US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from May 2021 to Aug 2021

: Kamala Harris visits Singapore and Vietnam on her second international trip in her capacity as vice president. In Singapore she delivers a speech on the Biden administration’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region; addresses US sailors aboard the USS Tulsa visiting Changi Naval Base; and announces bilateral initiatives on climate change and supply chain support. In Vietnam, she focused on the pandemic and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

: Ismail Sabri Yaakob is sworn in as prime minister of Malaysia after King Abdullah announces his selection. Sabri is vice chair of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The king specifies that Parliament must hold a confidence vote on Sabri’s selection, although he does not specify a date.

: Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet resign after Muhyiddin acknowledges that his administration no longer commands a majority in Parliament. King Al-Sultan Abdullah appoints Muhyiddin as caretaker prime minister and polls Parliament on legislative support for a new appointment PM.

: US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield visits Bangkok and announces $55 million in US assistance to aid Thailand’s humanitarian response to COVID-19. Prior to her visit, the US had donated 1.5 million doses of COVID vaccine to the country. Thomas-Greenfield also announced that the United States would donate $50 million for critical humanitarian aid to Burmese both inside and outside Myanmar.

: United States and governments of the Friends of the Mekong Group hold a virtual meeting and release a joint statement celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Group and reaffirming its commitment to development in the Mekong sub-region. They congratulated the Mekong River Commission for completion of the Basin Development Strategy 2021-2030.

: ASEAN announces that it has chosen Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as special envoy to Myanmar. The special envoy position is one of five points in a consensus plan ASEAN developed following the Feb. 1 coup to help stop political violence in Myanmar and encourage the parties to resolve the conflict peacefully.

: Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visits Washington and meets Secretary Blinken to open the first US-Indonesia Strategic Dialogue since the establishment of the bilateral strategic partnership in 2015. The leaders discussed the COVID-19 pandemic; maritime security; and the peaceful resolution of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

: Secretary Blinken conducts a virtual US-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting. He highlighted ASEAN centrality, US cooperation with ASEAN to quell the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact; the need for bold action on climate change; and the urgency of the situation in Myanmar.

: Secretary Blinken co-hosts second US-Mekong Partnership ministerial meeting, which is held online.

: State Administrative Council of Myanmar declares itself a “caretaker government” and appoints junta leader and Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing as prime minister. Min Aung Hlaing walks back the regime’s promise after the Feb. 1 coup to hold elections in 2022 and says it is more likely that new elections will be held in 2023.

: Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announces that President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to the news of the new Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States, abandoning a plan to terminate the pact. Lorenzana says that Duterte made the decision after meeting with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during his visit to Manila.

: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visits Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, making him the first Cabinet member of the Biden administration to visit Southeast Asia. In a keynote speech in Singapore and in meetings in Vietnam and the Philippines he calls out aggressive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea and stresses the importance of keeping the wider region free and open.

: Secretary Blinken participates in a virtual Special US-ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting. They pledge to continue strengthening the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership, and Blinken praises the ASEAN five-point consensus plan on Myanmar, urging ASEAN to take immediate action to implement the plan.

: In response to the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Assets Control designates 22 individuals connected to the military regime for sanctions. These include two additional State Administrative Council members; four military-appointed Cabinet members; and 15 adult children or spouses of previously designated officials. In addition, the Department of Commerce adds the Chinese company Wanboa Mining, Ltd., and two of its subsidies, as well as King Royal Technologies to its Entity List.

: State Department releases the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report. Thailand is downgraded from Tier 2 to the Tier 2 Watch List, while Malaysia is downgraded to Tier 3. Myanmar remains in Tier 3.

: In a joint statement, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Nguyen Thi Hong, governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, announce that the two countries have reached an agreement over US charges of currency manipulation. Vietnam pledges that it will refrain from “competitive devaluation” of the dong in order to gain export advantage.

: Biden administration releases report of its 90-day review of supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic and announces formation of the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to address short-term discontinuities. The review focused on four critical sectors, including the semiconductor supply chain, which is of increasing importance in US investment in Southeast Asia.

: Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visits Indonesia, Cambodia, and Thailand. In Jakarta, she affirms US support for ASEAN centrality. In Phnom Penh, Sherman meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen and urges Cambodia’s leadership to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy. She expresses serious concerns about China’s military presence and construction of facilities at Ream Naval Base and seeks clarification on the demolition of two US-funded buildings at Ream. In Thailand, she discusses a range of bilateral and regional issues, including the crisis in Myanmar.

: Secretary of State Antony Blinken attempts to host a virtual US-ASEAN ministerial meeting while in transit to Tel Aviv in Shannon Airport but technical issues block a connection.

: Senior delegations representing the US and Thailand meet virtually for 7th US-Thailand Strategic Dialogue. The Dialogue is co-led by Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Keshal and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thani Thongphakdi. Both sides reiterate their commitment to the US-Thailand alliance and discuss deepening cooperation across a spectrum of issues, including technology and climate change.

: US launches 2021 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis and announces $155 million in new assistance to sustain critical efforts to support Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh, as well as internally displaced Rohingya in Myanmar.

: US announces new sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime. The regime itself is designated through sanctions on the State Administrative Council. Also, four members of the SAC are named, along with nine military-appointed Cabinet members and three adult children of previously designated officials.

: Secretary Blinken participates in the online ASEAN Regional Forum hosted by Brunei as ASEAN chair and including representatives from 26 countries. He calls upon China to abide by its obligations under the international law of the sea and cease provocative behavior in the South China Sea.

: United States and ASEAN hold the 34th annual US-ASEAN Dialogue online. Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Ambassador Atul Keshap co-chair with Lao PDR Deputy Foreign Minister Bounleua Phandanouvong. Keshap raises climate change, among other issues. He stresses support for countries most vulnerable to climate change and the need for a shared effort to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

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