CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Author

Showing posts for "Scott A. Snyder"

The Park-Xi Honeymoon and the Limits of China’s Patience With North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
park xi summit june 2013 South Korean president Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping attend a joint declaration ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 27, 2013. Park and Xi have often met throughout the past year at multilateral summits, including the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague in March 2014 (Wang Zhao/Courtesy: Reuters).

A major foreign policy achievement that has thus far been credited to Park Geun-hye during her first year in office has been the establishment of a stronger foundation for good relations with China. Park received a warm welcome from China’s president Xi Jinping during a state visit to Beijing last summer and Park and Xi have routinely made time for each other at multilateral summits, most recently on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague. The hospitality afforded to Park stands in stark contrast both to the tensions that had characterized Sino-South Korean relations under Lee Myung-Bak and China’s treatment of Kim Jong-un, who remains in the dog house with Xi following nuclear and missile tests staged in the early stages of Xi’s term as President of China. Read more »

Is It Really Possible To Get Back To Six Party Talks?

by Scott A. Snyder
6PT 2006 Top envoys from six countries join hands on the eve of the resumption of Six Party Talks in Beijing on December 17, 2006. Pictured, from left, are South Korea's Chung Yung-Woo, Japan's Kenichiro Sasae, the United States' Christopher Hill, China's Wu Dawei, North Korea's Kim Kye-Gwan and Russia's Sergey Razov (Frederic J. Brown/Courtesy: Reuters).

At her joint press conference with President Barack Obama last month in Seoul, South Korean president Park Geun-hye stated against the backdrop of apparent preparations by North Korea to conduct a fourth nuclear test that such a test could trigger a nuclear arms race and would spell the end of efforts to resume Six Party Talks. South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se subsequently said that a fourth North Korean nuclear test would be a “gamechanger.” North Korea appears to have delayed plans for a test that many had expected might be timed to coincide with President Obama’s visit to Asia, but all indications are that North Korea is poised to go ahead with a fourth test at any time. Read more »

Obama and Park: Political Leadership Needed in the Face of Crisis

by Scott A. Snyder
park-on-sewol South Korean president Park Geun-hye speaks to family members of missing passengers who were on South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank at the sea off Jindo, during her visit to a gym in Jindo where family members gathered, on April 17, 2014. President Park said on Monday the actions of some crew of the ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

Rumors of an impending North Korean nuclear test have more than justified President Obama’s decision to add South Korea to his agenda during his trip to Asia this week. Rather than discussing security challenges, it would not be surprising if the American and South Korean leaders spend most of their time commiserating with each other over the limits and obstacles their respective governments are facing against high public expectations. Read more »

Obama’s Mission in Asia: Bring the Allies Together

by Scott A. Snyder
park-obama-abe-at-the-hague U.S. president Barack Obama hosted a trilateral meeting with South Korean president Park Geun-hye Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

President Obama took an important step before this week’s visit to Asia by bringing together Japanese and South Korean leaders for a trilateral summit at The Hague a few weeks ago. That meeting sent a crucial message that the president should hammer home at every opportunity in Asia this week: for the Obama administration’s rebalancing strategy toward Asia to be successful, America and its allies must work more closely with each other. Read more »

How to Spot A Shadowy North Korean Business

by Scott A. Snyder
Workers are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship Chong Chon Gang docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. Panama detained the North Korean–flagged ship from Cuba as it headed to the Panama Canal and said it was hiding weapons in brown sugar containers, sparking a standoff in which the ship's captain attempted to commit suicide (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy: Reuters). Workers are seen inside a North Korean flagged ship Chong Chon Gang docked at the Manzanillo Container Terminal in Colon City on July 16, 2013. Panama detained the North Korean–flagged ship from Cuba as it headed to the Panama Canal and said it was hiding weapons in brown sugar containers, sparking a standoff in which the ship's captain attempted to commit suicide (Carlos Jasso/Courtesy: Reuters).

The latest UN Panel of Experts report reveals that North Korean businesses connected with the illicit arms trade are most effective when they hide their North Korean colors and blend in to the international trading environment as nondescript entities. Their North Korean origins may be concealed by a web of false fronts, dizzying name changes, and layered ownership structures that distance them from their North Korean origins. In other cases, some North Korean companies may continue to operate openly despite having been sanctioned by the UN. Without sufficient due diligence, unwitting companies could be doing business with North Korean firms in violation of UN sanctions on North Korean nuclear, missile, and conventional arms traders. Read more »

Despite North Korean Political Risks, Sino-DPRK Trade Shows Stable Growth

by Scott A. Snyder
sinuiju-trade North Koreans sit beside bags of chemical fertilizer in Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in March 2013. In 2013, China stepped up checks on shipments to and from North Korea almost two months after agreeing to new U.N. sanctions that demand greater scrutiny of trade, but the flow of goods in and out of the reclusive state appears largely unaffected. Picture taken March 29, 2013 (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters).

North Korea’s dependency on China for energy and food has long been cited as a source of Chinese political leverage and a primary factor that could influence North Korean stability.  But if North Korea depends on China for the bulk of its food and fuel, why does China not punish tiny North Korea for biting the hands that feed it?  On the contrary, underlying trends run in the opposite direction, possibly due in part to China’s energy demand and in part to North Korea’s growing foreign currency need. Read more »

Behind the Chong Chon Gang Affair: North Korea’s Shadowy Arms Trade

by Scott A. Snyder
uden-oh-snyder The United Nations Panel of Experts on North Korea released their final report on compliance with sanctions on March 6, 2014. CFR Senior Fellow for Korea Studies and Director of the Program on U.S.-Korea Policy Scott Snyder (far right) joined (from left) UN Panel of Experts on North Korea coordinator Martin Uden, Foreign Press Association president and panel moderator, David Michaels, and ROK Mission to the UN in New York representative Ambassador Oh Joon, to discuss the report’s findings and implications at a press conference on March 18, 2014, at the ROK mission to the UN in New York (Courtesy: FPA).

Buried within the annexes of the latest United Nations report by experts impaneled to investigate North Korean efforts to circumvent sanctions placed on the country following its 2009 nuclear test is a tale of subterfuge worthy of a Hollywood thriller. Read more »

A Divided Family Reunification Bonanza in Korea?

by Scott A. Snyder
korea-family-reunions South Koreans on a bus bid farewell to their North Korean relatives after the November 2010 inter-Korean family reunions at Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea. This week’s reunions are the first held since they were suspended in 2010 following increased tension between the two Koreas. (Kim Chang-Gil/Courtesy Reuters).

A few lucky Korean family members from North and South will meet loved ones that they haven’t seen for over sixty years at the snowy, virtually abandoned Mount Kumgang tourist hotel complex, which itself is an apt backdrop for an uncertain “breakthrough” in inter-Korean relations. Fueled by parallel New Year’s speeches and resolutions by South and North Korean leaders last month (Kim Jong-un pledged to seek inter-Korean rapprochement; Park Geun-hye called reunification a daebak, or “bonanza”), North Korea has actually lived up to National Defense Commission declarations and pledges to set aside slander (for now) and possibly even to ignore the annual U.S.-ROK training exercises set to start on February 24 so that these inter-Korean family meetings can go forward. But on the rare occasions when inter-Korean relations ease, such circumstances always engender doubts about how and when the other shoe will drop. Read more »

Kerry and the Diplomatic Dead End With North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
kerry-in-beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry walks off after a news conference in Beijing on February 14, 2014. Kerry urged the Chinese to use “all of the means of persuasion that they have” to achieve a denuclearized North Korea (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry’s first visit to Northeast Asia last April was consumed with near-term crisis management since it coincided with the peak of regional tensions driven by North Korea’s provocative rhetoric. In contrast, his second visit to the region last week occurred against the backdrop of apparent easing of inter-Korean tensions and afforded a better environment for long-term coordination toward North Korea. Unfortunately, the visit appears to have illuminated the dead ends the administration faces on denuclearization of North Korea rather than showing a way forward. Washington has placed its bet on pressure from Beijing as the best hope for turning Pyongyang back to denuclearization, but Kerry’s conversations in Bejing raise questions about whether this route can really succeed. Read more »

Overcoming the Japan-South Korea Historical Identity Complex

by Scott A. Snyder
abe_park Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye link hands during the family photo at the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan on October 10, 2013. (Ahim Rani/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS. A version of this post also appeared as a Pacific Forum CSIS PacNet publication, and can be found here.

The announcement that China has cooperated with South Korea to open a memorial hall in Harbin in honor of Ahn Jung-geun, the independence activist who in 1909 assassinated Hirobumi Ito, Japanese colonial governor of Korea (then a Japanese protectorate), symbolizes the historical obstacles to forward-looking Japan-South Korea relations. The ensuing controversy reflects divergent views of history – one man’s terrorist is another’s “freedom fighter” – but this incident also illuminates a deeper, and more compelling, dimension of the split between Japan and the ROK as it is currently framed: contradictory conceptions of national identity that stand in the way of reconciliation steps necessary to improve relations. Read more »