CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, 1952–2012

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, September 17, 2012
Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya (File Photo/Courtesy Consulate General of Japan in New York). Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya (File Photo/Courtesy Consulate General of Japan in New York).

Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to China, Shinichi Nishimiya, passed away suddenly yesterday in Tokyo. He was hospitalized last week after collapsing outside his home. Ambassador Nishimiya was sixty years old.

Ambassador Nishimiya was well-known in the United States as one of Japan’s most energetic and passionate diplomats. Educated in the United Kingdom, he represented Japan here in United States multiple times, and he emerged as one of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ leading America hands. Read more »

Japan Restoration Party: The Policy?

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, September 14, 2012
Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, center, head of the Japan Restoration Party, and Osaka governor Ichiro Matsui, left, secretary-general of the party, explain their policies at an open debate with Diet members and other local leaders in Osaka September 9, 2012 (Yoshinori Mizuno/Courtesy to The Asahi Shimbun). Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto, center, head of the Japan Restoration Party, and Osaka governor Ichiro Matsui, left, secretary-general of the party, explain their policies at an open debate with Diet members and other local leaders in Osaka September 9, 2012 (Yoshinori Mizuno/Courtesy to The Asahi Shimbun).

This week, contests for the head of both the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are underway, with the expectation that Japan will be heading into a full campaign later this fall. The pundits are already predicting that the DPJ will lose seats and the LDP will gain. But neither seems likely to garner a majority in the parliament. Thus, the next coalition government will depend on where and with whom policy cooperation becomes possible.

Yesterday, I introduced the newest player in the mix of Japan’s coalition dynamics, the Japan Restoration Party (Nippon Ishin no Kai) led by Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto. Read more »

Thailand’s Flood Defenses to Fail Again?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 13, 2012
Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits Sam Wa canal to check on the drainage system as the country prepares for rainy season in the suburb of Bangkok August 17, 2012. Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra visits Sam Wa canal to check on the drainage system as the country prepares for rainy season in the suburb of Bangkok August 17, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

Last year, flooding in Thailand breached defenses across the country, ruining many of the industrial estates on the outskirts of Bangkok, bringing the capital to a halt, and resulting in billions of dollars in damage and decisions by several major electronics components manufacturers to either abandon Thailand operations or open new operations to build disc drives and other parts in countries safer from flooding. Last year’s flooding was also horrible for the public image of the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, which appeared to be slow to respond, as compared to the army, which utilized the flooding, and its rapid response, to somewhat rehabilitate its image in the minds of many Thais after the army’s killing of at least ninety protestors in the streets of Bangkok in spring 2010. Read more »

Introducing the New Japan Restoration Party

by Sheila A. Smith Thursday, September 13, 2012
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto toasts with members of his new Japan Restoration Party at a fund-raising party in this photo taken by Kyodo in Osaka Osaka mayor Toru Hashimoto toasts with members of his new Japan Restoration Party at a fund-raising party in Osaka September 12, 2012 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, the charismatic mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, announced he was forming a new national political party, and the race for Japan’s next government seemed to officially begin. Hashimoto’s unconventional entry into national politics has galvanized the Japanese media. But beyond his ambition of reforming Japanese politics, the policy agenda of this much heralded new Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party) remains unclear. Read more »

Chinese Officials Risk Public Confidence in Xi Jinping Mystery

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 13, 2012
Current Vice President Xi Jinping reads a statement as President Hu Jintao (L) and parliament chief Wu Bangguo listen during the 11th National People's Congress in Beijing on March 11, 2008. Current Vice President Xi Jinping reads a statement as President Hu Jintao (L) and parliament chief Wu Bangguo listen during the 11th National People's Congress in Beijing on March 11, 2008. (Claro Cortes IV / Courtesy Reuters)

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

The approaching change in leadership from President Hu Jintao to Vice President Xi Jinping seemed to be going smoothly until the vice president started missing high-level meetings. Since then, rumors have been flying over the causes for the missed meetings. These rumors include a back injury, a car wreck, a heart attack, and a minor stroke. On the other hand, another source claims that Xi Jinping is in good health but is “orchestrating unprecedented political reforms.” Read more »

American Attitudes Toward Korean Security: Steady as She Goes

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, September 13, 2012
U.S. president Barack Obama speaks to South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak during their bilateral meeting at the Blue House in Seoul (courtesy Reuters) U.S. president Barack Obama speaks to South Korea's president Lee Myung-bak during their bilateral meeting at the Blue House in Seoul (courtesy Reuters)

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs this week released the 2012 results of their biannual poll on American attitudes toward foreign policy. The report shows a rising American appreciation of the importance of Asia and a desire for a greater emphasis on nonmilitary forms of international engagement, including through diplomacy, alliances, and multilateral coalitions working together to solve international problems. Read more »

Review of New Biography of Aung San Suu Kyi

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of Rule of Law and Peace and Stability Committee of House, attends a meeting of the committee at Yangon Division Parliament in Yangon. Aung San Suu Kyi, chairman of Rule of Law and Peace and Stability Committee of House, attends a meeting of the committee at Yangon Division Parliament in Yangon (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

Although Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted numerous biographers over the past twenty years, the new biography of her by longtime British journalist Peter Popham is surely the most thorough and, in some ways, most critical of Suu Kyi, who is now making the transition from longtime opposition leader to member of Parliament and leading ally of the Myanmar president. The switch has not been easy for Suu Kyi, a challenge many former opposition leaders, from Lech Walesa to Nelson Mandela, have faced before. Read more »

North Korea and the U.S. “Hostile Policy”

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 7, 2012
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves as he visits military units on islands in the most southwest of Pyongyang (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves as he visits military units on islands in the most southwest of Pyongyang (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

The DPRK has signaled several times over the course of the summer that it is reviewing its nuclear policy and that a central feature of the review is connected with the “hostile policy” of the United States. Against this backdrop, North Korea’s foreign ministry released a lengthy statement last Friday. The statement did not contain any surprises. Read more »

News Flash: Washington Source of All Beijing’s Problems

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, September 5, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in an arrival ceremony at Rarotonga International Airport in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in an arrival ceremony at Rarotonga International Airport in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. (Jim Watson / Courtesy Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s swing through Asia has been marked by a revelation in Beijing: the source of all China’s problems with its neighbors is the United States. A Xinhua editorial paints the United States as a “sneaky trouble maker sitting behind some nations in the region and pulling strings.” In the Global Times, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar Ni Feng states that the U.S. pivot is “stirring up tensions between China and its neighbors”; while Renmin University scholar Jin Canrong argues that Washington aims to “dominate the region’s political agenda, and build a Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China, as well as further consolidate its military edge.” Read more »

Why ASEAN Will Stay Weak

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 4, 2012
U.S. secretary of state Clinton delivers remarks during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. U.S. secretary of state Clinton delivers remarks during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

In her visit to Asia this week, including her trip to Jakarta on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not only highlighted the renewed American focus on Southeast Asia, especially regarding the South China Sea, but also highlighted the rising importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), by visiting the organization’s headquarters, or secretariat, in Jakarta. At a bilateral meeting with ASEAN’s secretary-general, Clinton remarked, “We [the United States] have an interest in strengthening ASEAN’s ability to address regional challenges in an effective, comprehensive way.” Read more »