CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

Four Ways to Unilaterally Sanction North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. China on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang. (REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan) Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. China on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang. (REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan)

It has been almost three weeks since North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, but China and the United States have not yet reached agreement on the text of a new UN Security Council resolution condemning the country. Read more »

Pakistan, Terrorist Groups, and Credible Responses

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, September 26, 2016
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, speaks as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. (Caren Firouz/Reuters) Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, speaks as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. (Caren Firouz/Reuters)

More than a week after the terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Uri, close to the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between Pakistani and Indian-administered parts of Kashmir, on the Indian side, a familiar pattern has returned. Which is to say: a group of terrorists crossed the Line of Control, attacked and killed Indian soldiers, Indian officials cite specific evidence they believe links the terrorists to a group domiciled in Pakistan, and the Pakistani government then bristles that such an allegation would be made without a complete investigation. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 23, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 23, 2016
indonesia-forest-fire A resident tries to put out a bush fire with a tree branch in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia, August 23, 2016. (Rony Muharrman/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, and David O’Connor look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Deadly forest fires exact major toll on Southeast Asia. A study published this week in Environmental Research Letters by public health and atmospheric modeling experts at Harvard University and Columbia University reveals the severe public-health ramifications of forest fires that engulfed Indonesia in 2015. The researchers estimated that fires deliberately set to clear land for agricultural purposes caused the premature deaths of 91,600 people in Indonesia, and 6,500 and 2,200 deaths in Malaysia and Singapore, respectively. Read more »

Japan-South Korea Relations in 2016: A Return to the Old Normal

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 23, 2016
South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The first nine months of 2016 have been very good for Japan-South Korea relations. In addition to the conclusion of the comfort women agreement at the end of December 2015, the two countries have reached several other bilateral economic and security agreements. This progress and the routinization of Cabinet-level exchanges since last year make clear that their relationship has bottomed out and that pragmatic considerations are prevailing over ideological or political concerns. Credit for that progress goes to constituencies in each country committed to rebuilding the bilateral relationship. Trends in the geopolitical environment have also underscored the advantages of cooperation—and the very real costs of a failure to do so. Read more »

Podcast: Myanmar’s “Democratic” Reform

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 22, 2016
nld-rally Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Earlier this week, as the latest stop on an historic visit to the United States, Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi made her first official appearance before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Last week she met with U.S. President Barack Obama, who announced plans to lift sanctions on Myanmar to ensure that “the people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government.” But are Myanmar’s citizens really experiencing a “new government,” and is Aung San Suu Kyi’s political performance measuring up to her renown as a symbol for democratic change?

Read more »

THAAD and Thucydides: Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Thursday, September 22, 2016
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since the July 7 announcement by the U.S.-Korea alliance to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, analysts and commentators have been discussing whether and how Beijing would retaliate against Seoul and whether the decision would lead to a dangerous arms race between the United States and China. These are important questions, but Thucydides might say that they are also missing the forest for the trees. By itself, the THAAD controversy is not a make-or-break issue in China-South Korea relations or in the U.S.-China arms race dynamics but is simply one symptom of broader trends, namely the increasingly zero-sum nature of the U.S.-China competition in Asia and the evolution in strategic military technologies. Read more »

What is Duterte’s Strategy Toward the Abu Sayyaf?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, September 21, 2016
duterte-abu-sayyaf Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a news conference in Davao after Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad was freed from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamist militant group in Jolo, Sulu in southern Philippines on September 18, 2016. (Lean Daval Jr/Reuters)

Having already launched a grim, brutal war on drugs that has reportedly led to thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of arrests, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is now turning his eye to southern Philippines, where a collection of insurgent groups/terrorist organizations/bandits have wreaked havoc for decades. (Southeast Asia is also now home to more piracy attacks than any other region of the world, and the waters of the southern Philippines are part of this massive piracy problem.) Read more »

Where Next for Cambodian Politics?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 20, 2016
kem-sokha-cambodia Kem Sokha (C), leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), greets his supporters during his speech at the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, on September 9, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Over the past two years, Cambodia’s government has steadily ramped up the pressure on the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), as well as on any civil society activists and journalists who question the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). In just the past year, security forces have cracked down on demonstrators holding regular Monday protests, while the government has pursued criminal charges against opposition leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy. In July, someone murdered prominent activist Kem Ley in broad daylight at a gas station, and while police have arrested one suspect, the motive for why he would kill the activist remains murky. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 16, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 16, 2016
delhi-mosquito-net A boy covered with a mosquito net sleeps in a cot on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2016. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Delhi battles major chikungunya outbreak. Over 1,000 people have fallen ill and at least twelve have died due to a major outbreak of chikungunya in Delhi. Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus similar to Zika and dengue, is typically not fatal, but can cause debilitating joint pain along with fever, fatigue, and nausea. Health minister J. P. Nadda has assured the Indian public that chikungunya did not cause the fatalities, but rather exacerbated deadly illnesses that were already ailing the elderly. Read more »

A Sharper Choice on North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 16, 2016
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters) A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a report of an independent task force on policy toward North Korea, titled A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia,  directed by Adam Mount, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and co-chaired by retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, and former Senator Sam Nunn (R-GA). The task force grapples comprehensively with all the dimensions of U.S. policy toward North Korea, breaking new ground in its recommendations in several areas and confirming the stepped up efforts by the Barack Obama administration and Congress to reinvigorate the U.S. response in others. The product benefits from the participation of a diverse group of specialists and former policymakers who bring a wealth of experience to the elusive task of effectively addressing the challenge to U.S. and South Korean interests posed by the North Korean regime, both through its nuclear development and its human rights practices. Read more »