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Asia Unbound

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

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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 17, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters) Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Japan court blocks reopening of nuclear reactors. A Japanese district court issued orders for two nuclear reactors in western Fukui prefecture to stay offline, rejecting regulators’ safety approval of the planned restart later this year. The court criticized the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s lax safety standards, particularly in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima crisis. Kansai Electric, the operators of the reactors in Fukui, plan to file a protest asking the court to reverse its decision. With all forty-eight commercial reactors in Japan still offline, the decision may further delay Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to restart nuclear reactors. Abe has said the shutdown damages the struggling Japanese economy, forcing Japan to import expensive fossil fuels to compensate for the existing energy deficit. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Joyce Dong: China’s Reactions to Assessments of the PLA’s Weaknesses

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing, July 22, 2014. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic (CHINA - Tags: MILITARY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers shout as they hold guns and practise in a drill during a organized media tour at a PLA engineering school in Beijing on July 22, 2014 (Petar Kujundzic/Courtesy Reuters).

Joyce Dong is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent publications such as the RAND Corporation’s report “China’s Incomplete Military Transformation: Assessing the Weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)” and Dennis Blasko’s article “Ten Reasons Why China Will Have Trouble Fighting a Modern Warmark a significant shift away from the usual narrative that China’s economic rise has led to an increasingly militarized and powerful PLA. While the PLA’s military budget continues to grow at double-digit rates, these reports suggest that the “China threat” has been overhyped. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 3, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters) Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha prays as he takes a part in the merit-making ceremony on the occasion of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn's birthday at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on April 2, 2015. (Damir Sagolj/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Thailand lifts martial law and puts in place a “new security order.” Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej approved a request from the country’s junta to lift martial law on Wednesday and trade it for a so-called new security order. Most experts agree this choice was a cosmetic one, not substantive, that was an attempt to improve the appearance of Thailand to the outside world while maintaining absolute power for the junta. Read more »

Lauren Dickey: China’s Myanmar Quandary

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Children queue for food at a refugee camp in the Kokang region of Myanmar, near the border with China, on February 21, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters) Children queue for food at a refugee camp in the Kokang region of Myanmar, near the border with China, on February 21, 2015. (Stringer/Courtesy: Reuters)

Lauren Dickey is a research associate for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Violence along the border between China and Myanmar, in the ethnically Chinese-populated Kokang region, has left Beijing with the dual challenges of refugee outflows and instability along its border.  For the last seven weeks, armed conflict between the Myanmar Army and Kokang rebels, under the banner of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), has sent at least thirty thousand people across the porous border between Myanmar and China’s Yunnan province. In response, Beijing has increased its military presence along the border with Myanmar, and has even been accused of supplying the rebel forces with weapons and supplies. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 27, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters) Guards lower the national flag to half-mast after the passing of former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on March 23, 2015. (Lee Hsien Loong/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. Lee Kuan Yew, founding father of Singapore, dies. Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore into one of Asia’s wealthiest and least corrupt countries during his time as founding father and first prime minister, died on Monday. Lee was prime minister beginning in 1959, after Singapore gained full self-government from the British, until 1990. While his leadership was often criticized for suppressing freedom, his advocacy of “Asian values” and development models succeeded in making Singapore an international hub of business, culture, and finance. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. South Korea warns China against interfering amid missile defense debate. On Tuesday a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson asked Beijing to not interfere in its defense policy, an unusual request with an increasingly close regional partner. Washington has been asking Seoul to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea. Read more »

Frank Mondelli: Can Recent Social Unrest Be Resolved in Okinawa’s Base Problem?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters shout slogans during a rally against the relocation of a U.S. military base, in front of the Okinawa prefectural government office building, in Naha on the Japanese southern islands of Okinawa, in this photo taken by Kyodo December 27, 2013. Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima approved on Friday landfill work for the relocation of the U.S. military's Futenma air base within his prefecture, going back on his pledge to move the base out of Okinawa, Kyodo news reported. The banner reads, "No recognition of landfill at Henoko". Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo (JAPAN - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN Protesters shout slogans during a rally against the relocation of a U.S. military base, in front of the Okinawa prefectural government office building, in Naha on the Japanese southern islands of Okinawa, in this photo taken by Kyodo on December 27, 2013 (Kyodo/Courtesy of Reuters).

Frank Mondelli graduated from Swarthmore College in 2014 and is currently a Fulbright Fellow in Okinawa, Japan.

Seventy years into the postwar era, Okinawa is still grappling with the issues stemming from the large U.S. military presence on its soil. Recently, tensions between local citizens and U.S. and Japanese militaries over the construction of a new base have reached a critical point, resulting in an escalating series of incidents. While the U.S.-Japan alliance as a whole benefits strongly from Okinawa’s current role in their partnership, better communication needs to occur between antibase protestors and military officials if they are to peacefully and constructively navigate political and social realities. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on March 13, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. U.S. rebukes UK for joining Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK announced that it would become a founding member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite the urging of the United States. Washington has openly lobbied against the AIIB, influencing South Korea and Australia to eschew membership, but Britain’s decision opens the door for other Western countries to reconsider. Read more »