US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2007 to Mar 2007

: U.S. Seventh Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge arrives in Jakarta for a port visit.

: Direct U.S. government aid to Cambodia is resumed following a 10-year ban imposed when Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ousted Prince Norodom Rannaridh in a coup. Lifting the ban is the most recent indicator of improved government relations.

: The U.S. announces that the multilateral Cobra Gold annual military exercise will take place in Thailand May 8-18 since the Thai military Council for National Security has lifted martial law in 41 provinces.

: U.S. and Filipino soldiers begin Balikatan, a series of joint military exercises on war-torn Jolo island in the Philippine south.  This year, the exercises focus on humanitarian missions in local villages.  The annual Balikatan assists the Philippines in building counter-terrorist capacity.

: The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace meets Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss ways of improving the military partnership between the two countries’ armed forces.

: Adm. William Fallon, former PACOM commander and new commander of CENTCOM, states he would seek support from Indonesia and Malaysia in the Afghan and Iraq conflicts, though he did not specify what kind.

: The USS Gary docks in Sihanoukville, the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Cambodia in more than 30 years. A first step in expanding U.S.-Cambodian military ties, the ship visit is seen as a response to China’s growing influence.

: In a change of policy, the U.S. announces it will clean up a site – Danang air base – where Agent Orange and other chemicals were stored during the Vietnam War. U.S. Ambassador Michael Marine acknowledges this is a small step but “a marked improvement on our ability to work together on this issue.”

: USS Blue Ridge, the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, arrives in the Philippines on a humanitarian mission including medical clinics and repair of schools and public buildings.

: Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad convenes a “war crimes tribunal” in Malaysia to hear complaints against the U.S., Britain, and Israel for “crimes against humanity” in Iraq and Palestine.

: USAID announces that it is cutting aid to Cambodia by over 50 percent to $2 million and reallocating it from antihuman trafficking to good governance. Human trafficking results from poverty which, in turn, is linked to poor governance, according to an AID official who explained the shift.

: Indonesia announces that the U.S. has given Jakarta permission to interview Hambali, a notorious Southeast Asian al-Qaeda operative, who was captured in Thailand in 2003. Hambali is being held in Guantanamo; Indonesia has wanted access to him ever since his capture.

: The U.S. Peace Corps inaugurates its first mission to Cambodia since the Corps inception in 1962. Thirty U.S. English teachers will spread out to rural provinces after a few months in Phnom Penh for Khmer language and cultural training.

: U.S., Thai, and Singapore Air Forces conduct Cope Thunder air exercise from Korat, Thailand with 113 aircraft and 1,300 personnel. Cope Thunder is an annual exercise that began in 1994.

: Under Secretary Hughes congratulates the Philippine armed forces for killing two Abu Sayyaf leaders. The U.S. offered $10 million for the capture or killing of Khaddaffy Janjalani and Abu Sulaiman. President Bush followed up with a congratulatory phone call to Philippine President Arroyo.

: Burma’s military junta accuses the U.S. of plotting to install a puppet government in the country.

: U.S. Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes arrives in the Philippines for a three day visit where she will go to Sulu. The annual Balikatan exercise will emphasize humanitarian activities.

: Philippine President Arroyo credits “our strategic relationship with the United States” for the successful campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Archipelago.

: U.S. Commander of the Pacific Fleet Adm. Gary Roughead visits Vietnam and announces that the U.S. and Vietnamese navies will engage in search and rescue exercises as part of the new relationship between them.

: U.S. DNA tests confirm that a body found in the southern Philippines is that of Abu Sayyaf militant leader Khadaffy Janjalani. His second in command, Abu Sulaiman who kidnapped three Americans and 17 Filipinos in 2001, was also killed in recent encounters with U.S.-trained Philippine forces.

: Former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia Charles Ray in a Phnom Penh talk states the country must move against rampant corruption and labor abuses if it hopes to attract the external investment needed for development. Banks are untrustworthy because the justice system is so weak.

: The U.S. Embassy in Manila denies a Philippine press report that U.S. forces are fighting al-Qaeda-linked guerrillas in the southern Philippines in violation of the Philippine Constitution. The embassy insists that U.S. forces serve exclusively in a training and advisory capacity.

: China and Russia veto the U.S. resolution before the UN Security Council condemning Burma’s human rights violations, arguing that although Beijing and Moscow condemn the military junta’s political tyranny, it does not threaten regional security, and, therefore, should not be a UNSC concern.

: The U.S. Trade and Development Agency confers the 2006 Country of the Year honor on Vietnam, marking Hanoi’s official admission to the WTO. The honor acknowledges Vietnam’s serious commitments to revamping its investment regulations and liberalizing the financial sector.

: The U.S. introduces a draft resolution in the UN Security Council calling on the Burmese government to engage the opposition in “substantive political dialogue,” cease continued attacks “in ethnic minority regions on civilians,” and “desist immediately from the systematic use of rape on women and girls as an instrument of armed conflict.”

: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo authorizes transfer of a U.S. Marine convicted of rape back to U.S. Embassy custody. The U.S. announced it would proceed with military exercises with Philippine forces that had been cancelled when a Philippine judge refused to return the marine to U.S. custody pending an appeal, a violation of the Visiting Forces Agreement.

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