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Asia Unbound

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

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How Korea Can Lead on Climate Change

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech at an inaugural meeting of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Seoul October 23, 2012. The Institute, launched in 2010 to promote green economic growth strategies, was upgraded last week to the status of an international organisation, reported local media. (REUTERS/Jung Yeon-je/Pool) South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak delivers a speech at an inaugural meeting of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in Seoul October 23, 2012. The Institute, launched in 2010 to promote green economic growth strategies, was upgraded last week to the status of an international organisation, reported local media. (REUTERS/Jung Yeon-je/Pool)

Note: Asia Unbound is reposting this blog today, as it was supposed to be published this week, not last week when this piece was first published.

Jill Kosch O’Donnell is an independent researcher and writer.

The global climate talks underway in Paris this week, aimed at achieving a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, represent a milestone in an evolving approach to these annual UN-led negotiations. Formerly focused on haggling over developed country targets for emissions reductions, they now emphasize action by all countries, which were supposed to submit national climate change plans ahead of time, known as “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs). This new modus operandi presents an opening for Korea to assert itself as a middle power, drawing on its dual identity as a developing country and an OECD member. But it will not be through the country’s INDC. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 20, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Seoul-protests - 11-20-2015 A protester reacts as water mixed with tear gas liquid is sprayed by police water canon to disperse protesters during an anti-government rally in central Seoul, South Korea, November 14, 2015. (Kim Hong-ji/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Antigovernment protests erupt in Seoul. This week, tens of thousands of people filled City Hall plaza in downtown Seoul to protest President Park Geun-hye, demanding her resignation. The protestors wore plastic raincoats to guard against the cannons of water and liquid tear gas fired at them by the police. Read more »

China Recalculates Its Coal Consumption: Why This Really Matters

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A labourer works at a coking plant in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, July 7, 2007. Starting off in Sydney on Saturday and travelling west around the world, the Live Earth concerts, planned for this weekend, are expected to attract more than a million people to raise awareness of global warming and environmental issues like climate change. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA) CHINA OUT A laborer works at a coking plant in Changzhi, north China's Shanxi province, July 7, 2007. (Stringer/Reuters)

It seems like a distant memory now, but just one month ago, the international community was lauding China for stepping up its commitment to address climate change by pledging to initiate a cap-and-trade system for CO2 by 2017 and contributing $3.1 billion to a fund to help poor countries combat climate change. Now, however, the talk is all about the release of a new set of game-changing Chinese statistics on coal consumption. A New York Times headline blared: “China burns much more coal than reported, complicating climate talks.”  And the Guardian reported: “China underreporting coal consumption by up to 17%, data suggests.”

Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 23, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Xi-and-queen-10-23-15 Chinese President Xi Jinping with Queen Elizabeth II at a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, London, during the first day of his state visit to Britain. Tuesday October 20, 2015. (Dominic Lipinski/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Xi Jinping visits the United Kingdom. Fresh off his trip to the United States, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an official visit to the UK, meeting with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister David Cameron. As with Xi’s U.S. trip, PRC propagandists have pulled no punches, airing warm and fuzzy videos explaining how good China-UK relations are and showing thousands of Chinese nationals “spontaneously” lining London’s streets to wave pro-China banners shipped in by the country’s UK embassy. Read more »

What’s New in the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry participates with Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj (L) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (R) at the U.S-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue plenary session at the State Department in Washington on September 22, 2015 (Gary Cameron/Reuters).

Yesterday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker co-convened, with their Indian counterparts External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister of State Nirmala Sitharaman, the new U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD). India and the United States have been convening a strategic dialogue since 2010, so the change this year elevated discussion of economic and commercial issues to the cabinet level alongside the central matters of security and global diplomatic concerns. Read more »

Will South Korean Nuclear Leadership Make a Difference in 2016?

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) reaches out to shake the hand of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in Seoul March 26, 2012. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) reaches out to shake the hand of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in Seoul March 26, 2012. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters)

Toby Dalton is the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced this week that the Republic of Korea will chair the December 2016 ministerial meeting on nuclear security in Vienna, Austria. South Korea will also chair the forty-eight-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) next year and is slated to host the group’s annual plenary meeting in Seoul. 2016 is shaping up to be a critical year for South Korea’s nuclear diplomacy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 14, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters) Workers clean a road near the site of the explosions at the Binhai new district, Tianjin, August 13, 2015. Two huge explosions tore through an industrial area where toxic chemicals and gas were stored in the northeast Chinese port city of Tianjin, killing at least forty-four people, including at least a dozen fire fighters, officials and state media said on Thursday. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson,  Lauren Dickey, Ariella Rotenberg, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China’s central bank allows currency to devalue. The renminbi (RMB) declined by more than 4 percent this week as the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) set the currency’s daily benchmark lower for several days in a row. The drop may help strengthen the domestic economy, which has faltered in recent months; the PBOC’s willingness to allow the currency’s market rate to drop may suggest that the Chinese economy is doing even worse than some indicators suggest, which could spell trouble for countries that rely on China’s commodity imports. Read more »

How South Korea Can Take Advantage of Nuclear Cooperation With the United States

by Scott A. Snyder
shin-kori The Shin Kori No. 4 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) is seen in Ulsan, about 410 km (255 miles) southeast of Seoul, in this file photo from September 3, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. A version of this article also was published in Korean in Dong-A Ilbo on April 22, 2015. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 17, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters) Local residents and their supporters celebrate after the Fukui District Court issued an injunction to prevent the restart of two nuclear reactors at Takahama nuclear power plant, in front of the court in Fukui, northwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 14, 2015. (Kyodo/Courtesy: Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, William Piekos, and Ariella Rotenberg look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Japan court blocks reopening of nuclear reactors. A Japanese district court issued orders for two nuclear reactors in western Fukui prefecture to stay offline, rejecting regulators’ safety approval of the planned restart later this year. The court criticized the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s lax safety standards, particularly in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima crisis. Kansai Electric, the operators of the reactors in Fukui, plan to file a protest asking the court to reverse its decision. With all forty-eight commercial reactors in Japan still offline, the decision may further delay Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to restart nuclear reactors. Abe has said the shutdown damages the struggling Japanese economy, forcing Japan to import expensive fossil fuels to compensate for the existing energy deficit. Read more »

The Future of U.S.-ROK Nuclear Cooperation

by Scott A. Snyder
kori-power-lines Power transmission towers are seen near the plant of new Shin Kori No. 3 reactor and No. 4 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) in Ulsan, about 255 miles southeast of Seoul, in this photo taken September 3, 2013. (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters)

This post was co-authored with Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

South Korean and U.S. negotiators are on the verge of concluding a new bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement to replace the current outdated one, which has been in place since 1974. This new agreement undoubtedly will be criticized by some in South Korea because it does not give Seoul unconditional approval to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel. But such narrowly-focused criticism is misplaced, for it overlooks the importance of the agreement to Korea’s energy security and the future of its nuclear program. Read more »