CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

The Interview and Its Challenge to North Korea’s Leadership

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, December 17, 2014
the-interview-premiere A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Courtesy: Reuters)

Today is the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, marking the completion of a traditional period of mourning for Korean leaders and the presumed consolidation of power under Kim Jong-il’s successor, Kim Jong-un. During the three-year mourning period following the death of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung in the mid-1990s, Kim Jong-il waged a struggle behind the scenes to overcome the Arduous March, a famine that decimated North Korea’s population. In 1997, Kim Jong-il emerged publicly as chairman of the National Defense Commission and as leader of a “military first [pdf]” policy. Read more »

The Senate Torture Report’s Global Ramifications

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, December 15, 2014
us embassy london A police officer patrols outside the U.S. embassy in London on December 9, 2014. Preceding the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of a report on the CIA's anti-terrorism tactics, U.S. officials moved to shore up security at American facilities around the world as a precaution (Luke MacGregor/Courtesy: Reuters).

The executive summary of the report released this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Central Intelligence Agency’s brutal detention interrogation practices after 9/11 offers the most damning assessment of the Agency in four decades. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee, another Senate committee, issued reports that condemned the CIA for spying within the United States, attempting to assassinate foreign leaders, working with the Mafia on operations, and other abuses. Read more »

Another Four Years for Abe

by Sheila A. Smith Monday, December 15, 2014
An election official stands among unopened ballot boxes at a counting center in Tokyo, December 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Peter) An election official stands among unopened ballot boxes at a counting center in Tokyo, December 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Peter)

Yesterday’s snap election proved a victory for Shinzo Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). His ruling coalition, composed of the LDP and Komeito, returned to govern Japan with a two-thirds majority in the Lower House of Parliament and a renewed sense of support for its policy priorities. But with voter turnout at a postwar low, and one-fourth of the seats still in opposition hands, Abe must persuade many Japanese that he can do what he has promised to revive their economy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 12, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, December 12, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) reads a joint statement as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches after their delegation level talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on December 11, 2014. (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) reads a joint statement as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi watches after their delegation level talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on December 11, 2014. (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, Ariella Rotenberg, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Liu Tienan sentenced to life in prison. Liu Tienan, former deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission and former head of the National Energy Administration, was convicted of bribery and sentenced to life in prison. He was one of the first officials to be singled out by President Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign and is among the highest-ranking officials to be imprisoned. Liu admitted to accepting bribes valued at 35 million yuan (approximately US$5.7 million) from 2002 to 2012. Read more »

Electoral Landslide With an Ambiguous Mandate

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, December 12, 2014
A staff member of an election campaign prepares for their stumping for Japan's upcoming Dec. 14 lower house election, at a election candidate's campaign office in Tokyo December 11, 2014. The words written on white paper read, "Pray for Victory". (Courtesy Reuters/Issei Kato) A staff member of an election campaign prepares for their stumping for Japan's upcoming Dec. 14 lower house election, at a election candidate's campaign office in Tokyo December 11, 2014. The words written on white paper read, "Pray for Victory". (Courtesy Reuters/Issei Kato)

This Sunday, parliamentary elections in Japan are widely expected to return Prime Minister Abe and his ruling coalition to power. Japanese media polling data point to a victory for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of over 300 of the 475 Lower House seats, and with an additional 30 or more seats expected for the Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, this would give the current government a comfortable basis from which to govern. It is even possible that Mr. Abe’s government will retain its two-thirds majority, allowing his next government broad legislative support for his policy agenda. Read more »

India and Bangladesh Poised to Resolve Border Dispute

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, December 11, 2014
Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura August 11, 2014. India commemorates its Independence Day on August 15. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey (INDIA - Tags: ANNIVERSARY MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) Female personnel of India's Border Security Force (BSF) patrol along the fencing of the India-Bangladesh international border ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations, at Dhanpur village in India's northeastern state of Tripura on August 11, 2014. (Jayanta Dey/Courtesy Reuters)

After nearly seventy years, it appears that India and Bangladesh may at last resolve their border issues, a legacy of the partition of India in 1947. Following the failed effort of the previous Indian government to ratify a Land Boundary Agreement negotiated with the government of Bangladesh, announced in 2011 but never passed by the Indian parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced his support. As I argue in the Indian Express this week, what may appear to be a local, low-profile regional development actually has significant impact for India and its role in the world. Read more »

What the Turmoil in Thailand’s Palace Means for Thai Politics (Perhaps)

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is accompanied by royal consort Princess Srirasmi as he presides over the Royal Barge Procession on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok in this file photo from November 9, 2012 (Sukree Sukplang/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part two of a series on Thai leadership.

As I noted last week, Thailand has been consumed by recent news that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn appears to be on the verge of divorcing his third wife, Srirasmi, and erasing all remnants of her and her family from his life and from the royal palace. Of course, no Thai media are openly reporting this news, since saying almost anything at all about the crown prince or any other leading member of the royal family (or even about royal events that allegedly took place hundreds of years ago) can get one slapped with harsh lèse-majesté charges. Still, the Thai media have reported on the decisions taken by the crown prince, while delicately dancing around the implications of these decisions or how they affect the royal succession and Thai politics in general. Read more »

Zuckerberg’s Love Affair With Xi Jinping

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS) Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, on April 4, 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Courtesy Reuters)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently stirred up controversy by advising his employees to read Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book The Governance of China, because he wants them to “understand socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The book appeared prominently placed on his desk during a recent visit from China’s Internet czar Lu Wei, and he apparently has bought a number of copies to share with others. (To be clear—and I am assuming Mr. Zuckerberg realizes this—Xi’s book is not a book that he, himself, wrote; it is a collection of his speeches and interviews.) For the free publicity he is providing the Chinese leader, Zuckerberg has been widely condemned on the Chinese Internet. Given Zuckerberg’s position as the CEO of one of America’s leading technology firms, it is worth exploring whether such criticism is deserved. Read more »

Allen Grane: Combating the African Wildlife Trade in China

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, December 8, 2014
A herd of elephants confronts a hippopotamus at a watering hole in Hwange National Park October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. Picture taken October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo (ZIMBABWE - Tags: ANIMALS CRIME LAW) A herd of elephants drinks at a watering hole in Hwange National Park on October 14, 2014. The watering hole was one of several that were contaminated by poachers with cyanide in 2013, leading to the death of at least 100 animals, according to Zimbabwean authorities. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Allen Grane is a research associate for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recently, the Animal Planet aired a documentary entitled “Saving Africa’s Giants with Yao Ming.” The show, developed in conjunction with the environmental non-governmental organization WildAid, depicts Yao meeting with wildlife conservationists to discuss the future of African elephants and rhinoceroses. The documentary is part of an increased information campaign that includes other celebrities such as the Duke of Cambridge, David Beckham, and Jackie Chan. Read more »

New Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, December 8, 2014
2014 US-ROK 2 plus 2 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (second right) and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel co-hosted the 2+2 Ministerial with South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (second left) and Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo, at the State Department in Washington on October 24, 2014 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters).

The U.S.-South Korea alliance has grown deeper since 2009, when Presidents Obama and Lee Myung-bak announced a U.S.-ROK Joint Vision Statement that expanded the framework for bilateral cooperation beyond the Korean peninsula to regional and global issues. This statement set the stage for both deeper U.S.-ROK security coordination toward North Korea and for South Korean contributions to anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and South Korean participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The vision was reaffirmed by Park Geun-hye last year in Washington on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the alliance. I argue in my chapter for National Bureau of Asian Research’s most recent volume, Strategic Asia 2014-2015: U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power, that further implementation of this broadened vision has created new internal and external challenges. Read more »