US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2012 to May 2012

:   First US-Philippine Ministerial Dialogue is held in Washington.  The “2 Plus 2” meeting brings together secretaries of state and defense from both countries.

:   USTR releases its annual Special 301 Report.  Malaysia is removed from the Watch List for legislation that strengthens copyright protection and stepping up Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) enforcement.  The Philippines and Vietnam remain on the Watch List, while Indonesia and Thailand are on the Priority Watch List of countries that present the “most significant concern” on IPR protection.

:   Vice Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, visits Cambodia to discuss Cambodia’s participation in the 2012 Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises and other forms of cooperation.

: US provides $1 million in training and equipment to the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation to strengthen port security.

:   US Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk visits Malaysia and Singapore to discuss bilateral trade issues and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in which Singapore is a founding member and the US and Malaysia are negotiating entry.

: Walgreens donates $9 million worth of flu vaccine to Laos, in collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

:   Peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government resume in Kuala Lumpur, with several observers from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).

:   The US and Vietnam conduct five days of naval exchanges to focus on “non-combatant events and skills … in areas such as navigation and maintenance.”

:   Operation Pacific Angel moves to Phonsavahn province in Laos.

:   Demonstrators attack the US Embassy in Manila with paint to protest the US-Philippine exercises close to disputed areas in the South China Sea.

:    The US and the Philippines conduct the 28th annual Balikatan (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”) exercises involving 4,500 US troops and 2,300 Philippine personnel. Exercises take place in and around Palawan and Luzon and naval include patrols in the South China Sea.

:   The US provides support for a new disaster monitoring and response system at the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center in Jakarta.

:   A string of bombings attributed to the Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines kill seven and wound several others.  Targets include an army patrol, a civilian bus, and a cockfight.

:   A stand-off near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea begins between Chinese and Philippine surveillance ships over Chinese fishing activity near the shoal.

: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Singaporean Defense Minister meet in Washington; US requests deployment of up to four littoral combat ships to Singapore by 2016.

: Secretary of State Clinton announces that the US will begin to ease sanctions on the export of US financial services to Burma, lift the travel ban on some Burmese officials, remove restrictions on US NGO’s working in the country, and reopen a US Agency for International Development mission.

: The 20th ASEAN Summit is held in Phnom Penh.

:   US Pacific Command sends a representative to the first ASEAN Regional Environment Security Forum in Jakarta.  This coincides with the second Regional Environmental Security Conference, co-sponsored by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and USPACOM.

: Burma holds parliamentary elections; National Democratic League wins 43 of the 45 seats being contested.

:   US Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams visits Vietnam to explore the possibility of an invitation from the government to inaugurate a Peace Corps program in Vietnam.

:   WE and Cambodia conduct the third year of Angkor Sentinel, joint military exercises that focus on peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance operations.

: US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passes the Vietnam Human Rights Act, which would prohibit increases in non-humanitarian aid to Vietnam absent improvements in human rights.

:   Congress approves legislation enabling the US Commerce Department to continue to levy tariffs on imports from Vietnam, China, and other non-market economies that subsidize exports.

:   The first exercise in 2012 of the 13th Air Force’s annual Operation Pacific Angel opens in Bicol province in the Philippines.  A humanitarian mission now in its fifth year, Operation Angel provides medical, dental and engineering assistance.

:   The Indonesian National Police declares that it will not ban the JAT despite the US designation.

: US State Department designates the Indonesian Islamic group Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) a foreign terrorist organization, a precondition for imposing financial and legal sanctions against the group.

:   Three Iranians are arrested in Bangkok after they accidentally blew up their house when a bomb-making attempt backfired.  A fourth Iranian escaped to Malaysia but was extradited back to Thailand.

:   US Congress approves the transfer of a second Coast Guard cutter to the Philippines Navy.  A retired US cutter was transferred in 2011, but most of the ship’s radar and sensor equipment was removed.  Manila requests that the equipment on the second cutter remain.

: Singapore agrees to extradite four of its citizens to the US on charges of conspiring to evade the US trade embargo against Iran by smuggling electronic components which were subsequently used for explosives in Iraq.

: Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro travels to the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia to discuss security cooperation.

:   US suspends restrictions on assessment missions and limited technical assistance by international financial institutions in Burma by issuing a partial waiver of sanctions imposed under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  The waiver is only valid until September.

: Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell visits Hanoi and Phnom Penh.

:   The first-ever US-Singapore Strategic Partners Dialogue opens in Washington.

:   The US, Laos, and ASEAN launch a roadmap to establish a Lao National Single Window for faster customs clearance, linking it to the ASEAN Single Window.

:   Second US-Philippine Strategic Dialogue is held in Washington.  Issues include increasing joint exercises and rotating US troops through Philippine bases.  Protestors picket the US Embassy in Manila, while Chinese media call for sanctions on the Philippines.

:   The US drops its opposition to Vietnam’s right to produce nuclear fuel as a precondition for a bilateral agreement on nuclear cooperation under negotiation.

: Returning from a visit to Vietnam, US Sen. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman announced that the US will not lift its ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam until the country makes more progress on human rights.

: Sen. Mitchell McConnell, a co-sponsor of the 2008 Burma JADE Act, visits Burma and meets Aung Sang Suu Kyi.

:   A Hezbollah-linked suspect is arrested in Bangkok after the discovery of a munitions cache and a planned bombing.  Eleven countries issue travel advisories, which the Thai government fears will damage, tourism.

:   The Obama administration announces it will restore diplomatic relations by sending an ambassador to Burma, which will also enable the Burmese government to post an ambassador to Washington.  Later, Derek Mitchell, currently US special representative for Burma, is nominated to be the first US ambassador to Burma in 20 years.

: The 31st annual Cobra Gold exercises take place in Thailand with more than 13,000 troops participating and seven partners: the US, Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and South Korea.  Humanitarian and civic assistance programs are conducted in seven Thai provinces.

: The US sanctions Singaporean Kuo Oil Private Limited for selling refined petroleum products to Iran.

:   US Ambassador at Large for Human Trafficking Luis CdeBaca visits Burma, which has been designated as a Tier 3 country, the most serious violators of anti-trafficking laws, for several years.

: Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma Derek Mitchell visits Burma and Thailand to follow up on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s December visit to Burma. In northern Thailand, he meets local officials and assistance groups working with refugees in the border region.

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