CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

China’s Litmus Test: Stability or Status Quo on the Korean Peninsula?

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, May 28, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jo Yong hak

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak’s formal announcement of a robust set of countermeasures against North Korea in response to the sinking of the Cheonan have stimulated an interesting debate over whether Lee Myung-bak is seeking regime change or changed behavior from the North Korean leadership. I argue over at YaleGlobal Online that Lee wants the Cheonan to be a turning point in the inter-Korean relationship, but in addition to support from the United States, South Korea needs China to prioritize stability over the status quo if Lee’s strategy is to be successful. Read more »

Monarchy and Modern Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 25, 2010
A Thai soldier stands guard near a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol  Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit at a checkpoint in central Bangkok May 21,  2010.

Photo Courtesy of Reuters/Yannis Behrakis

As Thailand attempts to right itself after two months of political turmoil, the future of the country’s monarchy, probably its most important institution, will be a central part of the debate. In Sunday’s Boston Globe Ideas section, I published an article  that examines why monarchy remains relevant in modern democracies – and how these kings and queens can damage their images by appearing to favor one political party or faction. In Thailand, KingAdulyadej, for over sixty years the bedrock of Thailand’s political system, now runs that risk himself, which could damage his own legacy and make the transition to his successor even harder.

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A New Phase for Korean Tensions

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, May 24, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/POOL

With the South Korean finding that a North Korean torpedo was responsible for the sinking of one of its warships in March, focus now shifts to the problematic venue of the UN Security Council. Absent any immediate plans for tough actions directed against the North, the South Korean government is working closely with–and depending on–the United States to lay the groundwork for a case in the Council resulting in clear international disapproval of Pyongyang. Read more »

Thinking Through Beijing’s Billions

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Thursday, May 20, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Katrina Manson

I have a new piece over at Foreign Policy about China’s money—or, more precisely, about how China’s foreign policy ambitions could change the way it deploys aid, loans, and strategic investment.

I’ve blogged pretty regularly here at Asia Unbound about how China and India are enlarging their seats at many of the top tables of contemporary international relations.  And back in April, when I blogged about some of the choices and challenges this raises for India’s foreign policy, I promised to do the same for China.  My Foreign Policy piece is one effort to do just that.

Here’s the thing about China:

Then Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick famously argued that China, as a “stakeholder” in the international system, ought to support, sustain, and adapt the system that has enabled China’s own success.  He even took his counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park, New York, to drive home the point.

And make no mistake:  calling China a “stakeholder” isn’t inviting China to be one.  China’s stake is a fact of life.

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The Cheonan Investigation: Interim Results and South Korean Policy Options

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS

The Washington Post reports that interim results of a South Korea-led international investigation into the March 26th sinking of the 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan near Baek-ryong Island are due to be released by the South Korean government on Thursday morning (Wednesday evening EST).  The report, which concludes on the basis of strong circumstantial forensic evidence that a North Korean torpedo sunk the Cheonan, will provide an initial basis upon which the South Korean government will pursue a range of policy responses. These responses can be categorized according to four different tracks: 1) domestic, 2) inter-Korean, 3) the U.S.-ROK alliance, 4) international.

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Prime Minister Hatoyama’s Pursuit of Equity

by Sheila A. Smith Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Toru Hanai

There is an abundance of criticism of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama over his handling of the Futenma issue. There seems to be a lot of smug derision and throwing up of hands these days, and the theatrics in the Japanese Diet are getting more and more intense. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be stopping in Tokyo on the 21st of this month, and will undoubtedly witness an intensifying political fray in the parliament as government critics amp up their pre-Upper House electoral campaign. Read more »

Thailand and U.S. Policy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Photo courtesy of Reuters/Adrees Latif

At this point, the crisis in Thailand has gotten so grave that it verges on civil war and threatens many things, including the democratic gains made over twenty years, the entire legacy of the reign of King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, and Thailand’s tourism-dominated economy. However, as both sides look for mediators to help resolve the crisis, there is an opportunity for the United States to play a constructive role.

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