CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

North Korea’s Missile Threat: Which Country Will Be the Israel of East Asia?

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, April 11, 2012
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by the North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang. (Courtesy Reuters/Bobby Yip) A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by the North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang. (Courtesy Reuters/Bobby Yip)

North Korea’s satellite test using ballistic missile technology highlights the danger of North Korean proliferation. Each multi-stage rocket test that North Korea conducts, whether they are called satellite launches or missile tests, brings North Korea closer to the day it can launch a nuclear strike. This is why former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sounded the alarm regarding North Korean missile development in January 2011. Read more »

China’s Politburo Rocked by Scandal: The Challenge Moving Forward

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Bo Xilai pauses as a man adjusts a cable behind him during the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2012. (Jason Lee / Courtesy of Reuters) Bo Xilai pauses as a man adjusts a cable behind him during the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2012. (Jason Lee / Courtesy of Reuters)

After a month of rumors and speculation, former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai has been ousted—or more accurately suspended—from all his formal political positions, including as member of the Politburo. Behind the scenes of Bo’s political downfall are apparently numerous issues regarding “violations of Party discipline,” the most dramatic and terrible of which appears to be a link between his wife and the death of British citizen Neil Heywood. The death of Heywood—who had personal and professional ties to Bo’s family—in mid-November 2011, was originally ascribed to natural causes. Read more »

Thailand’s Deep South Insurgency Getting More Dangerous

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Thai rescue workers help an injured man after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province March 31, 2012. Thai rescue workers help an injured man after a bomb blast in southern Thailand's Yala province March 31, 2012. (Surapan Boonthanom/Courtesy Reuters)

Over on Bangkok Pundit, BP has an excellent overview of trends in the insurgency in southern Thailand. Using statistics from Deep South Watch, which chronicles the violence in the Thai south, he shows that March 2012 had the most number of injuries — 547 —from the violence in the south of any month in years. In fact, that figure for injuries is around five times the average monthly figure for injuries from the insurgency and violence. This month may be an aberration — as BP notes, the violence, including injuries and deaths, can go up and down quite substantially — but it does potentially portend a worsening of the already disastrous conflict. Read more »

South Korean National Assembly Elections: Setting the Stage for the Presidential Race

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, April 9, 2012
Han Myeong-sook, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party and Rhyu Si-min, co-chair of the Unified Progressive Party attend a joint election campaign of the two opposition parties in Seoul. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji) Han Myeong-sook, chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party and Rhyu Si-min, co-chair of the Unified Progressive Party attend a joint election campaign of the two opposition parties in Seoul. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji)

South Korean voters go to the polls on April 11 to choose a new National Assembly. I invited Ma Sang-yoon of the Catholic University of Korea and currently a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center to provide a primer on the elections, which you can read here. Read more »

China’s Wen Jiabao: Taking it to the Streets

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, April 6, 2012
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao smiles as he watches a performance given by students during his visit to the Chinese Culture Center in Seoul on May 29, 2010. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao smiles as he watches a performance given by students during his visit to the Chinese Culture Center in Seoul on May 29, 2010. (Courtesy Reuters)

Updated with correct sourcing for translation of Hu Xijin’s comments. Thanks to Kenneth Tan of Shanghaiist

The political brouhaha over Bo Xilai’s ouster as Chongqing Party Secretary continues to reverberate throughout China’s political system. Most notable is an effort at the top by Premier Wen Jiabao to capitalize on the moment by trying to once again energize his reform agenda.  Read more »

The United States Begins Lifting Sanctions on Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, April 6, 2012
A worker counts Myanmar's kyat banknotes at the office of a local bank in Yangon April 2, 2012. The United States said on Wednesday it was ready to relax some sanctions on Myanmar to recognize its fledgling democratic transition, including a ban on U.S. companies investing in or offering financial services to the country. A worker counts Myanmar's kyat banknotes at the office of a local bank in Yangon April 2, 2012. The United States said on Wednesday it was ready to relax some sanctions on Myanmar to recognize its fledgling democratic transition, including a ban on U.S. companies investing in or offering financial services to the country. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

This week, following the by-elections in Myanmar that were dominated by Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD), the United States, and other leading Western countries, have begun the process of removing sanctions first put into place nearly two decades ago. The sanctions are a complex tangle, and require congressional approval to remove all of them, but the Obama administration has some leeway to waive certain sanctions by executive order, and it is about to do so.

This is the right step, as long as the United States goes relatively slowly toward full removal of sanctions. Read more »

Can Chinese Technology Policy Tell Us Anything About Cyber?

by Adam Segal Thursday, April 5, 2012
Ministry of Defense Spokesman Yang Yujun Ministry of Defense Spokesman Yang Yujun addresses accusations of Chinese cyberattacks at a news conference on March 29, 2012. (Courtesy Ministry of National Defense)

Joseph Nye has an interesting article in the Winter 2011 issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly that applies some of the lessons of the nuclear age to cybersecurity. It is well worth the read, and I thought I might try the same, using what we know about the study of Chinese technology policy to shed some light on China and cyber.

Linking cyber and technology policy is a form of techno nationalism that is widely and deeply held by Chinese policymakers. The objectives are clear: China does not want to depend on other countries for critical technologies, the United States and Japan in particular. Read more »

Myanmar Election Aftermath

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves toward her supporters after finishing her address during the election campaign at Mon State in Myanmar. Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi waves toward her supporters after finishing her address during the election campaign at Mon State in Myanmar. (Courtesy Reuters)

As the jubilation continues among Burmese democrats, some realities are starting to sink in. The victory in the by-elections, though enormous, will still only give the National League for Democracy (NLD) a small percentage of seats in parliament. The party will still have to contend with dominance by the military’s favored party, and rely on the fragile health of President Thein Sein to help keep the reforms going. In a new piece for The New Republic, I analyze the election aftermath. You can read the piece here. Read more »

Suu Kyi, NLD, Sweep to Victory in By-Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, April 2, 2012
A man shows a phone with a picture of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as election results are revealed on the screen in front of the head office of the National League for Democracy in Yangon April 1, 2012. Myanmar voted on Sunday in its third election in half a century. A man shows a phone with a picture of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as election results are revealed on the screen in front of the head office of the National League for Democracy in Yangon April 1, 2012. Myanmar voted on Sunday in its third election in half a century. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters)

On Sunday Myanmar time, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) swept to victory in a landslide in the by-elections for parliamentary seats. Suu Kyi herself won a parliamentary seat, and the party appears to have taken the majority of seats contested overall, leading to jubilation at party headquarters. The victory will likely be viewed by some members of the international community as a sign that Myanmar’s reform process in fully entrenched, and that foreign countries should abandon sanctions and completely normalize relations with Myanmar. Read more »