CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Washington Rediscovers Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, November 26, 2013
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) during their bilateral meeting in Singapore on July 26, 2013 (Tim Chong/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Vice President Joe Biden shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) during their bilateral meeting in Singapore on July 26, 2013 (Tim Chong/Courtesy Reuters).

Let’s face it. Since the departures of National Security Advisor Donilon and Secretary of State Clinton, anyone interested in Asia—whether in the United States or in the region—has been fretting. The new team seemed disinterested at best, inexpert at worst. Yet over the past few weeks, administration officials have unleashed a barrage of Asia-related speeches, commentaries, and initiatives that should reassure all concerned that the region will remain a centerpiece of the new foreign policy team’s agenda. Read more »

Women in India: Much More Than Recent Headlines

by Alyssa Ayres Tuesday, November 26, 2013
All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were sentenced to death on Friday, a decision the judge said sent a message to society that there can be no tolerance for such a savage crime September 13, 2013, (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters). All four men convicted of raping and murdering a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi were sentenced to death on September 13, 2013, a decision the judge said sent a message to society that there can be no tolerance for such a savage crime (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the past week, the Indian media and social media have been seized with an unfolding scandal involving a news magazine, Tehelka, that made its reputation ferreting out truth and exposing wrongdoing. This time, it’s founding editor Tarun Tejpal who’s exposed. He has been accused, and a criminal investigation is now underway, of sexually assaulting a junior reporter at his own magazine. The story is unusual not only because of the profile of the accused, but also for the victim’s decision to step forward and not allow the assault to be forgotten or buried as a “misunderstanding.” And judging by the media coverage in recent days, both women and men in India are overwhelmingly supportive of that decision. Read more »

Thailand on the Brink—Again

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Anti-government protesters wave flags while standing in heavy rain outside the Interior Ministry in Bangkok on November 26, 2013. Nearly 3,000 flag-waving anti-government protesters massed in front of Thailand's Interior Ministry on Tuesday, a day after they stormed compounds of two other ministries. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters wave flags while standing in heavy rain outside the Interior Ministry in Bangkok on November 26, 2013. Nearly 3,000 flag-waving anti-government protesters massed in front of Thailand's Interior Ministry on Tuesday, a day after they stormed compounds of two other ministries. (Kerek Wongsa/Courtesy Reuters)

The Economic Costs of North Korean Nuclear Development

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, November 25, 2013
Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea. Kim Jong-un, here at the May 11 Factory, is taking a greater interest in economic reforms that may impact the international trade prospects for North Korea (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters).

International sanctions have thus far failed to convince North Korean leadership that they cannot survive as a nuclear weapons state.  With its policy of simultaneously pursuing economic and nuclear development, North Korean leaders clearly assume they can manage the economic costs resulting from nuclear development. But the costs of such a policy are staggering compared to the economic benefits North Korea might enjoy without nuclear weapons. Comparing the estimated costs of the nuclear program to economic growth with the benefits of becoming a normal economy integrated with its neighbors reveals the steep price of the byungjin policy. Read more »

China Ups the Ante in East China Sea Dispute

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, November 25, 2013
China announces new Air Defense Identification Zone across the East China Sea November 23, 2013 (Courtesy China's Ministry of National Defense). China announces new Air Defense Identification Zone across the East China Sea November 23, 2013 (Courtesy China's Ministry of National Defense).

Over the weekend, China announced a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) across the East China Sea. Already at odds over their maritime boundary in the East China Sea, as well as over their sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands for the Chinese) that sit offshore Okinawa, Beijing’s unilateral assertion of its control over the airspace above the sea will further upset the predictability of maritime relations in Northeast Asia. Coming too at a time when Beijing refuses to discuss these issues with Tokyo, China has vastly increased the unpredictability of the already growing interaction between Japanese and Chinese militaries. Read more »

A New Island Is Born…

by Sheila A. Smith Sunday, November 24, 2013
Smoke from an erupting undersea volcano forms a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima (top L), a small uninhabited island, in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands in this November 21, 2013 Smoke from an erupting undersea volcano forms a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small uninhabited island, in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands in this November 21, 2013 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)>

Japan witnessed the arrival of a new island with a volcanic eruption near Nishinoshima in the Bonin group of islands 600 miles south of Tokyo. In just one day, the land mass grew approximately 100 square meters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga beamed from ear to ear at his daily press conference, exclaiming “If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory!” I wonder if it will extend Japan’s EEZ? Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, November 22, 2013
Paramilitary policemen walk past Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region on November 17, 2013 (Rooney Chen). Paramilitary policemen walk past Erdaoqiao Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region, on November 17, 2013. (Rooney Chen/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Darcie Draudt look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Bloomberg dogged by self-censorship questions. Bloomberg News reporter Michael Forsythe, who worked on an unpublished article about a Chinese tycoon and his ties to CCP leaders, left the company this past week. The move came after it was reported that the unpublished article was rejected by top editors, led by editor in chief Matthew Winkler, because of fears that Bloomberg would be banished from China. Mr. Winkler has denied these claims, instead arguing that the article was not ready for publication. Read more »

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 22, 2013
Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) is escorted by protocol chief Nobutake Odano as she arrives at the Imperial Palace by horse-drawn carriage in Tokyo, November 19, 2013 Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy is escorted by protocol chief Nobutake Odano as she arrives at the Imperial Palace by horse-drawn carriage in Tokyo, November 19, 2013 (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters).

There are times when pictures speak louder than words. An aura of the past surrounded the procession that bore U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy to the Imperial Palace to present her credentials to his majesty, Emperor Akihito. All ambassadors sent to Japan go through this ceremony, but the choice of an antique carriage and entourage replete with an Imperial footman on a white horse could not have suited Ambassador Kennedy better. The daughter of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, the ambassador is the first woman appointed to lead the U.S. diplomatic mission to Japan. Crowds of Japanese lined the streets outside the palace to wave flags and snap photos. From inside the carriage, she smiled and waved warmly as if this was an everyday occurrence, and at her press conference after meeting the Emperor, she said simply, “I’m honored to represent my country.” Read more »

Myanmar on the Edge

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, November 22, 2013
A Muslim man searches for his belongings left behind of his burnt home at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A Muslim man searches for his belongings left behind of his burnt home at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe in the Rakhine state, on October 2, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two weeks, Myanmar authorities reportedly have arrested several men from Arakan/Rakhine State, claiming that they were planning to bomb mosques across the country. The reported plot, which comes on the heels of other bombings in October, highlights a serious problem.  Myanmar now faces growing insecurity and rising disappointment among citizens that reform has not brought higher standards of living. Interethnic and interreligious unrest now threaten to halt reforms altogether, depress much-needed investment, and even lead to broader regional tensions. Read more »

New Attempted Bombings in Myanmar Could Be Prelude to New Disaster

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, November 21, 2013
A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, on October 3, 2013. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)