US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2013 to May 2013

: State Department welcomes Burma’s release of 56 political prisoners as a gesture to the European Union’s lifting of economic sanctions.  However, the State Department also urges the government to release all remaining political prisoners estimated at 175.

: ASEAN leaders meet in Brunei for their annual summit.  The South China Sea conflicts and agreeing on an ASEAN Code of Conduct are high on the agenda.

: The King and Queen of Thailand send a condolence message to President Obama over the Boston Marathon bombing.

: The USS Freedom, a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), arrives in Singapore for a 10-month deployment.

: Philippine President Benigno Aquino expresses deep sympathy to the people of Boston in the aftermath of the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

: Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organization, condemns the Boston Marathon bombers as “inhumane” and “humankind’s common enemy.”

: Foreign Secretary del Rosario says that US forces could be stationed at Philippine military bases under the terms of mutual support in the defense treaty if the US went to war with North Korea.

: US Coast Guard Rear Adm. William Lee pledges US support for Vietnam’s fishing protection force at a meeting in Maryland.

: Philippine government announces that the US Navy has turned over a variety of documents relating to the grounding of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef so the Philippine Maritime Casualty Investigating Team can carry out its own assessment.

: The annual Balikatan US-Philippine military exercise is held, this year emphasizing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visits Washington for meetings at the White House, State Department, Pentagon, and the US Trade Representative.

: Secretary Kerry meets Foreign Secretary del Rosario in Washington and seems to endorse an arbitration solution to the South China Sea conflicts.

: Secretary Kerry urges the Laotian government to make public the results of an investigation into the disappearance and possible abduction of Samboth Somphone.

: US registers its concern about Vietnam’s allegation and China’s denial that a Chinese boat fired at a Vietnamese fishing boat, setting its cabin ablaze near the Paracel Islands.

: In the Philippines, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter assures Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that the US will continue efforts to strengthen the Philippine Armed Forces.

: Deputy Secretary Carter meets Indonesia’s minister of defense and members of the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives in Jakarta.

: Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shammugan visits Washington for talks with Secretary of State John Kerry.

: The Sultan of Brunei visits the US and meets President Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.  Brunei chairs ASEAN this year and hosts the US-ASEAN Summit.

: Malaysian military engages in an assault on a group of armed Philippine nationals known as the Royal Sulu Army that is occupying parts of Sabah state.

: US Treasury Department eases sanctions on four Burmese banks, allowing them to do business with US companies, even though some bank officials are on a list of former junta military personnel who have been ostracized by the US.

: Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez, specializing in economic matters, visits the Philippines, Burma, Thailand, and Singapore to discuss commercial, trade policies, and regional economic integration.

: US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner visits Phnom Penh and presses Cambodia to release Mam Sonondo, owner of Beehive Radio, who was sentenced to 29 years in prison for covering Cambodia’s military crackdown on demonstrators protesting land evictions. He also urges the government to permit the return of self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to run in the forthcoming July election.

: Burma and the US resume counter-narcotics cooperation.  An agreement signed in Naypyidaw restarts joint opium poppy yield surveys and counter-narcotics training.

: Secretary of State John Kerry telephones Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to reaffirm US support for Philippine territorial defense.

: Some 180 Filipinos, calling themselves the “Royal Army of Sulu,” land at the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu town in Sabah and claim the region as part of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

: US Ambassador to ASEAN David Carden and Adm. Locklear meet the new ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh to discuss regional security concerns, including US support for “rules-based Asia-Pacific regional architecture.”

: The 32nd annual Corbra Gold exercise is held in Thailand involving 13,000 military personnel from a several Asian states plus observers from a dozen others.

: US Pacific Command (USPACOM) Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear addresses the US-Indonesia Society in Jakarta on the US “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific and the various components of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership.

: US State Department welcomes the Burmese government’s announcement of the formation of a Committee on Political Prisoners, including both officials and society members to review the potential release of all remaining political prisoners.

: US and Timor-Leste navies begin their first CARAT exercise.  US Coast Guard personnel are also participating.  The exercise includes at sea and classroom components.

: Twenty of the world’s largest creditors, including the US, agree to cut nearly 50 percent of Burma’s foreign debt and provide a seven year grace period for the remainder.

: US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee delegation led by its chair Ed Royce visits the Philippines for discussions. They express regret for the grounding of the USS Guardian and voice support for Manila’s decision to bring South China Sea claims to arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

: World Bank announces a long-awaited deal that allows Burma to clear part of its decades-old foreign debt.  This opens the door for new lending to the country.

: US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas apologizes for the grounding of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef and attributes the accident to faulty digital navigation charts, though an investigation into the cause continues.

: US Embassy in Rangoon issues a statement claiming the Burmese Army offensive in Kachin state is causing civilian casualties and undermining efforts at national reconciliation.

: Philippines announces it submitted its dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China to a UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) arbitration tribunal.

: The minesweeper, USS Guardian, runs aground causing extensive damage to Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO world heritage site and Philippine national park located in the Sulu Sea near the island of Palawan.

: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls on the Lao government to investigate the disappearance of US-educated activist Sombath Somphone.

: In response to a Vietnamese court conviction with long prison sentences for 14 bloggers and other political and social activists, the US embassy states it was “deeply troubled” with the convictions, which are seen as “part of a disturbing human rights trend in Vietnam.”

: The Islamist group Hizbut Tahir Indonesia (HIT) meets the Jakarta Provincial Government to protest the expansion and renovation of the US Embassy, saying it will strengthen the US ability to interfere in Indonesia’s political affairs.

: Derek Mitchell, US ambassador to Burma, says he raised the Burmese military attacks on the Kachins with authorities in Naypyidaw but in a newspaper statement did not appear to condemn them.

:  US Ambassador to Malaysia Paul Jones meets Deputy Prime Minister Muhyidden Yasin to discuss strengthening the American English Teaching Assistance program.

:  US condemns Burma’s use of air strikes against Kachin rebels in northern Burma.

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