CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Does the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration Even Matter?

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, September 28, 2012
U.S. secretary of state Clinton poses with ASEAN leaders during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta September 4, 2012. U.S. secretary of state Clinton poses with ASEAN leaders during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta September 4, 2012 (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

Elizabeth Leader is a Research Associate for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. The author’s views on ASEAN’s human rights progress do not necessarily reflect those of Joshua Kurlantzick.

The Asia-Pacific remains the only UN-defined region that does not adhere to its own human rights treaty or possess a region-wide mechanism for the promotion and protection of human rights. Thus, there was seemingly a lot riding on the backs of the ten ASEAN foreign ministers who gathered in New York on Thursday —on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly— to review the second draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). Concern over the controversial draft (drawn up by the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights) has, in the international media, far outweighed any sort of praise. Read more »

Liaoning – Paper Tiger or Growing Cub?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 27, 2012
The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, seen following its maiden sea trial at Dalian Port, Liaoning province, on August 15, 2011. The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, seen following its maiden sea trial at Dalian Port, Liaoning province, on August 15, 2011. (China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC/Courtesy Reuters)

Colonel Brian Killough is the U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Tuesday, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) joined 9 other nations—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, India, Thailand, Spain, Italy, and Brazil—that have aircraft carriers in their naval arsenal. But what does that mean for nations in the region and how should we assess the long-term implications? Read more »

Hillary Clinton Meeting With Thein Sein Major Success

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 27, 2012
Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York. Myanmar's president Thein Sein addresses the sixty-seventh United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

As reported yesterday, following a meeting with Myanmar president Thein Sein, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States would now be easing the American ban on imports from Myanmar, which will be enormously beneficial to the Myanmar economy. This follows a similar move by the European Union, which now has allowed Myanmar to join the Generalized System of Preferences scheme it has for poor countries to access the EU market.

Though the announcement was important, just as important was the fact that Clinton met with Thein Sein during his trip to the United States —the United Nations General Assembly period is packed with bilaterals, and it would not have been hard for her to skip one more bilateral—and publicly handed Myanmar a reward that reflected positively on President Thein Sein. Read more »

Myanmar’s Drug Problem Gets Worse as Its Politics Get Better

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 27, 2012
Soldiers use sticks to destroy poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar. Soldiers use sticks to destroy poppy fields above the village of Ho Hwayt, in the mountains of Shan State, Myanmar (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy Reuters).

An interesting recent piece by Agence France Presse, from a major drug production area of Myanmar, comes timed with the visits to the United States by Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar president Thein Sein. The article points out one of many challenges that are going to remain in Myanmar, if not get worse, once the euphoria over the dramatic reforms of the past two years ebbs a bit. In this case, the problem is surging narcotics production and use, which (when it comes to injectable drugs) is also linked to rising rates of HIV/AIDS. Read more »

South Korea’s Presidential Election Heats Up With Ahn Chul-soo’s Declaration to Run

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Software entrepreneur Ahn speaks during a news conference at the Salvation Army Art Hall in Seoul (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters) Software entrepreneur Ahn speaks during a news conference at the Salvation Army Art Hall in Seoul (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters)

Ahn Chul-soo, professor and founder of AhnLab, a computer security software company, formally announced his bid for the South Korean presidency. With Ahn’s entry, the Korean public is beginning to think in earnest about the December election. A recent realmeter public opinion poll had the independent Ahn in second place with 27.2 percent of public support, trailing the conservative Saenuri candidate Park Geun-hye with 37.5 percent, but leading the progressive Democratic United Party (DUP) candidate Moon Jae-in with 22.6 percent. Asan Institute poll results for two-way races between Park and either Ahn or Moon are within the margin of error. Read more »

A Deep Chill or Heated Clash for Japan and China?

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, September 24, 2012
Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press). Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (right) meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press).

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda departed Tokyo today for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Chikao Kawai, departed for Beijing. At best, a chill lies ahead for the Japan-China relationship. At worst, a confrontation in the waters around the disputed islands in the East China Sea could propel the two Asian giants into a very dangerous scenario.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute will be high on the UN agenda. Washington and other regional powers should assist in finding a credible mechanism for peaceful dispute resolution before this crisis worsens. Read more »

Suu Kyi’s U.S. Visit: Overshadowing the Real Powers in Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, September 24, 2012
U.S. president Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi during their meeting in the White House. U.S. president Obama speaks with Myanmar opposition leader Suu Kyi during their meeting in the White House (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters).

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s two-week visit to the United States has thus far proven highly successful, at least on the terms understood in advance. As she did in Europe, Suu Kyi has wowed audiences in the United States, on a level that can be compared to no one other than the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela for the awe that people feel in meeting her. She has received award after award, and graciously sat for more policy meetings, roundtables, events, and conferences than any Washington official would ever want to endure while jetlagged.

Without a doubt, Suu Kyi’s relationship with the United States, as well as with other democratic powers, is important for Myanmar’s future, and critical to increased aid flows to the country. Read more »

Not Time to Fully Reengage With the Myanmar Military

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, September 24, 2012
Soldiers patrol through a neighbourhood that was burnt during this summer's violence in Sittwe, Rakhine State. Soldiers patrol through a neighbourhood that was burnt during this summer's violence in Sittwe, Rakhine State (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

As Aung San Suu Kyi travels the United States, and President Thein Sein arrives for the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. relations with Myanmar are expanding at a pace so rapid no one would have predicted it even a year ago, let alone five years ago. Suu Kyi, naturally, has been welcomed as a hero, including in Congress, and offered insight to many audiences. She now has gone along with many Burmese people’s view that sanctions on Myanmar are outdated and should be removed, giving Myanmar a chance to develop and putting the onus for democratization in the country firmly on Burmese people themselves.

But one aspect of the rapprochement should be worrying to rights activists, the many in Congress who care about Myanmar, and the Burmese people themselves. Read more »

Message to the Candidates: Talk China Policy not China Smack

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 21, 2012
Illustration by Ib Ohlsson for Foreign Affairs Illustration by Ib Ohlsson for Foreign Affairs

In one U.S. Presidential election after another, the media hype the specter of China as an issue of real policy import. It has been two decades, however, since China has been anything more than a blip on a Presidential debate television screen; and frankly, that has been a good thing. Campaigns rarely elevate thinking on substantive issues. This time around, however, China is becoming a genuine political football, tossed around without any clear aim but hard enough to cause some real damage. Read more »

Nationalism and the China-Japan Island Disputes

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Protesters hold Chinese national flags and a poster showing the disputed Islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, in Chengdu. Protesters hold Chinese national flags and a poster showing the disputed Islands, called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, on the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China, in Chengdu, Sichuan province, September 18, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Professor Yinan He, an expert on Sino-Japanese relations, offers her assessment on the ongoing crisis over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.

In the past week mass protests against Japan’s nationalization of the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands have swept Chinese cities across both coastal and inland areas, unprecedented since 2005 when many Chinese took to the streets to oppose Japan’s revision of history textbooks that whitewashed its wartime aggression. Since then, the damage has been slowly mended thanks to years of painstaking diplomatic efforts on both sides. But in no time things have been pushed back to square one—or even worse. Read more »