News Timeline: East Asia 2009


February 17: China

Russia and China sign a $26 billion energy agreement. According to the deal, in return for lending $15 billion to the Russian state oil company Rosneft and $10 billion the pipeline company Transneft, China will receive 300,000 barrels of oil every day for the next 20 years. For China, this deal is an effort to diversify its oil imports from the Middle East.

March 28: China

China celebrates the Serfs Liberation Day with festivities, which marks the beginning of the country’s rule over Tibet in 1959. China says that by taking over the region, it liberated it from Buddhist theocracy and brought progress and prosperity. The critics, however, say Tibet has not benefited from China’s economic growth.

April 3: Cambodia/Thailand

Cambodian and Thai troops exchange gunfire in the disputed border zone near the ancient temple of Preah Vihear. Although this World Heritage temple was awarded to Cambodia in 1962, it has remained a flash point between the two countries.

April 5: North Korea

North Korea makes a failed attempt to launch a satellite into space. The United States, the European Union, South Korea, and Japan condemn the move. It is believed that the launch was a cover-up for the long-range missile test.

April 11: Thailand

Thailand cancels a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which was about to start in Thailand, after thousands of anti-government protesters break into the complex in Pattaya where the visitors were gathering. The Thai government declares a state of emergency and evacuates several leaders from the complex. The Thai opposition has been pressuring the government to organize new elections.

May 12: Japan

Russia and Japan sign a nuclear agreement that will provide Russia with Japanese technology and Japan with nuclear fuel. Both sides also vow to work on resolving the territorial dispute of islands called the Northern Territories by Japan and the Southern Kurils by Russia.

May 17: Taiwan

Led by Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive Party, thousands of demonstrators march to the presidential office in Taipei to protest President Ma Ying-jeou’s policy of engagement with China, saying it undermines the country’s autonomy. Under Ma’s presidency, relations between Taiwan and China significantly improved.

May 25: North Korea

North Korea carries out an underground nuclear test and fires three short-range missiles, provoking condemnation from the international community and prompting the United Nations to toughen sanctions against it. China and Russia call for the return to six-party disarmament talks that stalled last year. (May 26): North Korea fires another two short-range missiles, saying it is ready to rebuff the United States preemptive attacks.

June 12: North Korea

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts tougher sanctions against North Korea after its May nuclear tests. They include the inspection of North Korean ships and wider trade and arms embargo. In response, North Korea says it is seeking to enrich uranium for the development of nuclear weapons.

June 23: China

China’s prominent writer and political activist, Liu Xiaobo, is formally arrested after six months of detention. The Chinese authorities charge him with subversion of the state and attempts to overthrow the socialist system. His detention coincided with the publication of Charter 08, which called for political reforms in China. Xiaobo has been an active political activist for more than 20 years, suffering imprisonment before.

July 7: China

Almost 200 people are killed and 1,700 injured in several-day long riots in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang sparked by the deaths of two ethnic Uighurs in clashes with ethnically Han Chinese at a factory last June. Sporadic violence has been erupting in Xinjiang, where Uighurs, who are Turkic Muslims, feel their culture is being weakened by the waves of the Han Chinese transplanted by the government.

July 8: Indonesia

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reelected with 61 percent of the vote. The Indonesian people see him as a president who improved the country’s economy and made Indonesia more secure and stable.

July 29: China

China says it is planning to reduce its number of executions. China has been criticized for being a leading country in capital punishment, accounting for 72 percent of all executions around the world. Amnesty International says that China executed more than 1,700 inmates in 2008.

August 11: Myanmar

The ruling junta in Myanmar sentences pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to additional 18 months of house arrest. Suu Kyi was accused of breaching security laws after she allowed an American intruder, John Yettaw, to stay at her lakeside house for two nights. The incident gave the junta an excuse to keep Suu Kyi from taking part in elections in 2010. John Yettaw, who swam uninvited past the guards to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house, is sentenced to seven years of jail, including four years of hard labor. (August 15): U.S. Senator and Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Jim Webb, meets with Myanmar’s military ruler, Than Shwe, and negotiates John Yettaw’s release.

August 30: Japan

Japan’s Democratic Party (DPJ) sweeps to power, winning 308 seats in the 480-seat lower house and ending several decades of rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Outgoing Prime Minster Taro Aso takes responsibility for his party’s defeat and is expected to step down as head of the party. DPJ’s leader Yukio Hatoyama will be Japan’s next prime minister. Japanese voters decided for a change amid economic recession, with record unemployment.

October 4: North Korea/China

China’s Prime Minister Wen Jiabao arrives in North Korea on an official visit to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and to sign cooperation agreements. Since China has significant influence over North Korea, Wen’s visit is hoped to restart the six-party talks about the North Korea’s nuclear program. The six-party talks, which involve North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the U.S., started in 2001, but North Korea withdrew in April this year. (October 12): North Korea tests short-range missiles, firing five of them off its east coast.

October 13: China

Guinea and China sign an agreement making China a strategic partner in Guinea’s mining and oil projects. The deal involves $7 billion in Chinese investment in Guinea’s infrastructure. China is Africa’s second-largest trading partner after the United States.

November 8: China

China and 50 African states gather for the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Egypt’s resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. During the summit, China pledges to give Africa $10 billion in loans over the next three years.

November 10: North Korea/South Korea

North Korean and South Korean warships exchange fire after the North Korean ship crossed the disputed sea border called the Northern Limit Line (NLL). North Korea does not recognize the NLL, which was drawn by the United Nations Command at the end of the Korean War.

December 8: The Philippines

The Philippine government resumes peace talks with the separatist group from the south of the country, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been fighting for the regional autonomy for 13 years. The conflict has claimed at least 100,000 lives and displaced more than 2 million people.

December 11: North Korea

North Korea agrees to cooperate on dismantling its nuclear program and to resume the stalled six-party talks. The decision is announced during a three-day visit in Pyongyang by the U.S. special representative to North Korea, Stephen Bosworth.

December 25: China

The Chinese authorities sentence a prominent dissident and a former university professor, Liu Xiaobo, to 11 years in prison for writing Charter 08, a document calling for more freedoms and political reforms in China. Human rights organizations, the United States, and the EU condemn China for such harsh sentence. More than 300 writers from around the world have called for Liu’s release.

December 27: South Korea

South Korea wins a $20 billion contract to build nuclear power plants in the Untied Arab Emirates (UAE), defeating such countries as the Untied States and Japan. The UAE says its demand for electricity has doubled and the first nuclear plant is expected to open in 2017.

December 28: Thailand/Laos

Thailand deports 4,000 ethnic Hmong from its refugee camp back to Laos, saying they are not political refugees but rather illegal economic immigrants. The Hmong, however, claim that they face continued persecution in Laos for helping the United States during the Vietnam War. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says some of the forcibly repatriated Hmong have refugee status and should be protected.