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Asia Unbound

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

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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 24, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, 22 April 2015. The 60th Asian-African Conference is held in Jakarta and Bandung from 19 to 24 April 2015. REUTERS/Mast Irham/POOL Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (R) greets China's President Xi Jinping during the arrival for the opening ceremony of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 22, 2015 (Mast Irham/Courtesy Reuters).

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

1. Xi Jinping visits Indonesia and Pakistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan and Indonesia this week. In Pakistan, he signed agreements worth more than $28 billion as part of the new “Silk Road,” an ambitious land and maritime economic corridor connecting China to Europe and the Middle East. Pakistan will invest part of the money in infrastructure proejcts, including a deepwater port at Gwadar and railroads from Baluchistan into western China. In Indonesia, Xi attended the Asian-African Conference. Xi Jinping and  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the conference to discuss investments in Indonesian development. This pledge came on the heels of Jokowi’s announcement that Indonesia plans to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Bank. At the conference, Xi spoke about the importance of developed countries investing in the developing world “with no political strings attached,” while Jokowi, in his keynote address, called for a new world order not dominated by Western-controlled financial institutions. Xi also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, despite a speech by Abe in which he warned against powerful nations imposing on the weak. Read more »

The U.S. Presidential Race: Marco Rubio’s Surprising Interest in India

by Alyssa Ayres
Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters). Republican presidential candidate U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua, New Hampshire on April 17, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is part of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Among the Republican field, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has a well-known interest in foreign policy. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he has served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. He has made his voice heard especially in the debate over policy toward Cuba, from where his parents fled. What’s lesser known, and a bit more surprising, is this: the junior senator from Florida also has a declared interest in India. 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 U.S. Presidential Race: Hillary and India

by Alyssa Ayres
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton embraces a member of "Sewa," a women's self-employment voluntary organisation during her visit to their office in Mumbai on July 18, 2009 (Arko Datta/Courtesy: Reuters).

This post is the first of a series looking at how India and South Asia will feature in the American presidential election of 2016.

Hillary Clinton’s April 12, 2015 presidential campaign launch kicked the U.S. presidential race for 2016 into higher gear. It’s also the first American campaign announcement to garner significant media attention in India. Due to her long history with India—as first lady, a senator, and secretary of state—Clinton is a known quantity in the region and has a clearly articulated policy record on South Asia, unlike other presidential candidates. One Indian paper covered her campaign launch with the headline, “Hillary hearts India.” That background makes it easier to assess how a possible Clinton administration might approach ties with India. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Why the United States Should Work With India to Stabilize Afghanistan

by Alyssa Ayres
"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original. "Afghan President Ashraf Ghani meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 18th SAARC summit," November 2014. Photo by Narendra Modi licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped from original.

President Ashraf Ghani’s successful visit to Washington last month notwithstanding, the headlines out of Afghanistan since the end of international combat operations in December 2014 have mostly been grim. The Taliban have stepped up attacks since the start of 2015, and the self-declared Islamic State has spread to Afghanistan. During the March UN Security Council session held to renew the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UN Special Representative Nicholas Haysom told the Security Council that the Islamic State banner might serve to unite disparate radical groups. Read more »

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

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters). U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel talks with South Korea's first Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-Yong (R) during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul on March 17, 2015 (Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. South Korea warns China against interfering amid missile defense debate. On Tuesday a South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesperson asked Beijing to not interfere in its defense policy, an unusual request with an increasingly close regional partner. Washington has been asking Seoul to deploy a ballistic missile defense system, Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to South Korea. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 13, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) talks to Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Secretariat in Colombo on March 13, 2015 (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Courtesy of Reuters).

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

1. U.S. rebukes UK for joining Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The UK announced that it would become a founding member of the China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), despite the urging of the United States. Washington has openly lobbied against the AIIB, influencing South Korea and Australia to eschew membership, but Britain’s decision opens the door for other Western countries to reconsider. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters). A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea attacked in Seoul. A South Korean man identified as Kim Ki-jong, a fifty-five-year-old South Korean with a record of violent activism, slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife across the face and hand on Thursday morning local time. Lippert received eighty stitches on his face, from chin to cheek and is reported to be in good condition as of Friday. The assailant told reporters he attacked the ambassador to protest regular U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. U.S. diplomats have varied levels of security details, and though Seoul is considered a “low-threat” post, a security team was accompanying Lippert at the time of the attack. Lippert, who took up his post in Seoul in October 2014, has taken a proactively friendly approach toward his post, taking his dog Grigsby on regular walks in the city, maintaining an active Twitter account, and giving his son, born in Seoul in January 2015, a Korean middle name. Read more »

The Indian Budget: Cautious But Resolute

by Alyssa Ayres
A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters). A staff member (L) passes a pen to Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before making the final touches to the federal budget 2015/16 in New Delhi on February 27, 2015 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

In a country whose media exists in a perpetual fever-pitch of excitement, a consensus has formed around the first full-year budget of the Narendra Modi government presented on February 28, 2015: No big bang reforms. For those who have not been following this closely, here are the highlights, along with links to primary sources for further reading. Read more »