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Asia Unbound

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

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Showing posts for "Joshua Kurlantzick"

Power Trip: Might China’s Struggles With Its Neighbors Bring War to Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
spratlys Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines on March 31, 2014. (Erik De Castro/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post also appeared at The Nationaland can be found here.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 160,000 miles square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino Marines camp on a rusty hulk of an American World War II-era ship grounded in the Spratlys. Read more »

Thailand’s Next Constitution Becomes Clearer

by Joshua Kurlantzick
thai military Thai soldiers stand guard at the police boat T813 tsunami memorial in Khao Lak, Phang Nga province on December 25, 2014. (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters)

Although much of the negotiations within Thailand’s constitutional drafting committee, hand picked by the Thai military, will go on without public input, the outlines of the next constitution are becoming clearer as the drafting committee has begun to meet. In recent weeks, some aspects of the drafting have been covered – and even occasionally criticized – by the Thai media, and it is clear that, despite being picked by the military, a few drafters have concerns about the opaque drafting process and the possible rollback of democratic institutions in the next constitution. Read more »

Where the Pivot Went Wrong – And How To Fix It

by Joshua Kurlantzick
pivot and SE Asia President Barack Obama joins hands with leaders, including Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Obama, Myanmar President Thein Sein, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, during a group photo for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Summit in Naypyitaw on November 13, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

Since the start of President Barack Obama’s first term, the United States has pursued a policy of rebuilding ties with Southeast Asia. By 2011 this regional focus had become part of a broader strategy toward Asia called the “pivot,” or rebalance. This approach includes shifting economic, diplomatic, and military resources to the region from other parts of the world. In Southeast Asia, a central part of the pivot involves building relations with countries in mainland Southeast Asia once shunned by Washington because of their autocratic governments, and reviving close U.S. links to Thailand and Malaysia. The Obama administration has also upgraded defense partnerships throughout the region, followed through on promises to send high-level officials to Southeast Asian regional meetings, and increased port calls to and basing of combat ships in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Reforming Indonesia’s Aviation Safety Procedures

by Joshua Kurlantzick
airasia search A crew member of an Indonesian Air Force NAS 332 Super Puma helicopter looks out a window during a flight with Muslim clerics to offer prayers for the victims of AirAsia flight QZ 8501, over the Java Sea off Pangkalan Bun on January 6, 2015. (Achmad Ibrahim/Courtesy: Reuters)

The crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, though tragic, was not an enormous surprise to anyone who follows aviation in Indonesia, or who has flown repeatedly in Indonesia. This is not to say that AirAsia has a poor safety record; the airline had never had a fatal accident prior to this one, and AirAsia management has responded admirably to the crash. Senior management, including AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, have reached out to families of the survivors, trying to keep them updated about information on the search and rescue operations and personally consoling relatives of people who were on Flight 8501. Read more »

Why Air Disasters Keep Happening in and Around Indonesia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters) Family members of passengers onboard AirAsia flight QZ8501 react at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya December 30, 2014. Indonesian rescuers saw bodies and luggage off the coast of Borneo island on Tuesday and officials said they were "95 percent sure" debris spotted in the sea was from a missing AirAsia plane with 162 people on board. Indonesia AirAsia's Flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320-200, lost contact with air traffic control early on Sunday during bad weather on a flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. (Beawiharta/Courtesy: Reuters)

In the past year, Malaysia’s aviation industry has suffered an unprecedented number of tragedies. Although the odds of any person boarding a flight dying in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million, three Malaysia-based aircraft have apparently gone down, with no survivors. The latest, AirAsia Flight QZ8501, had been traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore when it vanished over the Java Sea.
Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia (Part 2)

by Joshua Kurlantzick
petronas Motorists queue to fill up on natural gas at a Petronas station, with the company's headquarters at the landmark Petronas Twin Towers visible in the background, in Kuala Lumpur in this file photo from July 30, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy: Reuters).

Following up from last week, I am now counting down my top five predictions for 2015. Read more »

New Year’s Predictions for Southeast Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the National League for Democracy Party's central committee meeting at a restaurant in Yangon on December 13, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

It’s that time of year again. Since I will be away between Christmas and the end of the year, this is the week for boldly making predictions about 2015 in Southeast Asia. At the end of 2015, just like this year, we can look back and see how many of my fearless predictions were right, and how many missed the mark. Read more »

The Senate Torture Report’s Global Ramifications

by Joshua Kurlantzick
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 »

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

by Joshua Kurlantzick
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 »

Better Planning This Time for Philippine Typhoon

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Typhoon-Hagupit Children look out of a window at an evacuation center set up for the coastal community to shelter from Typhoon Hagupit, near Manila, on December 8, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos began to return to their homes battered by a powerful typhoon over the weekend, but the nation collectively breathed a sigh of relief as a massive evacuation plan appeared to minimize fatalities (Cheryl Gagalac/Courtesy: Reuters).

As of Sunday night on the U.S. East Coast, Typhoon Hagupit had made landfall in the Philippines and moved across parts of the country. The typhoon had weakened and appears to not pack the force of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated parts of the Philippines last year. Still, Hagupit already has caused significant damage. Casualty and damage figures remain incomplete, but initial estimates suggest that at least 20 people have been killed and thousands of homes have been destroyed by Typhoon Hagupit, with the damage yet to be tolled from the storm’s movement over Metro Manila. Typhoon Hagupit also may have set back some of the reconstruction that has taken place in areas hit by Haiyan last year. Read more »