CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Sheila A. Smith"

The President as Facilitator in Chief

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of the South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014 U.S. president Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

As if on cue, Pyongyang yet again emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea when it fired two Nodong missiles into the Sea of Japan. The timing was perfect—President Barack Obama was meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. The focus of their talks? North Korea’s threat to regional security. Read more »

Japan’s Painful Choice on the Ukraine Crisis

by Sheila A. Smith
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow April 29, 2013. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Gazprom is ready to help Japan with construction of new facilities for gas imports, but stopped short of offering Tokyo concrete participation in gas projects in Russia. REUTERS/Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool (RUSSIA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS ENERGY) - RTXZ3HU Russia's president Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow April 29, 2013. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/Courtesy Reuters)

This post is one of a three-part Asia Unbound series on the implications for Asia of the crisis in Ukraine. See related posts from my colleagues Elizabeth Economy and Alyssa Ayres.

The Russian decision to send military forces to the Ukraine has created a painful set of choices for Tokyo. Like some in Europe, Japan’s energy dependence on Russia makes the idea of sanctions troubling. Yet Tokyo too is particularly sensitive these days to the international community’s willingness to oppose the use of force to seize territory. With China increasingly challenging its sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea, Japan can hardly hesitate to stand up for others around the globe who are challenged by great power land grabs. Read more »

An East China Sea Update

by Sheila A. Smith
Admiral Samuel J. Locklear (L), Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at the Abe's official residence in Tokyo February 3, 2014 Admiral Samuel J. Locklear (L), Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their talks at the Abe's official residence in Tokyo February 3, 2014. (Kimimasa Mayama/Courtesy Reuters)

Since China announced its new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on November 23, there has been much debate over what this means for the U.S.-Japan alliance. In the East China Sea, the acute political tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over the Senkaku Islands have not abated nor has Beijing responded to Japan’s call for developing maritime risk reduction mechanisms. Meanwhile, a recent Nikkei poll revealed that 84 percent of its respondents were “anxious” about relations with Washington. Read more »

The Constancy of Contest with Okinawa

by Sheila A. Smith
Coral reefs are seen along the coast near the U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, off the tiny hamlet of Henoko in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, in this aerial photo taken by Kyodo on January 14, 2014. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters) Coral reefs are seen along the coast near the U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, off the tiny hamlet of Henoko in Nago on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, in this aerial photo taken on January 14, 2014. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)

On Sunday, voters in Nago City re-elected their mayor, Susumu Inamine. Compared with his predecessors, Inamine’s margin of victory was high—more than 4,000 votes more than his challenger. Unlike his predecessors, however, Inamine campaigned solidly against the relocation of the U.S. Marine airfield to his community, a policy advocated by Japan’s prime minister. Despite the Okinawa governor’s decision to approve construction of a new runway just weeks earlier, Inamine proclaimed that he would do all that he can to thwart the construction of the runway for the U.S. Marines in his city. Read more »

Abe’s Yasukuni Visit: The Consequences?

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo December 26, 2013 Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe (C) is led by a Shinto priest as he visits Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo December 26, 2013 (Toru Hanai/Courtesy Reuters).

On December 26, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made an official visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, drawing harsh criticism from Japan’s neighbors and a public rebuke from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. Now that he has done it, what are the likely policy consequences? Read more »

A New Strategy for a New Era

by Sheila A. Smith
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (4th L), flanked by Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera (5th L), reviews Japan Self-Defence Forces' (SDF) troops during the annual SDF ceremony at Asaka Base in Asaka, near Tokyo October 27, 2013 Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (4th L), flanked by Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera (5th L), reviews Japan Self-Defence Forces' (SDF) troops during the annual SDF ceremony at Asaka Base in Asaka, near Tokyo October 27, 2013 (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters).

Calling it a “proactive strategy for maintaining peace,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today announced Japan’s new long-term National Security Strategy (NSS). This strategy statement is new for Japan, and represents the first comprehensive, “whole-of-government” effort to articulate the ends and means for Japan’s long-term security. While North Korea remains a serious challenge, the Abe cabinet has abandoned past hesitancy and has clearly identified China and its maritime activities as Japan’s primary security concern. Read more »

Drawing Lines in the East China Sea

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks after a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013 U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks after a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013 (Lintao Zhang/Courtesy Reuters).

When Vice President Joe Biden originally planned his trip to Northeast Asia, the policy agenda for each of his stops differed. In Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was high on his list; in Beijing, it was cementing his friendship with China’s new leader, Xi Jinping; and, in Seoul the road ahead in coping with Pyongyang seemed most important. Liz Economy does a terrific job of evaluating the vice president’s impact in China, and Scott Snyder offers his insights on how Biden managed the sensitive diplomatic moment in Seoul. Read more »

China Ups the Ante in East China Sea Dispute

by Sheila A. Smith
China announces new Air Defense Identification Zone across the East China Sea November 23, 2013 (Courtesy China's Ministry of National Defense). China announces new Air Defense Identification Zone across the East China Sea November 23, 2013 (Courtesy China's Ministry of National Defense).

Over the weekend, China announced a new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) across the East China Sea. Already at odds over their maritime boundary in the East China Sea, as well as over their sovereignty dispute over the Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands for the Chinese) that sit offshore Okinawa, Beijing’s unilateral assertion of its control over the airspace above the sea will further upset the predictability of maritime relations in Northeast Asia. Coming too at a time when Beijing refuses to discuss these issues with Tokyo, China has vastly increased the unpredictability of the already growing interaction between Japanese and Chinese militaries. Read more »

A New Island Is Born…

by Sheila A. Smith
Smoke from an erupting undersea volcano forms a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima (top L), a small uninhabited island, in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands in this November 21, 2013 Smoke from an erupting undersea volcano forms a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima, a small uninhabited island, in the southern Ogasawara chain of islands in this November 21, 2013 (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)>

Japan witnessed the arrival of a new island with a volcanic eruption near Nishinoshima in the Bonin group of islands 600 miles south of Tokyo. In just one day, the land mass grew approximately 100 square meters.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga beamed from ear to ear at his daily press conference, exclaiming “If it becomes a full-fledged island, we would be happy to have more territory!” I wonder if it will extend Japan’s EEZ? Read more »

Ambassador Caroline Kennedy

by Sheila A. Smith
Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (L) is escorted by protocol chief Nobutake Odano as she arrives at the Imperial Palace by horse-drawn carriage in Tokyo, November 19, 2013 Newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy is escorted by protocol chief Nobutake Odano as she arrives at the Imperial Palace by horse-drawn carriage in Tokyo, November 19, 2013 (Issei Kato/Courtesy Reuters).

There are times when pictures speak louder than words. An aura of the past surrounded the procession that bore U.S. ambassador Caroline Kennedy to the Imperial Palace to present her credentials to his majesty, Emperor Akihito. All ambassadors sent to Japan go through this ceremony, but the choice of an antique carriage and entourage replete with an Imperial footman on a white horse could not have suited Ambassador Kennedy better. The daughter of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, the ambassador is the first woman appointed to lead the U.S. diplomatic mission to Japan. Crowds of Japanese lined the streets outside the palace to wave flags and snap photos. From inside the carriage, she smiled and waved warmly as if this was an everyday occurrence, and at her press conference after meeting the Emperor, she said simply, “I’m honored to represent my country.” Read more »