US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from May 2014 to Aug 2014

:  Malaysian and US forces inaugurate their first joint military exercises in Sabah at the location where southern Philippine gunmen invaded last year.

: Thailand’s coup leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha is formally endorsed as prime minister by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

:  Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey visits Hanoi and discusses lifting the US arms embargo as well as Vietnam’s military needs.

:  US Senators John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse visit Indonesia and explain the US military action in Iraq.  McCain warns that both Indonesia and the US could face the return of radicalized youth from fighting with ISIS.

: Singapore hosts annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) naval exercises with personnel from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and the US participating.

: The 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting/Post Ministerial Conference, the 21st ASEAN Regional Forum, the 15th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, and the fourth East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting are held in Nay Pyi Taw. Secretary Kerry expresses concern that the government was stumbling on the path to democracy.

:  US Sen. Bob Corker of the Foreign Relations Committee meets Vietnam’s Deputy Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Truong Quong Keah in Hanoi where they discuss the possibility of the US lifting its ban on weapons exports to Vietnam.

:  Pitch Black air combat exercise with fighter aircraft from the US, Singapore, France, Thailand, the UAE, New Zealand, and Australia is held near Darwin, Australia.

: US and Singapore conduct their annual CARAT exercise, involving 1,400 personnel, nine ships, two submarines, and five naval helicopters.

:  USS Columbus submarine calls at Subic Bay, one of the areas being considered as a site for US facilities formalized in the April EDCA.

:  Washington congratulates Joko Widodo on his victory in the Indonesian presidential election.

:  Former US President Bill Clinton visits Vietnam and meets President Truong Tan Sang and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.  Among other issues, Sang calls for an early signing of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

:  State Department criticizes a Burmese court’s sentence of four journalists and their newspaper’s executive to 10 years of hard labor for reporting that a Defense Ministry factory was producing chemical weapons.

: China removes its offshore oil rig from contested waters near the Paracel Islands, a month before schedule.

:  Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Fuchs stresses ASEAN’s key role for US foreign policy in Asia.

June 26-July 1, 2014.  Annual US-Philippine CARAT naval exercise is held in the South China Sea adjacent to the island of Luzon.  A total of 1,000 personnel from both countries participate.

: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long visits the US and meets President Obama, Vice President Biden, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Lee calls for US support to finalize the TPP.

: State Department publishes the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, adding Thailand and Malaysia to the list of countries that have failed to tackle human trafficking. Both countries protest this characterization.

: State Department urges reforms in Burma to ensure free elections.

:  Australian Prime Minister Abbott meets with President Obama in Washington, emphasizing ASEAN’s importance for maritime issues in the South China Sea.

:  Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel attends the preliminary meetings in Yangon for the ASEAN-related meetings.  He calls on both Vietnam and China to withdraw their ships from disputed waters near the Paracel Islands and also asks Beijing to withdraw its oil exploration rig.

:  In a joint exercise with Malaysia, the US deploys an F-22 for the first time against a Malaysian Su-30.

:  The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Senior Officials meeting in Yangon discusses the South China Sea conflicts.  Most delegates express concerns and urge the disputants to observe provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

: US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker leads a delegation of US business executives and members of the US-ASEAN Business Council to Vietnam, the Philippines, and Myanmar for meetings with heads of state, cabinet officials, and business leaders.

:  Pentagon halts an underway CARAT joint military exercise with Thai forces.

:   State Department warns US citizens to “reconsider any nonessential travel to Thailand.”  It also suspends $2.5 million in military financing and training and says an additional $10.5 million in assistance to the country is under review.  It calls for “the immediate restoration of civilian rule.”

:  Secretary Kerry refers to the Thai coup as a “disappointment,” without justification and demands the release of detained political leaders.  He warns that the coup could negatively affect US-Thai military relations.

:  White House announces it will support Vietnam if it chooses to take legal action in resolving its dispute with China in the South China Sea.

:  Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh telephones Secretary Kerry to discuss implications of China’s deployment of an oil rig near the Paracel Islands.

: Thai military declares a coup and suspends the constitution. Army Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha is identified as the junta leader.

:  State Department issues a statement reacting to the Thai martial law declaration, urging the military to “honor its commitment to make this a temporary action to prevent violence and not to undermine democratic institutions.”

:   Thai military declares martial law.

:  Philippines offers the US access to a small naval base on Palawan facing the South China Sea.  Manila hopes the US will rehabilitate the base.

:  US extends sanctions against Burma for one more year, banning US companies from doing business with those involved in repressing pro-democracy movements.

:  State Department spokesperson cautions that any Chinese military construction on a disputed Spratly reef has the potential to raise tensions and calls on all parties to abide by the 2002 Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea that prohibits such activity.

: Secretary Kerry in a phone call to Vietnam’s deputy prime minister terms China’s actions in the South China Sea “provocative” and urges safe conduct for all vessels in the vicinity.

: A bipartisan group of US senators from the Foreign Relations Committee urge passage of a resolution reaffirming support for freedom of navigation and the diplomatic resolution of outstanding maritime disputes.  The statement condemns Chinese boats’ ramming Vietnamese ships as interrupting the free flow of maritime commerce.

:  US National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes affirms US opposition to Chinese military actions in response to an oil rig standoff between Vietnam and China in the South China Sea.  He also says the US is strengthening military ties with such allies as the Philippines.

: US State Department spokesperson says that China’s movement of an oil rig into disputed waters near Vietnam “undermines peace and stability in the region.”

: US and the Philippines conduct Balikatan military exercise featuring live-fire drills, landing exercises, search-and-rescue operations, humanitarian response operations, and demonstrations of maritime surveillance systems. A small contingent from Australia participates.

: Thailand’s Constitutional Court dismisses Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office for abuse of power, along with nine Cabinet officials.

: US Congressional leaders assure visiting Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay of continued aid for recovery from Typhoon Yolanda as well as congressional support for the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

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