US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Jan 2017 to May 2017

: President Trump calls Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to invite them to the White House reportedly to convince them to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

: President Trump places a phone call to Philippine President Duterte, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha  and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, inviting all of them to visit the White House.

: The 30th ASEAN Summit and related meetings are held in Manila.

:   Vice President Mike Pence visits Indonesia as part of an Asia tour and praises the country’s democratic practices and tolerance of multiple traditions.

:   USS Carl Vinson strike group cut short its Singapore stay to conduct exercises with Australia in the India Ocean; it subsequently proceeds to the Korean Peninsula.

:   With the help of the FBI, Philippine law enforcement arrest a foreign couple allegedly linked to ISIS and involved in terrorist activities in Kuwait.

:   Vietnamese media report that President Trump sent a letter to President Tran Dai Quang promoting more cooperation on trade as well as on other regional and international issues.

:   President Trump signs executive order directing Commerce Department to investigate trade imbalances with 16 countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

:   President Duterte criticizes the US while meeting Ambassador Sung Kim for Washington’s reticence in confronting China when the PRC began to militarize South China Sea islands some years ago. Still, the two reaffirmed the bilateral relationship under President Trump.

:  Philippine government says New York Times article depicting President Duterte’s political career as a cycle of violence is a “hack job” that ignores positive contributions.

:   President Duterte blames the US under President Obama for China’s building on features in the South China Sea while Washington did nothing to stop the actions.

:   Malaysian Foreign Minister Seni Anifah Aman meets Secretary of State Tillerson in Washington during international meeting on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Malaysia is this year’s coordinator of the ASEAN-US dialogue.

:   Thailand, Singapore, and US air forces hold the annual Cope Tiger air exercise, involving 1,000 personnel from Thailand and Singapore and 200 from the US, along with 76 aircraft.

:   In a regional press briefing, outgoing Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel assures Southeast Asian reporters that the Trump administration would continue to “engage the region.”

: Philippine Commission on Appointments rejects the appointment of Perfecto Yasay as secretary of foreign affairs based on the fact that he holds dual citizenship in the US. President Duterte appoints Undersecretary Enrique Manalo acting secretary.

: Philippine Defense Secretary Lorenzana, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre accompany US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim on a visit to the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea.

:   In its annual human rights report, the US State Department criticizes extra-judicial killings in the Philippines as Washington’s chief human rights concern.

:   In a report on extrajudicial killings of alleged drug traffickers in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch states the government appears to be responsible and that a case could be made for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court.

:   In a letter to Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quong, President Trump praises growing ties between Washington and Hanoi, emphasizing maritime security.

:   US Navy aircraft carrier strike group begins patrols in the South China Sea, led by the USS Carl Vinson.

:   Commander of US Pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris opens annual Cobra Gold exercise in Thailand saying that the country should restore democracy as a “strong and stable ally” in Southeast Asia.

:   The 36th iteration of the annual Thai-US Cobra Gold exercise is held in Thailand involving 30 countries and 3,000 US forces from all branches of the US armed forces.

:   Philippine Defense Secretary Lorenzana says President Duterte will allow the continuation of the EDCA so long as the US does not stockpile ammunition in the country.

:   Demonstrations protesting the US travel ban against selected Muslim majority countries occur outside US embassies in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi says she has “deep regrets about the policy.”

:   United Nations report condemns Myanmar armed forces for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, involving gang rape, the slaughter of hundreds of men, women, and children, and the forced removal of over 90,000 from their homes in Rakhine State.

:   Rappler reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the US to stop implementation of the US EDCA because Washington is building arms depots in the Philippines.  Philippine armed forces spokesperson denies the US was doing so.

:   Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announces that the Pentagon will start constructing facilities on the five Philippine bases identified under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

:   Responding to a question, President Trump’s press secretary states that the US will prevent China from taking over additional territories in the South China Sea.  A  Chinese spokesperson responds that such a move would be considered “an act of war.”

:   Cambodia cancels all military exercises with the US for the next two years.  The announcement comes five days after Secretary of State-designate Tillerson stated at a Senate confirmation hearing that Washington was prepared to prevent China’s access to disputed South China Sea islands.

:  Secretary of State John Kerry makes a final visit to Vietnam, celebrating the progress in bilateral relations under the Obama administration. He expresses confidence that the Trump administration would continue the same peaceful principles on Asian security.

:   In his confirmation hearing as secretary of State before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rex Tillerson states he would not act on human rights abuses in the Philippines before receiving corroboration.

Date Range