US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2014 to May 2014

: The Philippines and the US sign a 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that allows US military forces to access military bases in the country.

: President Obama visits the Philippines.

: A day before President Obama is scheduled to arrive in Manila, the United States and the Philippines sign the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

: President Obama visits Malaysia.  He meets Prime Minister Najib Razak and civil society groups.  In keeping with the administration’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative announced in December, Obama also meets with youth groups.

: Thai political crisis does not prevent Bangkok from co-hosting (with China) an ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea, in Thailand.

: Assistant Secretary Russel visits Myanmar and meets President Thein Sein.  They discuss  Nay Pyi Taw’s ASEAN chairmanship and the situation in Rakhine State.

: United States and Vietnam hold joint non-combat naval exercises, focusing on search-and-rescue and military medicine.  Two US ships and 400 US personnel are involved.

: Assistant Secretary Danny Russel visits Bangkok and delivers a letter from Secretary Kerry warning against a military coup as a response to the political crisis.

: State Department issues a statement of concern on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and attacks on United Nations and non-governmental groups that provide services to internally displaced persons in Rakhine.

: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosts a meeting with the ASEAN Defense Ministers in Honolulu, the first US-ADMM held in the United States.

: The Philippines files a 4,000-page document with a United Nations Law of the Sea tribunal in The Hague in support of its case against China on the “nine-dash line” and related issues. US State Department issues a statement reaffirming its support for “the exercise of peaceful means to resolve maritime disputes.”

: Manila signs the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an achievement not only of the two sides but also of Malaysia, which had helped to mediate negotiations for over a decade.

: Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives passes House Resolution 418, which “Calls on: (1) Burma to end the persecution and discrimination of the Rohingya people and ensure respect for internationally recognized human rights for all ethnic and religious minority groups, and (2) the United States and the international community to put consistent pressure on Burma to end such persecution and discrimination.”

: Malaysian government announces that Flight MH370 is believed to have crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia.

: Vietnamese Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung visits Washington to meet with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew.  They discuss TPP and bilateral trade issues.

: Chinese ships patrol near Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea and expel Philippine vessels that the Chinese claim are carrying materials to build permanent structures on the Shoal.

: Malaysia Airlines announces that its Flight MH370, a scheduled international passenger flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, lost contact with air traffic control less than an hour after take-off.  Six hours later the airline declares the plane missing and a search that will involve 26 countries begins.

: Malaysian Court of Appeals overturns an earlier acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on sodomy charges, but defers his five-year prison sentence to allow for appeal.  Anwar’s defenders charge that the move is political, to prevent Anwar from contesting the by-election in Selangor on March 23.

: A 2013 Department of Defense report to Congress on Myanmar’s relationship with North Korea is made public.  It states that Myanmar continues to distance itself from Pyongyang but still receives some conventional arms and may also be receiving equipment for ballistic missiles.

: Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) releases its 2014 trade agenda, which lists the TPP as a top priority.

: Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman leads delegation to Vietnam, Myanmar, and Malaysia.

: State Department releases the 2013 Human Rights Reports.  Myanmar’s human rights situation are described as improving, while Vietnam is called out for its  detention of such bloggers as Le Quoc Quan.

: A Ministerial Meeting of the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership (TPP) is held in Singapore.  It fails to make significant progress, and no specific date is set for the next round of negotiations.

: Officials from the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam meet in Manila to coordinate policy regarding Chinese activities in the South China Sea. Fellow claimant Brunei fails to send representatives to the meeting, despite originally agreeing to attend.

: Secretary Kerry visits Jakarta and co-hosts the fourth Joint Commission Meeting of the US-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa.

: State Department signs an agreement with the Lao Ministry of Education to fund educational programs on unexploded ordnance (UXO).

: Despite the political crisis in Thailand, Bangkok and Washington co-host the 33rd annual Cobra Gold exercises, along with co-partners Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and several observers.

: Tag-teaming with Medeiros’ Jan. 30 statement, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel says that China’s use of a “nine-dash line” to claim territories in the South China Sea is not based on land features and is therefore inconsistent with international law.

: General elections are held in Thailand.  The opposition Democratic Party boycotts the polls and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee obstructs some voting.  This eventually causes the Constitutional Court to nullify the elections.

: Myanmar’s Constitutional Review Joint Committee, a Parliamentary group charged with recommending revisions to the 2008 constitution, issues its report.  The 109-member body supports greater decentralization, but is silent on more high-profile political issues.  This includes provisions in the constitution that prohibit individuals from becoming president if their spouses or children hold foreign citizenship and reserve 25 percent of parliamentary seats for the military.

: Evan Medeiros, National Security Council senior director for Asia, cautions China against setting up an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea, similar to the one Beijing established in 2013 in the East China Sea.  Medeiros warns that doing so could result in a shift in US military posture in the region.

: State Department issues a statement of concern on increased violence in Bangkok in the ongoing political crisis, which has resulted in several casualties and injuries.

: Myanmar hosts its first ASEAN meeting, a foreign ministers retreat in Bagan.

: Manila announces its intention to acquire two more ships from the United States, a follow-on from Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the Philippines in December.

: Malaysian Defense Minister Min Hishamuddin Hussein visits Hawaii and Washington, his first official visit to the United States.  His visit sparks the announcement of increased joint exercises and training between the US and Malaysian militaries.

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