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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 "Sheila A. Smith"

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 »

Abe’s Diplomatic Agenda

by Sheila A. Smith
Visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inspects the honour guard during the state welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur July 25, 2013 Visiting Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe inspects the honor guard during the state welcoming ceremony in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur July 25, 2013 (Bazuki Muhammad/Courtesy Reuters).

Now that the Upper House election is over, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition has control over both houses in parliament, many expect Abe to begin addressing the difficult domestic policy issues on his agenda. In an article I published yesterday for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, I point out that Abe’s foreign policy choices will also greatly affect Japan’s future, particularly when it comes to how he manages three critical relationships: China, South Korea, and the United States. The first two will require Abe to address issues of deep historical distrust, while the last will test Abe’s ability to move forward long-overdue conversations on Japan-U.S. military cooperation. Read more »

Okinawa and Tokyo Today

by Sheila A. Smith
Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters) Governor of Okinawa Hirokazu Nakaima (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters)

My visit to Okinawa two weeks ago provided the opportunity to think about what has happened there over the past seventeen years, as the U.S. and Japanese governments have struggled to find a replacement facility for the Futenma Marine Air Station. Yet is it also important to recognize that national politics have changed considerably over this time, as have regional security dynamics. Today, the government in Okinawa faces new decisions, with as yet uncertain consequences for the effort to close Futenma. Read more »

Abe Reassures After Election Victory

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), who is also the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), puts a rosette on a name of a candidate, next to the party secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, at the party headquarters in Tokyo July 21, 2013. Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive victory in an upper house election on Sunday, cementing his grip on power and setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters) Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe (L), who is also the leader of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), puts a rosette on a name of a candidate, next to the party secretary-general Shigeru Ishiba, at the party headquarters in Tokyo July 21, 2013. Abe's ruling bloc won a decisive victory in an upper house election on Sunday, cementing his grip on power and setting the stage for Japan's first stable government since the charismatic Junichiro Koizumi left office in 2006. (Issei Kato/courtesy Reuters)

As expected, Japan’s ruling coalition won a majority in Sunday’s Upper House election, earning majority control of both houses of parliament for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The standoff between Upper and Lower Houses that began in 2007—what became known as the “twisted Diet”—is over. The question now is what the Abe cabinet will do with this legislative majority, and what priorities he will bring to Japanese governance over the next three years. Read more »

Okinawa, Then and Now

by Sheila A. Smith
Citizen protest signs decorate the fence that borders U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, where the U.S. and Japanese governments hope to build a new runway. Signs include protests against the Osprey and also ask for protection of the endangered manatee habitat. July 10, 2013 (Sheila Smith) Citizen protest signs decorate the fence that borders U.S. Marine base Camp Schwab, where the U.S. and Japanese governments hope to build a new runway. Signs include protests against the Osprey and also ask for protection of the endangered manatee habitat. July 10, 2013 (Sheila Smith)

For seventeen years, the U.S. and Japanese governments have sought to relocate the U.S. Marines from a heavily congested municipality to a more remote, rural one in northern Okinawa. Futenma Marine Air Station, however, remains open, and the prospects for relocation seem as unfathomable as ever. This past week, I revisited Okinawa, and these are my impressions of what has changed over the many years since I first came here to do research on the base protest movement in the late 1990s. Read more »