CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

North Korea’s Growing Trade Dependency on China: Mixed Strategic Implications

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, June 15, 2012
North Korean workers nap on piles of fertilizer shipped from China on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju (Jacky Chen/courtesy Reuters) North Korean workers nap on piles of fertilizer shipped from China on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju (Jacky Chen/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s trade dependency on China has skyrocketed in the past year, reaching US$5.63 billion in 2011, an increase of 62.5 percent from $3.46 billion in 2010. Meanwhile, trade with South Korea, which is North Korea’s second largest trading partner, dropped by ten percent in 2011 to $1.71 billion. As a result, North Korea’s trade dependency on China appears to have risen dramatically. Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency(KOTRA) figures suggest an increase from 42 percent in 2008 to over 70 percent in 2011. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, June 12, 2012
An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he stands in front of a house that was burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe. An ethnic Rakhine man holds homemade weapons as he stands in front of a house that was burnt during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Sittwe (Staff/Courtesy Reuters).

In a recent blog post for Asia Unbound, I noted that among Myanmar’s many challenges in the reform process, the country faced the possibility that political opening would unleash ethnic and religious tensions that had been, to some extent, held in check by many long years of harsh authoritarian rule. In the past week, we have seen some of these tensions explode in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The Irrawaddy today reported that the death toll has now passed twenty in the Buddhist-Muslim violence in Rakhine State, and that some 1,600 houses have been burned down throughout the state. Read more »

Elizabeth Leader: Trip by Panetta Affirms Shifting U.S. Stance

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 8, 2012
U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta sits next to USNS Richard E. Byrd chief mate Fred Cullen as they take a water taxi to the ship in Cam Ranh Bay. U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta sits next to USNS Richard E. Byrd chief mate Fred Cullen as they take a water taxi to the ship in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

Elizabeth Leader is a research associate for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. 

The visit of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Southeast Asia last week reaffirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to an expanding U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific. Although the administration has remained relatively mum in recent weeks about the so-called “pivot” (leading some to speculate that the strategy’s political viability was undergoing reassessment), and despite the looming threat of massive cuts to the U.S. defense budget,  Panetta asserted the position in a June 2 address in Singapore: “Make no mistake — in a steady, deliberate, and sustainable way the United States military is rebalancing and bringing an enhanced capability development to this vital region.” Read more »

Disturbing Signs of Myanmar’s Reforms Coming Undone

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Myanmar's President Thein Sein (pictured) abruptly canceled his visit to the recent World Economic Forum in Bangkok. Myanmar's President Thein Sein (pictured) abruptly canceled his visit to the recent World Economic Forum in Bangkok (Tomoyuki Kaya/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past two weeks, there have been a number of signs that Myanmar’s fragile reform process, first put on track about a year and a half ago, is facing serious obstacles that, at times, have been papered over. None of these problems alone should derail the reform process, and they are not all exactly linked, but together they could prove significant burdens. Read more »

Stuxnet and Flame: Take a Breath

by Adam Segal Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on April 8, 2008. (Handout / Courtesy Reuters) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility on April 8, 2008. (Handout / Courtesy Reuters)

After last week, policymakers and analysts of cyberspace are hoping to catch their breath. On Monday, Russia-based antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab announced that it had discovered Flame, a sophisticated piece of spyware most likely designed by a state actor, that targeted computers in Iran and throughout the Middle East. A few days later, The Washington Post reported on the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Plan X, which includes research programs to map cyberspace and others to develop operating systems that will allow for defense and counter attacks. Read more »

Aung San Suu Kyi Warns on Investing in Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, June 1, 2012
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Bangkok. (Chaiwat Subprasom/Courtesy Reuters)

In a speech today at the World Economic Forum, Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi warned potential investors to the country, which is opening up to business, that the country faced a severe unemployment crises, utterly useless legal protections for investors, severe political problems, and weak infrastructure. Read more »