US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2016 to May 2016

: Deputy Secretary of State Blinken travels to Hanoi and Jakarta. In Hanoi, he meets entrepreneurs, members of civil society, students, and government officials. He also gives a speech on US policy toward Vietnam and the Asia-Pacific region. In Jakarta, Blinken meets government officials, civil society leaders, and entrepreneurs.

: Secretary Carter announces five US Air Force aircraft and 200 personnel will remain in the Philippines after the conclusion of Balikatan to support joint patrols in the South China Sea.

:  On board the carrier USS John Stennis, Secretary Carter states that FON patrols are designed to “stand up for … a rules-based order that has benefited so many for so long.”

:  In the Philippines to observe Balikatan exercises, Secretary Carter announces the two countries are engaging in joint patrols in the South China Sea that began in March.

:  Balikatan joint US-Philippine military exercises are held with 4,900 US troops and 3,773 Philippine forces participating. They are joined by a small number of Australian and Japanese personnel.

:  US State Department labels Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya minority “persecution” but says it has not reached the level of “genocide.”

: Sixth annual US-Philippines Strategic Dialogue is held in Washington. Defense officials announce that five bases have been selected to implement the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

:  US State Department sends congratulations to Htin Kyaw, elected by parliament to be Myanmar’s next president.  (It is widely expected the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi will actually rule from behind the scenes.)

March 17-19, 2016:  Commander of US Pacific Fleet Adm. Scott Swift and Commander of US Marine Corps Forces in the Pacific Lt. Gen. John Toolan visit counterparts in Hanoi to “explore ways to bring naval forces together.”

: Cambodia and US militaries conduct seventh annual Angkor Sentinel humanitarian and disaster relief exercise focusing on military engineering, explosive-ordnance disposal, and leadership development. More than 150 personnel participate.

:  Philippine Defense Secretary Gazmin welcomes deployment of the USS John C. Stennis carrier battle group to the South China Sea as a deterrent to Chinese provocations.

:  US State Department criticizes the Malaysian government for freedom of the press restrictions.

:  In a speech in San Francisco, Secretary of Defense Carter announces that the US will spend $425 million through 2020 for more exercises and training with Southeast Asian countries that are concerned about China’s actions in the region.

:  In testimony before the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, Adm. Harry Harris, commander of US Pacific Command (PACOM), states that the US would conduct more FON voyages and flights in the South China Sea “and will be doing them with greater complexity in the future.”

:  US business associations in Myanmar call on the US government to lift the remaining economic sanctions on the country when they expire in May, claiming the sanctions harm their ability to do business in the country.

:  President Obama hosts the first US-ASEAN summit in the United States at Sunnylands, California.  Economic and maritime security issues dominate the agenda.

:  US Senate confirms Scot Marciel as the new ambassador to Myanmar (Burma).

: US and Thailand host the annual Cobra Gold military exercise, focusing on multilateral anti-piracy cooperation as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The scope of the exercise is scaled down as it was last year because of US disapproval of the Thai military’s continued rule of the country.

:  US Ambassador to the Philippines Phillip Goldberg states the US is open to conducting joint patrols with the Philippine Navy in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

:  Guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur passes within 12nm of Tritan Island during a freedom of navigation (FON) exercise in waters near the Paracel Islands.

:  Secretary Kerry visits Cambodia and discusses the UN-based trials of Khmer Rouge leaders, the country’s political future, human rights, and the US-ASEAN summit.

:  Secretary of State Kerry visits Laos to discuss the agenda for the mid-February ASEAN-US leaders meeting held in Sunnylands, California.  He emphasizes the US Lower Mekong Initiative as beneficial for all riparian states and highlights the role of Laos as ASEAN chair for the year.

: Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel visits Singapore to lead the US delegation at the fourth US-Singapore Strategic Partnership. He delivers a major Asia policy address to the Lee Kwan Yew School of Public Policy.

:  Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Myanmar, meeting key government officials and leaders of the opposition.  He expresses US support for the country’s democratic transition and concern over discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities.

Jan. 12, 2016.  Philippine Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), saying the pact provides leverage to counter Chinese pressure on Philippine territorial claims in the South China Sea.

:  Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter meet Philippine counterparts Alberto del Rosario and Voltaire Gazmin in Washington.  Kerry welcomes the decision that the EDCA is constitutional. Del Rosario and Gazmin also meet Senate Armed Services Chairman and Ranking Member Senators John McCain and Jack Reed, thanking the committee for calling for a stronger US presence in the Asia-Pacific.

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