US - Southeast Asia

Chronology from Sep 2020 to Dec 2020

: A Chinese air transporter is detected arriving on Firey Cross Reef in the West Philippine Sea, raising alarm that any plans for Beijing to build a military base on the feature could place the entirety of the Philippines within striking distance of Chinese air power.

: Indonesian President Joko Widodo reshuffles his Cabinet, replacing six ministers, in part to strengthen the government’s response to COVID-19.

: Malaysia hosts virtual APEC meeting, the culmination of a year of APEC events held completely online. The 21 members discuss reorienting the APEC agenda toward post-COVID economic recovery, as well as continuing work on the digital economy and efforts to improve the investment climate. The 2021 APEC meeting will be hosted by New Zealand in February, also online.

: US Navy, US Marine Corps, and the Republic of Singapore Navy conduct 26th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) maritime exercises, in international waters in the South China Sea and on Changi Naval Base in Singapore.

: ASEAN holds 7th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) online, discussing maritime security, stability in the Mekong region, terrorism and North Korea. Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller participants. Miller, however, is in the region and visits the Philippines and Indonesia.

: US Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett visits the Philippines to meet with a broad spectrum of Philippine defense and security officials, including Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gilbert Gapay and Air Force Commander Lt. General Allen Paredes. Her visit coincides with the handoff to the Philippine Navy of a ScanEagle Unmanned Aerial System drone to strengthen Philippine maritime domain awareness.

: US National Security Advisor O’Brien visits the Philippines and meets with his counterpart, Philippine National Security Advisor Hermogenes Espero and other top officials. O’Brien announces the delivery of new US military assistance in support of emergency counterterrorism needs and disaster relief for recent typhoon victims.

: Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan visits Washington to discuss expansion of Indonesian-US trade and investment relations. He signs a $750 million memorandum of understanding with the US Export-Import Bank for infrastructure financing and pitched the new Indonesian sovereign wealth fund to the Development Finance Corporation. Luhut met Vice President Mike Pence and had an unscheduled meeting in the Oval Office with President Trump and White House Advisors Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.

: Bipartisan group of eight Senate and House members call on the State Department to levy stronger sanctions on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen for a wave of new arrests of opposition figures, journalists and activists.

: US Coast Guard instructors conduct a Small Boat Operations course in Manila for Philippine Coast Guard participants, to enhance maritime law enforcement capability. It marks the first training event conducted by the USCG in the Philippines since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is signed in Hanoi, creating the world’s largest trade bloc.

: 15th East Asia Summit (EAS) is held via video conference, hosted by Vietnam as the ASEAN chair. Washington is represented by National Security Advisor Robert O’Brief, who also participated with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in the 2019 EAS.

: Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin announces that President Rodrigo Duterte will extend the US-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) another six months to give the two countries time to negotiate a more permanent continuation of the agreement amid growing tensions with China in the South China Sea.

: General elections conducted in Myanmar in most of the country, although some polls are cancelled in conflict zones. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy wins an absolute majority in Parliament, although the constitution still gives the military a quarter of seats in the legislature and other forms of political leverage.

: United States Trade Representative (USTR) announces that the Trump administration will suspend $817 million in trade preferences for Thailand under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) because of continued restrictions on US pork products. USTR also announces that, following eligibility reviews of Indonesia and Laos, both countries will retain their GSP benefits.

: Pompeo meets Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Hanoi and announces a $2 million assistance package to strengthen response to Tropical Storm Linfa and Typhoon Molave.

: The Indo-Pacific Business Forum, co-hosted by Vietnam and the United States, is convened online in Hanoi.

: Secretary of State Pompeo visits Indonesia and meets President Joko Widodo, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, and other officials.

: Indonesian Parliament passes a controversial omnibus bill that covers investment, taxation, labor, the environment, and other areas related to the country’s economic development.

: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper meets Indonesian Minister of Defense Prabowo Subianto at the Pentagon to discuss regional security, bilateral defense, and defense acquisitions. They sign a Memorandum of Intent to restart work in Indonesia to recover the remains of US personnel lost in World War II. Prabowo, a former commander of Indonesia’s special forces that had been under US sanctions for human rights abuses, had not visited the US in over 20 years.

: The annual US-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue is held virtually. Convened after normalization of relations, the Dialogue has continued without disruption for 24 years.

: The United States and Vietnam conduct the 11th US-Vietnam Political, Security and Defense Dialogue, discussing defense cooperation, maritime security, and war legacy issue.

: US announces an additional $200 million in humanitarian assistance to benefit Muslim Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and those in Rakhine State in Myanmar, for a total of $437 million in Fiscal Year 2020.

: 11th US-Singapore Strategic Security Policy Dialogue convenes in Singapore, co-chaired by Acting Under-Secretary of Defense for Policy James Anderson and Singapore Permanent Secretary of Defense Chan Heng Kee. They discuss the COVID-19 response across the region, developments in the South China Sea, and counterterrorism.

: The United States imposes sanctions on Chinese state-owned Union Development Group for its role in corrupt activities in Cambodia. Beyond corruption, the US is concerned that the UDG project at Dara Sakor could be used to host Chinese military assets.

: ASEAN holds 27th ASEAN Regional Forum meeting virtually, attended by 26 ARF participating countries and entities, including North Korea and the European Union.

: Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian Mekong countries and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launch the Mekong-US Partnership, successor to the Lower Mekong Initiative.

Date Range