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Asia Unbound

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

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Korean Middle Power Diplomacy: The Establishment of MIKTA

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) and his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa share a moment before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-South Korea Ministerial Meeting at the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 1, 2013. (Ahim Rani/courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the flurry of diplomatic consultations that focused on Syria and Iran among other issues at the UN General Assembly, five countries that consider themselves as newly emerging middle powers and G-20 members have banded together in a little-noticed move to form a new consultative group and to create a new acronym: MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey, and Australia). Read more »

Dagny Dukach: The Wary Partnership Between China and Russia

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 22, 2013. Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) exchanges documents with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 22, 2013. (Sergei Karpukhin/Courtesy Reuters)

Dagny Dukach is an intern for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Sino-Russian cooperation has grown considerably over the past few months, with the most notable example of this being China and Russia’s joint naval exercise in July. Against the backdrop of Obama’s pivot to Asia and rhetoric from Russian and Chinese leaders extolling their renewed cooperative spirit, some Western observers have suggested that improved relations between the two powers threaten U.S. interests. Read more »

Colonel Brian Killough: The Catch-22 of Modern Chinese Foreign Policy

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) and Wang Jiarui, the head of the International Liaison Department of China's Communist Party, walk together for their meeting in Pyongyang on August 2, 2012. (KCNA/Courtesy Reuters)

Colonel Brian Killough is the U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

In Joseph Heller’s famous novel, Catch-22, the bombardier, John Yosserian, is caught in a situational paradox. Yosserian wants to be declared unfit for duty because he doesn’t want to fly in combat where he might be killed. But, by expressing his lack of desire, he shows himself to be sane and therefore among the most fit to fly in combat. Similarly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) finds itself today in a foreign policy paradox. Read more »

Re-Envisioning ASEAN

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. president Obama participates in a family photo of ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh. U.S. president Obama participates in a family photo of ASEAN leaders during the ASEAN Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

In the wake of ASEAN’s disastrous year, which included open fissures in the organization over how to handle the South China Sea, spats between Cambodia and the Philippines, and the utter failure to play any role in helping resolve growing violence in western Myanmar, many commentators —including the current ASEAN secretary-general— have argued that the organization needs to change substantially over the next decade if it is to remain, as it hopes, at the center of East Asian integration. I took my own stab at proposing some far-reaching —some might say idealistic— goals for ASEAN to meet over the next twenty years. Many of the goals that I set out in the paper might seem far-reaching for an organization that has always moved slowly and prided itself on operating, Quaker-style, through consensus. And yet powerful voices within ASEAN, including inside the Secretariat, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam, do realize the organization needs to change substantially. Read more »

U.S.-ROK Security Consultative Meetings: A Review of Progress Under the Obama and Lee Administrations

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters) South Korean defense minister Kim shakes hands with U.S. defense secretary Panetta during a joint news conference in Seoul (Pool/courtesy Reuters)

U.S. secretary of defense Panetta and ROK minister of defense Kim Kwan-jin released a joint communique following the 44th annual Security Consultative Meetings (SCM) on Wednesday.  Since this meeting is an annual event that rotates between Washington and Seoul, I decided to compare this week’s communique with the one issued four years ago (at the end of the Bush administration) under Lee Myung-bak’s first defense minister Lee Sang-hee and his counterpart Robert Gates to provide a sense of how the relationship has developed during the stewardship of Presidents Lee and Obama.  Here are my takeaways: Read more »

Can China Lead?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters march down a street during an anti-Japan protest in Shenzhen on August 19, 2012. Protesters march down a street during an anti-Japan protest in Shenzhen on August 19, 2012. (Keita Van / Courtesy Reuters)

Yesterday, I participated in a BBC/Carnegie Endowment debate on the U.S. presidential campaign and policy toward China with the eminent and estimable Ambassadors Chas W. Freeman, Jr. and J. Stapleton Roy, and Tsinghua University scholar Yan Xuetong.  The full debate is available here.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but what struck me most was an assertion by one of the panelists that the next U.S. president will have to deal with the fact that China has surpassed the United States as the number one power (based on the size of its economy). As a result, in his opinion, China will no longer feel the need to defer to the United States and the current arrangement of international institutions. Read more »

China as a Responsible Power: “Known by the Company You Keep”

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. (Sana Sana / Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a Research Associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On August 3, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for its human rights violations against opposition rebels. The West, the Arab League, and most other UN member states voted to censure Assad’s government, while China, Russia, and an array of authoritarian states—including North Korea, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran, Myanmar, and Cuba—voted against the resolution. Though China’s vote is not unexpected, it does little to enhance Beijing’s efforts to be considered a responsible power.       Read more »

China’s Olympic Debate

by Elizabeth C. Economy
China's Feng Zhe, the eventual gold medal winner, reacts after competing in the men's gymnastics parallel bars final during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 7, 2012. China's Feng Zhe, the eventual gold medal winner, reacts after competing in the men's gymnastics parallel bars final during the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 7, 2012. (Brian Snyder / Courtesy Reuters)

The Chinese stand second in the Olympic medals table—both in gold and overall—but you would never know it from what’s going on in their media. Of course, there is celebration of the country’s athletes. Yet the flawless performances of the Chinese divers and spectacular achievements of the Chinese male gymnasts are in danger of being drowned out by a torrent of commentary focused on what the games mean for China as a society and for its place in the world.  Some of the commentary is lamenting, some angry, and still other searching.

Read more »

What Can the East Asia Summit Do for Northeast Asia?

by Scott A. Snyder
Leaders walk during dinner at the East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua, Bali

Leaders walk during dinner at the East Asia Summit gala dinner in Nusa Dua, Bali November 18, 2011 (Beawiharta/Courtesy Reuters).

Although this weekend’s East Asia Summit (EAS) is the sixth in the series, it will be part of American awareness for the first time as a result of America’s decision to join the group (with Russia) and President Obama’s first-time participation. In some respects, it will be a new start for the organization. EAS priorities do appear to have been reshuffled as a result of American membership away from economics and toward three main issues that mesh well with American priorities: disaster relief, nonproliferation, and maritime security. While the United States has reportedly been careful not to usurp leadership within the EAS, ASEAN thus far seems very responsive to American priorities. However, Korea University’s Lee Shin-wha argues in this month’s Korea Update essay that there is a deep disconnect between East Asian summitry and Northeast Asian security needs that is likely to remain. The sixth EAS may feel like a new start, but there is a long way to go in establishing effective regional-based solutions to acute and longstanding security problems such as the standoff on the Korean peninsula. Read more »