CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 29, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 29, 2013
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over an urgent operation meeting on the Korean People's Army Strategic Rocket Force's performance of duty for firepower strike at the Supreme Command in Pyongyang on March 29, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/KCNA)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. North Korean belligerence: Kim Jong-un and his militaristic regime have ratcheted up tensions on the Korean peninsula (again), this time unilaterally severing the inter-Korean military hotline. The move comes along with increased rhetoric, as North Korea declared that its strategic rocket and long-range artillery units “are assigned to strike bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops in the U.S. mainland and on Hawaii and Guam and other operational zones in the Pacific as well as all the enemy targets in South Korea and its vicinity.” The United States responded by flying two nuclear-capable stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula. And so the tit-for-tat continues… Read more »

Countering North Korean Brinkmanship

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, March 29, 2013
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) visits the Wolnae Islet Defence Detachment in the western sector of the front line, which is near Baengnyeong Island of South Korea March 11, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

I have an op-ed on CNN.com that explains North Korea’s historic patterns of brinkmanship and analyzes whether the current, more extreme round of threats is par for the course or is something new.  My original title for the piece was “What is Behind North Korean Threats,” but CNN named it “Why the North Korea Regime is Scary?” Read more »

South Korea’s Nuclear Debate and the Credibility of U.S. Extended Deterrence

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters) The guided missile destroyers USS Lassen (DDG 82) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG62) are seen at a South Korean naval port in Donghae, about 190 km (118 miles) east of Seoul, March 9, 2013. (South Korean Navy/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s third nuclear test last month unleashed an active South Korean debate on nuclear weapons acquisition along with calls for the reintroduction of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to deter and strengthen the U.S. and ROK position in nuclear negotiations. (The debate was nicely summarized here by Toby Dalton and Yoon Ho-jin). South Korea has also displayed its determination to counter any perceived North Korean advantage that might allow it to use nuclear blackmail against South Korea.  As the decibel level of North Korea’s threats has reached unprecedented levels, South Korea has also shown a grim determination to match North Korea’s threats with its own clear and specific signals of resolve. Read more »

Park Geun-hye’s Leadership and South Korea’s Challenges

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, March 26, 2013
South Korea's president Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul March 4, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's president Park Geun-hye speaks to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul March 4, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/courtesy Reuters)

In the first month since Park Geun-hye’s inauguration as South Korea’s first woman president, she faced an external security environment that she characterized the day after her election as “grave.” In addition, her administration has gotten off to a slow start due to unexpected internal constraints associated with a government reorganization plan that has been hung up in South Korea’s National Assembly. CFR’s Program on U.S.-Korea Policy is featuring two parallel essays by prominent South Korean scholars that provide deeper analysis of the internal and external challenges Park faces as president. Read more »

Myanmar’s Ethnic Violence: Is the Cauldron Going to Explode?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 25, 2013
Buddhist novice monks look from a monastery during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Rakhine State. Buddhist novice monks look from a monastery during fighting between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in Rakhine State (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

The past weeks have seen a series of brutal episodes of ethnic violence in central Myanmar, between Buddhists and Muslims, as groups of Buddhists have attacked Muslim homes and villages and then murdered people who fled the homes in cold blood, according to multiple news reports. Many reports suggest that local groups of monks and some members of the security forces have been involved in instigating the violence.

This year may well prove to be the critical year for Myanmar’s survival as a multi-ethnic state. Read more »

The China Model and Democracy

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 25, 2013
China's newly-elected premier Li Keqiang smiles as he takes questions during a news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing March 17, 2013. China's newly-elected premier Li Keqiang smiles as he takes questions during a news conference after the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing March 17, 2013 (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters).

The new Chinese leadership, including premier Li Keqiang, have at least rhetorically recognized that China’s future development depends on further economic, social, and political reforms. In his first major speech as premier, Li said, “Reforming is about curbing government power … It is a self-imposed revolution that will require real sacrifice, and it will be painful.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 22, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 22, 2013
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) speaks with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 19, 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) speaks with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 19, 2013. (Feng Li/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Xi and Li begin their first week in office. Though the world has known who China’s chosen leaders are since November, the National People’s Congress (NPC) officially rubber-stamped Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang’s ascension to the roles of president and prime minister, respectively, last Thursday. In his first diplomatic meetings since taking office, Xi met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to discuss the most recent tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, before leaving for Moscow for his first diplomatic trip. Read more »

Progress or Backsliding in the Debate Over Thailand’s Monarchy?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, March 20, 2013
People hold pictures of Thailand's king Bhumibol Adulyadej as they wait for him to arrive at the Anantasamakom Throne Hall in Bangkok. People hold pictures of Thailand's king Bhumibol Adulyadej as they wait for him to arrive at the Anantasamakom Throne Hall in Bangkok (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past two weeks, Thailand, and the international Thai studies community, has seen several unprecedented open debates about Thailand’s monarchy and its future course. On Thai PBS, which is generally acknowledged to be the best television channel in Thailand, an interview program held over the past two weeks a series of relatively forthright discussions, with both royalists and critics of the current monarchical system, on the future of the institution. The conversations were thorough (as thorough as they could be in Thailand) and thought-provoking. Read more »

Suu Kyi Fails a Test

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, March 18, 2013
Myanmar pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi shakes hands with supporters after giving a speech in Monywa, Myanmar. Myanmar pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi shakes hands with supporters after giving a speech in Monywa, Myanmar (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters).

About a week ago, the National League for Democracy (NLD) held its first national congress, a kind of meeting of all party activists from across Myanmar. In theory, many activists hoped the congress would work together to set a policy agenda—like a Democratic or Republican convention—that the party could use and build on for the planned 2015 national elections. In addition, many party activists believed, the NLD would broaden its senior leadership, currently centered around Aung San Suu Kyi, to include younger leaders. Read more »