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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Pence Returns Home: Southeast Asia Overshadowed

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pence-australia U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (L) meets with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, on April 22, 2017. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Vice President Mike Pence, after a brief but relatively successful trip in Asia, rushed back to Washington ahead of schedule this week; the U.S. administration plans to tackle a very important set of domestic priorities including tax reform and keeping the federal government open. Pence reduced his time in Honolulu at the end of his trip. More important, as Reuters notes, portions of his trip in Indonesia and Australia were overshadowed by the increasingly tense environment in Northeast Asia, which now includes the reported chance of another North Korean missile or nuclear test Tuesday. Read more »

Vice President Mike Pence in Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pence-indonesia tour U.S. Vice President Mike Pence tours the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia on April 20, 2017. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

On his current visit to Indonesia, Vice President Mike Pence appears likely to play a role he is quickly becoming accustomed to—the low-key, reassuring, figure who provides continuity in U.S. foreign policy. On Thursday, Pence toured Indonesia’s largest mosque, after earlier calling the country’s moderate form of Islam “an inspiration,” and met with Indonesian religious leaders from various faiths. This is just the kind of public diplomacy that would have fit right into the regional soft power strategies of the Obama or George W. Bush administrations, and Pence is, in private, likely to offer broad reassurances of the importance of the U.S.-Indonesia relationship for Washington. Read more »

Thailand’s New King Adds Even More Uncertainty to Thai Politics

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Thailand-Vajiralongkorn Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun salutes as he arrives at the monument of King Rama I after signing a new constitution in Bangkok, Thailand on April 6, 2017. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Two weeks ago, David Streckfuss, a longtime analyst of Thai royal politics, wrote an incisive op-ed in the New York Times. It effectively summarized a growing current of analysis about how Thailand’s new king, Maha Vajiralongkorn, may upend the country’s already fractious politics. Read more »

Some Reasons for New Tensions Over Cambodia’s Debt

by Joshua Kurlantzick
hun-sen-debt Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen smiles as he arrive at the National Assembly of Cambodia during a plenary session, in central Phnom Penh, on February 20, 2017. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

In recent months, the issue of Cambodia’s Indochina War-era debt to the United States, for which the U.S. government still demands repayment, has resurfaced once again. A recent lengthy New York Times article outlines the current situation, which has also been covered by Southeast Asian media. The Cambodian government is asking Washington to forgive a loan made to the Lon Nol government to buy essential items, at a time when U.S. bombing and the growing civil war in Cambodia had driven large numbers of refugees into Phnom Penh. Read more »

What Happens to Congressional Southeast Asia Policy Under a New U.S. Administration?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
congress-southeast asia U.S. Democratic Leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (front C) and Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang (3rd R) pose for a photo with other U.S. representatives and officials after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on March 31, 2015. (Kham/Reuters)

Unlike many regions of the world, where U.S. foreign policy has in recent decades been dominated by the executive branch, since the end of the Cold War Congress has played a major role in policy toward much of Southeast Asia. In mainland Southeast Asia, in fact, Congress has often been the dominant foreign policy actor, in part because successive U.S. administrations—throughout the 1990s and 2000s—placed a relatively low priority on mainland Southeast Asia. Read more »

Will the North Korea-Malaysia Crisis Cause a Shift in Southeast Asian States’ Relationships with Pyongyang?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
malaysia-north korea A view of the North Korea embassy that has been sealed off in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on March 7, 2017. (Lai Seng Sin/Reuters)

As I noted in a piece I co-authored with Scott Snyder shortly after the apparent assassination of Kim Jong Nam, Malaysia is but one of many Southeast Asian nations that have relatively robust diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. Or at least—Malaysia had relatively robust ties with Pyongyang. Read more »

A Lack of Oversight—Dating Back Decades

by Joshua Kurlantzick
bin laden raid U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and Vice President Joe Biden (L), along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. (White House/Pete Souza/Reuters)

Between 1961 and 1973, in a civil war in the tiny Southeast Asian country of Laos, the Central Intelligence Agency oversaw a massive paramilitary operation. CIA operatives, working with the U.S. embassy, Thai commandos, U.S. military advisors, and others, helped build an army of tens of thousands of anticommunist Laotians, mostly from the Hmong ethnic group. Read more »

Arrests in the Death of U Ko Ni

by Joshua Kurlantzick
FILE PHOTO - Supporters carry the coffin of Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority and legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy, after he was shot dead, in Yangon, Myanmar January 30, 2017. REUTERS/Mg Nyi Nyi Supporters carry the coffin of Ko Ni, a prominent member of Myanmar's Muslim minority and legal adviser for Myanmar's ruling National League for Democracy, after he was shot dead, in Yangon, Myanmar on January 30, 2017. (Mg Nyi Nyi/Reuters)

The apparent assassination of an advisor to de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi outside Yangon airport last month has raised disturbing questions about the country’s stability, and about Suu Kyi’s control of Myanmar’s military and police. U Ko Ni, a well-known lawyer and advisor to the National League for Democracy (NLD), was shot at close range just outside Yangon airport on January 29, after returning to Myanmar from Jakarta. He died on the spot. Read more »

The Death of Kim Jong Nam

by Joshua Kurlantzick and Scott A. Snyder
North Korean heir-apparent Kim Jong Nam emerges from a bus as he is escorted by Japanese authorities upon his deportation from Japan at Tokyo's Narita international airport May 4, 2001. Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the man entered Japan with a forged passport on Tuesday, but was deported to China on Friday. (Eriko Sugita)

The death in Malaysia of Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, was shocking on its surface. Reports indicate that two women may have poisoned him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, while others suggest a larger group of people might have been involved. Reports further suggest the attackers may have poisoned Kim Jong Nam with a needle, while other reports allege they sprayed or used a cloth to apply some kind of poison on him. He died on his way to a hospital in the Malaysian capital. Read more »

The Laos War and its Long-Term Impact on U.S. Relations with Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
obama-laos U.S. President Barack Obama delivers an address at the Lao National Cultural Hall, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit, in Vientiane, Laos on September 6, 2016. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In my new book, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA, I examine how the covert war in Laos, during the 1960s and early 1970s, dramatically changed the Central Intelligence Agency. But the war also forever altered Laotian domestic politics, and Vientiane’s relationship with Washington. Within the country, the war’s effects continue to shape politics. After 1975, Laotian security forces usually viewed Hmong communities with suspicion, and harshly repressed all political activity, as the post-1975 Laotian government instituted one of the toughest authoritarian regimes in the world. Read more »