuts short a visit to the US by commander of the PLA Navy, Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

: Ji Chaoqun, a US Army reservist from China, is arrested in Chicago on charges of secretly providing information about US defense contractor employees to a Chinese intelligence officer.  Ji’s handler, an officer in China’s Ministry of State Security’s Jiangsu branch, was arrested in April.

: General debate of the 73rd UN General Assembly is held in New York. Several leaders from the Indo-Pacific region attend and meet on the sidelines.

: US tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods and retaliatory taxes by Beijing on $60 billion worth of US products including liquefied natural gas (LNG) are implemented. China accuses the US of “trade bullyism.”

: Department of State announces that the US will immediately impose sanctions on China for purchasing Russian military hardware in breach of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which decrees imposition of mandatory economic sanctions on countries importing Russian military hardware.

: President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong Un hold their third inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang. They sign a joint statement pledging to create “a land of peace without nuclear weapons or nuclear threats” and set out steps for economic integration.

: North and South Korea open liaison office in Kaesong, setting up a permanent channel of communication that is described as “a large step toward peace, prosperity and unification of the Korean peninsula.”

: Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force conducts a “practical” anti-submarine drill in the South China Sea, including an exercise to spot enemy submarines with sonar devices.

: Fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) is held in Vladivostok. Participants include heads of five states and governments: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, Mongolia’s President Khaltmaagiin Battulga, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.

: Russia conducts Vostok-2018 military exercises, involving nearly 300,000 soldiers, 1,000 aircraft and 900 tanks and 3,200 troops from the PLA.

: White House announces that it is in talks with North Korea to arrange a second summit after President Trump received a “warm, very positive letter” from Chairman Kim.

: North Korea holds a massive military parade to celebrate the country’s 70th year, but does not include any intercontinental ballistic missiles. President Trump tweets, “This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea. Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other! Much better than before I took office.”

: Myanmar’s government “resolutely rejects” a ruling by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that said the body has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh as a possible crime against humanity.

: North Korea and South Korea ask the United Nations to circulate a peace declaration their leaders agreed to in April that vows to remove nuclear weapons from the Korean Peninsula and work toward a formal end to the Korean War.

: US charges North Korean programmer Park Jin Hyok for global hacking incidents including the WannaCry 2.0 virus, the 2014 Sony Pictures attack, and the 2016 cyber-heist of Bangladesh’s central bank. The Justice and Treasury Departments say Park was part of the “Lazarus Group” that masterminded hacks “on behalf of the government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea.”

: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Minister of Defense Nirmala Sitharaman meet in New Delhi to conduct the first US-India 2+2 Dialogue.

: Chung Eui-yong, head of South Korea’s Presidential National Security Office, leads a five-member delegation to Pyongyang, where they meet senior officials including Chairman Kim Jong Un.

: US Vice President Mike Pence calls on Myanmar’s government to reverse a court ruling that imprisoned two Reuters journalists for seven years and to release them immediately.

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