CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

U.S. Assessments of North Korean Missile Capabilities Since 2011

by Scott A. Snyder Sunday, February 7, 2016
Missiles are taken on trucks past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang October 10, 2015. Isolated North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party on Saturday with a massive military parade overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said his country was ready to fight any war waged by the United States. (Courtesy REUTERS/James Pearson) Missiles are taken on trucks past a stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang October 10, 2015. Isolated North Korea marked the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers' Party on Saturday with a massive military parade overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, who said his country was ready to fight any war waged by the United States. (Courtesy REUTERS/James Pearson)

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) announced that it successfully launched the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite at 9:30 am on February 7, 2016. But the United States regards DPRK satellite launches as thinly-veiled efforts to advance its long-range ballistic missile capabilities. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the latest launch as “a flagrant violation of UN Security Council Resolutions related to the DPRK use of ballistic missile technology.” This compilation of statements by U.S. government officials over the past five years shows U.S. assessments regarding North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of February 5, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 5, 2016
India-Supreme-Court-gay-rights Gay rights activists celebrate after the Indian Supreme Court’s decision to review a colonial-era law that criminalizes homosexuality in Mumbai, India, February 2, 2016. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Gabriel Walker, and Pei-Yu Wei look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Indian Supreme Court scheduled to review discriminatory law against India’s LGBT community. In a win for LGBT activists, the Indian Supreme Court agreed to take another look at Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which effectively criminalizes India’s LGBT community. After the Delhi High Court ruled in 2009 to strike out Section 377, a relic of British colonial rule, it was overturned by the Indian Supreme Court in 2013. On Tuesday, the court decided to hear a “curative petition” to the 2013 ruling. Read more »

Democratic Regression and the Rise of Islamic State-Linked Militants in Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, February 4, 2016
indonesia-terrorism-southeast asia Indonesia Muslim youth salute during the ceremony of defending the country against terrorism, radicalism and drug in Jakarta, on January 17, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

Read Part 1 here

Part 2

After Jakarta’s initial successes against militants such as those from Jemaah Islamiah, a new generation of Islamists began to emerge in Southeast Asia in the late 2000s and early 2010s. Some had been students in schools set up, in the 1990s and 2000s, by earlier generations of radicals, while others had taken part in plots and attacks in the 1990s and 2000s and had survived the region-wide crackdown on Jemaah Islamiah and other militants. Read more »

Podcast: The China-Pakistan Axis

by Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, February 4, 2016
The-China-Pakistan-Axis-Andrew-Small

Books on China’s relations with Pakistan are not usually at the top of my reading list, but I decided that it was time to delve into the topic when I encountered Andrew Small’s new book, The China-Pakistan Axis: Asia’s New Geopolitics. Maybe it was the creative and colorful cover that drew me in, but whatever the reason, Andrew, a transatlantic fellow with the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, has converted me to a follower of the relationship. Read more »

Tough Choices in Afghanistan

by Guest blogger for Alyssa Ayres Wednesday, February 3, 2016
U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield on December 13, 2001 (Dave Martin/Reuters). U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield on December 13, 2001 (Dave Martin/Reuters).

Robert M. Hathaway is a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC, where he is writing a book on leverage in foreign policy. Previously, he was director of the Wilson Center’s Asia program for sixteen years. Prior to joining the Wilson Center, he served for twelve years on the professional staff of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, focusing on South and East Asia. Read more »

Southeast Asia’s Democratic Regression and the Rise of Islamic State-Linked Militants

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, February 2, 2016
indonesia-islamic state Antiterror police walk as one carries a box with items retrieved from the house of a suspected militant involved in an attack in Jakarta, in Sampit, Indonesia Central Kalimantan province, on January 16, 2016. (Norjani/Antara Foto/Reuters)

Part 1

On January 14, militants struck in one of Jakarta’s busiest shopping and office districts. At around 11 am, one attacker blew up a suicide bomb at a Starbucks. Then, a group of attackers grabbed foreigners from the area, started firing wildly into the street, and drove a motorcycle toward a nearby police station and attacked that. The surviving militants then engaged in a running gun and bomb battle with Indonesian police, leaving a total of eight people dead, including five of the attackers. After the attacks, it quickly emerged that the purported ringleader, an Indonesian man named Bahrun Naim, had been living in the Islamic State’s “capital,” Raqqa, where he had reportedly organized the Jakarta violence. Read more »

The Japan-Korea Comfort Women Deal: Proper Implementation Is What Matters

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, February 1, 2016
A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji) A statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military is seen during a weekly anti-Japan rally in front of Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, December 30, 2015. (Courtesy REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)

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

The cycle of negativity surrounding Japan-South Korea relations since the Abe-Park era began in early 2013 has at times eclipsed North Korea as a source of angst among observers of Northeast Asia. Even the modest improvements that accompanied commemorations of the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic normalization in June 2015 were tinged by frustration over the two governments’ failure to move forward on the comfort woman issue. The main problem involved the acknowledgement of Japanese responsibility for the coercion of girls and women to provide sexual services to the military in imperial Japan, and this disagreement spilled over into other issues in the two countries’ relationship. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of January 29, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 29, 2016
Rajib-speech Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivers a speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, November 21, 2015. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriel Walker, and James West look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Malaysian prime minister evades corruption charges. Malaysia’s attorney general announced Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak did not commit a crime in accepting a $680 million donation from the Saudi royal family in 2013. Najib has been under investigation for corruption since July, when investigative journalists unearthed documents alleging the prime minister had taken $680 million from a state development fund he had created. Read more »

Podcast: China’s Coming War with Asia

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 29, 2016
Chinese-army-actors Actors dressed as Red Army soldiers perform at a gala show to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in Beijing, China, September 3, 2015. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

Jonathan Holslag, professor of international politics at the Free University of Brussels, in his terrific new book China’s Coming War with Asia puts forth the provocative thesis that war between China and Asia is inevitable. Driven by four grand aspirations—integration of frontier lands, popular support of the Party, international recognition of Chinese sovereignty, and recovery of lost territories—the Chinese leadership has embarked on a journey from which it will not deviate. Read more »

Violence Flares in Laos

by Joshua Kurlantzick Friday, January 29, 2016
laos-violence-2016 Officials attend the Communist Party Congress in Vientiane, Laos January 21, 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Despite its reputation for placidity, and its popularity as a backpacker tourist destination, Laos remains one of the most repressive and politically opaque countries in the world. It is consistently ranked as “not free” by Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Index, and unlike neighboring Thailand, Cambodia, or even Myanmar during junta rule, Laos has no organized opposition party. In fact, even small public protests in Laos are quickly suppressed, their leaders going missing for years afterward. Read more »