CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 30, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 30, 2016
pyongyang-womencrossdmz Female activists from around the world representing the group WomenCrossDMZ arrive at Pyongyang airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo taken and released by Kyodo, May 19, 2015. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, David O’Connor, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Women activists urge Ban Ki-moon to formally end Korean War. Over 100 women activists from thirty-eight countries are putting pressure on United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to formally end the Korean War prior to the end of his tenure on December 31, 2016. Read more »

Malaysia’s Parties Prepare for 2018 Elections

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, September 30, 2016
mahathir-ibrahim Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad (center L) meets with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (center R) in a high court in Kuala Lumpur on September 5, 2016. (Lawyers for Liberty/Handout via Reuters)

Two days ago, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib tun Razak told reporters that he would not call national elections until 2018, when his parliament’s term runs out. As The Diplomat recently reported, some Malaysian observers thought that Najib would hold elections earlier—even as early as the middle of next year—because his party’s grip on power will wane in the face of a newly emboldened opposition. As The Diplomat noted, “The idea of holding early elections rests on the idea that Najib and his supporters perceive his political position as being stronger now than it will be within the next year or two.” Read more »

Podcast: India and China’s Brave New World

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 29, 2016
modi-xi-g20 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the West Lake State Guest House ahead of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. (Wang Zhao/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Anja Manuel, cofounder and partner at RiceHadleyGates and author of This Brave New World: India, China and the United States, offers her prescription for how the United States can understand and engage with Asia’s two largest rising powers. Manuel compares and contrasts Indian and Chinese history, leaders, and trajectories, ultimately arriving at a pair of distinct national ambitions: China aims to regain its long-lost place on center stage, and India wishes to re-engage with the world after being relatively isolated since independence. Read more »

This is the New India

by Alyssa Ayres Thursday, September 29, 2016
People wave national flags to celebrate after India said it had conducted targeted strikes across the de facto frontier, in Ahmedabad, India, September 29, 2016. (L-R) banners read: “Many congratulations to Indian army,” “the country is with Indian army” and “Good wishes to BJP-led government.” (Amit Dave/Reuters) People wave national flags to celebrate after India said it had conducted targeted strikes across the de facto frontier, in Ahmedabad, India, September 29, 2016. (L-R) banners read: “Many congratulations to Indian army,” “the country is with Indian army” and “Good wishes to BJP-led government.” (Amit Dave/Reuters)

Narendra Modi has laid down the gauntlet.

Sari-and-shawl exchanges, then birthday diplomacy, failed to produce breakthroughs with Pakistan. Cross-border terrorist attacks continued. This week, New Delhi signaled the end of its patience by expanding its diplomatic coercive strategies as well as military actions to deal with terrorism and Pakistan. Read more »

Four Ways to Unilaterally Sanction North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. China on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang. (REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan) Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. China on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang. (REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan)

It has been almost three weeks since North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, but China and the United States have not yet reached agreement on the text of a new UN Security Council resolution condemning the country. Read more »

Pakistan, Terrorist Groups, and Credible Responses

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, September 26, 2016
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, speaks as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. (Caren Firouz/Reuters) Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, chief of the banned Islamic charity Jamat-ud-Dawa, speaks as they end a "Kashmir Caravan" from Lahore with a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan July 20, 2016. (Caren Firouz/Reuters)

More than a week after the terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Uri, close to the Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border between Pakistani and Indian-administered parts of Kashmir, on the Indian side, a familiar pattern has returned. Which is to say: a group of terrorists crossed the Line of Control, attacked and killed Indian soldiers, Indian officials cite specific evidence they believe links the terrorists to a group domiciled in Pakistan, and the Pakistani government then bristles that such an allegation would be made without a complete investigation. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 23, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 23, 2016
indonesia-forest-fire A resident tries to put out a bush fire with a tree branch in Pekanbaru, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia, August 23, 2016. (Rony Muharrman/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Samir Kumar, Gabriella Meltzer, and David O’Connor look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Deadly forest fires exact major toll on Southeast Asia. A study published this week in Environmental Research Letters by public health and atmospheric modeling experts at Harvard University and Columbia University reveals the severe public-health ramifications of forest fires that engulfed Indonesia in 2015. The researchers estimated that fires deliberately set to clear land for agricultural purposes caused the premature deaths of 91,600 people in Indonesia, and 6,500 and 2,200 deaths in Malaysia and Singapore, respectively. Read more »

Japan-South Korea Relations in 2016: A Return to the Old Normal

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 23, 2016
South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) South Korean Finance Minister Yoo Il-ho shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso (R) during the 7th Korea-Japan Finance Dialogue at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea August 27, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

This post was coauthored with Brad Glosserman, executive director at Pacific Forum CSIS.

The first nine months of 2016 have been very good for Japan-South Korea relations. In addition to the conclusion of the comfort women agreement at the end of December 2015, the two countries have reached several other bilateral economic and security agreements. This progress and the routinization of Cabinet-level exchanges since last year make clear that their relationship has bottomed out and that pragmatic considerations are prevailing over ideological or political concerns. Credit for that progress goes to constituencies in each country committed to rebuilding the bilateral relationship. Trends in the geopolitical environment have also underscored the advantages of cooperation—and the very real costs of a failure to do so. Read more »

Podcast: Myanmar’s “Democratic” Reform

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 22, 2016
nld-rally Supporters of Myanmar’s pro-democracy figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi gather outside National League for Democracy headquarters in Yangon, Myanmar, November 9, 2015. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Earlier this week, as the latest stop on an historic visit to the United States, Burmese State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi made her first official appearance before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. Last week she met with U.S. President Barack Obama, who announced plans to lift sanctions on Myanmar to ensure that “the people of Burma see rewards from a new way of doing business and a new government.” But are Myanmar’s citizens really experiencing a “new government,” and is Aung San Suu Kyi’s political performance measuring up to her renown as a symbol for democratic change?

Read more »

THAAD and Thucydides: Seeing the Forest Beyond the Trees

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Thursday, September 22, 2016
A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters) A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched during a successful intercept test, in this undated handout photo provided by the U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency. THAAD provides the U.S. military a land-based, mobile capability to defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, intercepting incoming missiles inside and outside the earth's atmosphere. (Reuters/U.S. Department of Defense, Missile Defense Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Sungtae “Jacky” Park is research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Since the July 7 announcement by the U.S.-Korea alliance to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean peninsula, analysts and commentators have been discussing whether and how Beijing would retaliate against Seoul and whether the decision would lead to a dangerous arms race between the United States and China. These are important questions, but Thucydides might say that they are also missing the forest for the trees. By itself, the THAAD controversy is not a make-or-break issue in China-South Korea relations or in the U.S.-China arms race dynamics but is simply one symptom of broader trends, namely the increasingly zero-sum nature of the U.S.-China competition in Asia and the evolution in strategic military technologies. Read more »