US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from May 2019 to Aug 2019

: USS Wayne E. Meyer sails near Fiery Cross and Mischief Reef “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways governed by international law.”

:   President Duterte visits China, his fifth official visit since assuming office.  He is under domestic pressure to insist on the authority of the 2016 UNCLOS determination on Manila’s petition against China which President Xi predictably downplays.

:   Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell visits Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore.

:   Indonesian government announces it will move the country’s capital to Borneo.   If Parliament approves, the $33 billion relocation will commence in 2020 and conclude in 2024.

: State Department issues a second statement of concern on Chinese interference with Vietnam’s oil and gas activities in Vietnam’s EEZ.  The statement questions China’s commitment to the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

:   Indonesian police and military personnel storm a Papuan student dormitory in East Java, accusing the students of damaging the Indonesian flag on the 74th anniversary of the country’s independence.  The incident sparks riots in Papua.

:   Gen. Joel Vowell of the US Indo-Pacific Command says that Cambodia and China will begin construction on the Ream Naval Base in 2020.

:    The 26th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is held in Bangkok.  Several other regional meetings held in conjunction include the US-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting and the 10th anniversary meeting of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI).   At the LMI meeting, the US and Japan announce a partnership to strengthen the regional electrical grid on mainland Southeast Asia.  Assuming congressional approval, Washington will provide $29.5 million for the project.

:   Six small bombs explode around Bangkok as US Secretary of State Pompeo delivers a speech at the Siam Society on Thailand’s “return to democracy.”

:   Thailand and the US announce agreement for Bangkok to purchase Stryker infantry-carrier vehicles under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, a signal that normal military-to-military relations have been restored.

:   The first elected Thai Parliament in over five years opens in Bangkok.

:   Wall Street Journal article describes a secret agreement between Cambodia and China to repurpose the Ream Naval Base on the Gulf of Thailand as a naval facility for the exclusive use of the Chinese Navy.

:   State Department releases a statement commemorating the 10th anniversary of the US accession to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).

:   With Thailand as chair, the first ASEAN Summit of 2019 is held in Bangkok.

:   State Department issues a statement of concern over China’s interference in oil and gas exploration in at the South China Sea, singling out Vietnam’s energy explorations in its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  It estimates that Chinese coercion prevents ASEAN members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in energy resources in the South China Sea.

: State Department announces it will place visa sanctions on four high-ranking Myanmar military officers for their involvement in the 2017 crackdown against Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine State.  Foremost among them is Ming Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

: Thailand PM Prayut resigns as head of the military government to return to “normal democracy” after five years of junta rule.

:   United States and the Philippines conduct eighth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila.  Assistant Secretary of State Stilwell and Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver lead the US delegation; Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo and National Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano head the Philippine team.

:   Indonesian President Widodo delivers a major policy speech in West Java, laying out priorities for his second term, most of which focus on promoting economic growth.

:   State Department releases a statement criticizing the shutdown of mobile data services in violence-affected areas of Rakhine and Chin states in Myanmar.

:   Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc promises that Vietnam will import more liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States after meeting President Trump on the margins of the G20 Summit in Osaka,

: Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejects Prabowo Subianto’s claim that he was the victim of voter fraud in the presidential election in May.

:   President Trump says that Hanoi “treats the United States even worse than China does” on trade and threatens to impose new tariffs on Vietnamese goods entering the US.

: Southeast Asian leaders meet in Bangkok for 34th ASEAN summit. They adopt a declaration to combat plastic pollution in oceans and release statements regarding regional economic and security collaboration, de-escalation of tensions in the South China Sea, and investigations into human rights violations in Myanmar.

:   PM Prayut announces that his administration will provide $200 million as seed capital for the Ayeyawady-Chaopraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS) Fund.

:   Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis Fannon visits Vietnam and Thailand to discuss energy security and regional cooperation on energy issues.  His trip highlights Asia EDGE (Enlarging Development and Growth Through Energy), the energy component of the State Department’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

:   Philippine fishing vessel is rammed and sunk by a Chinese trawler in the South China Sea near Reed Bank, leaving 22 fishermen to be rescued by a passing Vietnamese ship.

:   Thai Prime Minister Prayut, leader of the junta National Council for Peace of Order (NCPO), is inaugurated as elected prime minister.

:   Pentagon releases the first Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Paper, which outlines a whole-of-government approach to US policy in the Indo-Pacific region.

: Shangri-La Dialogue is held in Singapore.  Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien-Loong gives the keynote address.

: Pentagon announces that it will sell 34 ScanEagle surveillance drones to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam to more closely monitor “destabilizing actors” in the South China Sea.

:   Secretary of State Pompeo meets Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in Washington to discuss efforts to strengthen the US-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.

: Indonesia’s General Elections Commission officially declares incumbent Joko Widodo winner of the April 17 presidential election. Indonesian officials thwart an ISIS plot to launch bombing attacks on the day of the announcement. Six of the nine militants arrested had recently returned from Syria.

: USS Preble conducts a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law.”

:   Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan meet in Washington to discuss the US-Singapore Strategic Partnership, with emphasis on reducing threats related to terrorism and proliferation.

: US Coast Guard cutter Bertholf practices search-and-rescue exercises with Philippines Coast Guard vessels BRP Batangas and BRP Kalanggaman near Scarborough Shoal.

: Philippines holds mid-term elections, which are widely viewed as a referendum on the administration and policies of President Rodrigo Duterte.

:      Election Commission of Thailand announces official results of March 24 general elections.  Since no party garnered a majority of votes, furious deal-making begins for a government coalition led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s Palang Pracharat Party and an opposition coalition under the pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai Party.

: Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn is crowned in Bangkok.  Vajiralongkorn inherited the throne in 2016 when his father, Bhumibol Adjulyadej, died after a 70-year reign.

Date Range