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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 "Arms sales"

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 »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 28, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a trilateral 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 on March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama holds a trilateral 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 on March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Obama holds trilateral talks with Japan and Korea. U.S. president Barack Obama led trilateral talks with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Tuesday in hopes of improving the relationship between Seoul and Tokyo. It was the first time South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe have met face-to-face as leaders. The meeting took place in The Hague on the side of the Nuclear Security Summit. 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 »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 25, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) gather during a protest at the Freedom Park in central Phnom Penh on October 23, 2013 (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) gather during a protest at the Freedom Park in central Phnom Penh on October 23, 2013 (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters).

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Turkey and China might coproduce air missile defense system. Turkey, a member of NATO and a U.S. ally, is in discussions to coproduce a long-range air and missile defense system with China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation, a Chinese firm that is under U.S. sanctions for violations of the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. The United States is “very concerned” by the $3.4 billion deal and its potential ramification for allied air defense, as the Chinese system would not integrate well with existing NATO defense infrastructure. Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey would be open to new offers from other companies, including the American company Raytheon, if the deal did not come to pass. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Friday that the United States should not “politicize the relevant normal commercial competition.” Read more »

Shazeda Ahmed: Saving Face in U.S.-China Space Relations

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
The sun is captured over Earth's horizon by one of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station on May 21, 2013 (NASA/Courtesy Reuters). The sun is captured over Earth's horizon by one of the Expedition 36 crew members aboard the International Space Station on May 21, 2013 (NASA/Courtesy Reuters).

Shazeda Ahmed is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In early- to mid-October, NASA came under fire for allegations of prejudice against Chinese scientists. Prominent scientists in the United States and Chinese netizens harshly criticized what they understood as NASA’s choice to bar Chinese scientists from attending an upcoming conference on the Kepler space telescope. Instead, it emerged that the agency was simply complying with a Congressional ban on using federal funds to collaborate with “China or any Chinese-owned companies.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 22, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) speaks with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 19, 2013. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (L) speaks with China's President Xi Jinping during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 19, 2013. (Feng Li/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Xi and Li begin their first week in office. Though the world has known who China’s chosen leaders are since November, the National People’s Congress (NPC) officially rubber-stamped Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang’s ascension to the roles of president and prime minister, respectively, last Thursday. In his first diplomatic meetings since taking office, Xi met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to discuss the most recent tensions in the U.S.-China relationship, before leaving for Moscow for his first diplomatic trip. Read more »

Review: ‘A Contest for Supremacy’ by Aaron Friedberg

by Joshua Kurlantzick
In ‘A Contest for Supremacy,’ Aaron Friedberg portrays the United States and China as almost fated to wind up in conflict, and suggests Beijing is already lapping Washington in preparing for such a fight (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). In ‘A Contest for Supremacy,’ Aaron Friedberg portrays the United States and China as almost fated to wind up in conflict, and suggests Beijing is already lapping Washington in preparing for such a fight (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

In the spring of 2010, after years of relative quiet in the South China Sea —the strategic body of water separating southeastern China from Southeast Asia, and including regions disputed by at least five claimants including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, tensions suddenly seemed to explode. Beijing announced that the Sea was a “core interest,” putting it in the highest pantheon of Chinese policy issues, alongside Tibet and Taiwan, on which China brooks no interference; China also increasingly pushed its claim that it controlled the territorial waters of nearly the entire South China Sea. It had warned other countries not to explore for oil and gas in the Sea, and had warned Western multinationals as well. Chinese ships would cut the lines of other countries’ fishing vessels operating in the Sea, while nationalist Chinese publications warned that other countries claiming even tiny portions of the water would lead to war. Read more »

Is It Time for America to Harden Its Asian Alliances?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese fighter jets take part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province on April 23, 2009.

Chinese fighter jets take part in an international fleet review to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army Navy in Qingdao, Shandong province on April 23, 2009. (Guang Niu/Courtesy of Reuters)

Anyone who needs convincing that China’s military trajectory is cause for alarm should take a look at “Asian Alliances in the 21st Century,” a new report co-authored by several well-known Asia security experts, including Dan Blumenthal, Randall Schriver, Mark Stokes, L.C. Russell Hsiao and Michael Mazza. The report details the rapid modernization of China’s military capabilities and claims that Beijing is interested neither in benign hegemonic rule nor in helping Washington address global challenges. Rather, China’s leaders are ultimately concerned only with maintaining their power and expanding their maritime reach.

The thrust of the report has merit. China’s assertiveness in the East and South China Seas, as well as its increasingly unattractive foreign policy rhetoric, gives significant reason for concern and little reason for optimism about China’s real interest in strengthening regional security cooperation in the near term.

There are no shades of gray in the report, however, and the lack of nuance can be disconcerting. Oddly enough, it may even lead the authors to be a bit too optimistic. In the “what do we do about it” section, for example, the report calls for a far more deeply integrated U.S.-led alliance system in Asia.  This proposal, however, raises a few additional issues that the report does not fully address. Read more »

What Will Vice President Biden Find in China?

by Elizabeth C. Economy

Then-U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden at the Great Wall of China at Badaling, north of Beijing, on August 10, 2001.

Next week Vice President Biden heads to China for a round of talks with the country’s current and future leaders. Certainly it is not the easiest time for the vice president to make such a trip. Few things have been as dispiriting as the terrible heat waves the United States has endured this summer, except perhaps the state of American politics. Our president seems lost, the Democrats marginalized and voiceless, and the Republicans an ugly house divided.

So, in the midst of this U.S. political and economic funk, what is the reception likely to be in Beijing? What is on the mind of Chinese observers and media analysts? Are they similarly bearish on the United States? Were all the predictions of a serious loss in U.S. international prestige on target?

Here is what I found: Read more »

New Delhi Buys a Plane, Not a Defense Relationship

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Cadets march during celebrations to mark the combined graduation parade for the flight cadets of the Indian Air Force at Dundigal. (Courtesy Reuters/Krishnendu Halder).

Defense is widely viewed in U.S. strategic circles as a pivotal sector for future U.S.-India cooperation. And at more than $10 billion, India’s procurement of 126 new multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) is among the world’s richest pending weapons purchases.  So by shortlisting two European competitors and passing on two U.S. bids, New Delhi has chosen a plane but, I fear, tapped the brakes on broadened security ties with Washington.

My good friend, Dan Twining, has an optimistic take on this over at Foreign Policy.com.  And since Dan and I are true believers in the U.S.-India partnership, I hope he’s right.  After all, the strategic rationale for closer U.S.-India ties transcends an airplane and very much remains.

But I fear the decision will dampen enthusiasm for India among powerful U.S. political and industrial lobbies.  And I fear it will raise questions for others about the scope of U.S.-India strategic cooperation.  Indeed, that’s true even in India.  Take Sanjaya Baru, my editor at the Business Standard and former media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.  Sanjaya has made this argument from the Indian end:  “The decision to make India’s choice of fighter jet a technical one,” he argues in his biweekly column, “was political.” And, he muses, the story says something important about the future trajectory of U.S.-India security ties.

Common interests will, of course, sustain the relationship, but skeptical voices will become more prominent in both capitals and the pace of big-ticket bilateral initiatives could slow.  That would be a shame.

Read more »