CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Burmese Election

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 28, 2012
A supporter holds up a portrait of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an election campaign of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Yangon March 28, 2012. A supporter holds up a portrait of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an election campaign of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Yangon March 28, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters)

Over on New Mandala, Nicholas Farrelly makes some important points about Aung San Suu Kyi’s campaign for a parliamentary seat in the April 1 Burmese by-elections. Most notably, he writes that “it is much more dangerous for President Thein Sein if Aung San Suu Kyi fails to win her seat.” Indeed, I think this point has been poorly understood and underestimated. All of the harassment, intimidation, and other methods to keep the National League for Democracy (NLD) from campaigning as effectively as they should will actually be counterproductive to the president if Suu Kyi loses or if the NLD loses most of the seats. Read more »

What Will Happen on Myanmar’s By-Election Day?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 26, 2012
A man sits in his home as pictures of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her father General Aung San hang on the wall in Phwartheinkha village. A man sits in his home as pictures of Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her father General Aung San hang on the wall in Phwartheinkha village. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

The upcoming by-elections in Myanmar will be closely watched, both by people inside the country and by the international community. The United States and many other nations that have sanctions on Myanmar are viewing the by-elections as a critical test of whether the reforms put into place over the past year and a half have legs, and whether the government is truly willing to allow the National League for Democracy (NLD) to play a major role, since it is likely that Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD candidates are going to win a sizable majority, if not almost all, of the contested by-election seats. Read more »

How to Stop North Korea’s Satellite Test

by Scott A. Snyder Sunday, March 25, 2012
The launch control room for a Taepodong-2 rocket is seen in Musudan-ri (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters) The launch control room for a Taepodong-2 rocket is seen in Musudan-ri (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)

As over fifty world leaders gather in Seoul to address the task of how to more effectively secure nuclear materials, their landing path at Incheon airport will take them within range of North Korean surface-to-air missiles.  Although North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities are not formally on the agenda for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, Pyongyang’s leaders have done their best to ensure that North Korea won’t be forgotten in the global confab, first by announcing plans to launch a satellite in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung, and then by threatening war if the summit issues a statement on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.  Read more »

Economics and Indian Strategy

by Evan A. Feigenbaum Thursday, March 22, 2012
Leaders of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Thailand pose for a picture at the second summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in New Delhi, November 13, 2008. (B Mathur / Courtesy Reuters) Leaders of Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Thailand pose for a picture at the second summit of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) in New Delhi, November 13, 2008. (B Mathur / Courtesy Reuters)
South Asia is among the least economically integrated regions of the world, in part because partition cleaved apart various natural economic communities. Regions, such as Bengal, which had been well integrated historically, suffered considerable economic ill effects. And post-1947 policies have only exacerbated the problem through tariffs, production restrictions, and various trade controls.

Actually, the lack of economic integration in South Asia is endemic. It’s not just a challenge for India and Pakistan but for many other countries in South Asia as well. Read more »

Another Judge Quits Khmer Rouge Tribunal

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 22, 2012
Former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea (C) sits in the court room at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, December 5, 2011. Former Khmer Rouge leader "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea (C) sits in the court room at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, December 5, 2011. (Nhet Sokheng/ECCC/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier this week, another of the foreign judges on the Khmer Rouge (KR) tribunal quit: Laurent Kaspar-Ansermet from Switzerland. According to press reports and his own statement, he quit because of continuing interference in the tribunal by his Cambodian counterpart, Judge You Bunleng, who apparently was trying to block the tribunal from investigating and possibly prosecuting any more KR suspects beyond the tiny handful of top leaders already charged.

The KR tribunal is going from bad to worse. Read more »

China’s Twitter War

by Adam Segal Thursday, March 22, 2012
Twitter Logo © Twitter Twitter Logo © Twitter

Over the last week, supporters of Tibet, and the merely curious, have seen information warfare up close. On Twitter, several hundred bots (automated programs that generate content) flooded discussions using the hashtags #Tibet and #Freetibet with meaningless tweets and spam. If you were someone trying to learn more about Tibet, you kept bumping up against these threads, and eventually you may have given up and moved on to some other subject. This is cyber as a weapon of mass distraction. Twitter eventually began to filter out the bots, and the spam was cut off to a trickle. Read more »

Power Politics in China: Bo Must Go but What More Does it Mean?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai at the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2012. Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai at the opening ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 5, 2012. (Jason Lee / Courtesy Reuters)

As details leak out, it appears that corruption will play a central role in the saga of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai. Bo, who was summarily ousted from his position on March 15, apparently attempted to derail the investigation of his police chief, Wang Lijun, into corrupt practices by Bo’s family members.

Yet corruption is hardly enough of a reason to scrap one of the country’s most senior and well-known leaders. Read more »

What South Korea Gains From Hosting the Nuclear Security Summit

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, March 20, 2012
A view of the KORI nuclear power plant in Busan (Courtesy Reuters) A view of the KORI nuclear power plant in Busan (Courtesy Reuters)

The Nuclear Security Summit will bring more national leaders to Seoul than any other international meeting that South Korea has ever hosted.  Just the logistics for such a meeting are daunting, and South Korean hosts have been preparing for months to ensure no surprises (while the timing of North Korea’s  satellite launch announcement last week suggests that Pyongyang has been working for months on “surprises.”) Read more »

A “Hostile” International Response to North Korea’s Satellite Launch Announcement

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, March 16, 2012
A Taepodong-2 rocket is launched from the North Korean rocket launch facility in Musudan Ri. (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters) A Taepodong-2 rocket is launched from the North Korean rocket launch facility in Musudan Ri. (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)

The New York Times today reports North Korea’s announcement that it will launch a satellite next month as part of festivities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth.  The story includes immediate reaction statements from South Korea, the United States, and Japan criticizing North Korean plans for such a launch. Despite North Korean protestations that they have an inherent right to peaceful use of space, North Korean testing of multi-stage rockets was proscribed by the United Nations in UNSC resolution 1874 that was passed following North Korea’s 2009 satellite launch and missile tests. Read more »

China: North Korean Refugees a Hindrance to Denuclearization?

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, March 15, 2012
Protesters attend a rally held by former North Korean defectors and anti-North Korean activists near the Chinese embassy in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters attend a rally held by former North Korean defectors and anti-North Korean activists near the Chinese embassy in Seoul. (Kim Hong-ji/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally had occasion to address an ongoing spat over Chinese repatriation of over thirty North Koreans, many of whom have family members in South Korea, at a joint press conference with ROK foreign minister Kim Sung-hwan last Friday.  In answer to a reporter’s question, she stated that “we believe that refugees should not be repatriated and subjected once again to the dangers that they fled from. . . we urge all countries in the region to cooperate in the protection of North Korean refugees within their territories.” Read more »