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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 "Inter-Korean Relations"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 16, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally at the Imjingak pavilion near the demilitarized zone which separates the two Koreas, in Paju, north of Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji) Protesters comprising of South Korean employers and employees working at factories in the Kaesong Industrial Complex inside North Korea chant slogans during a rally near Seoul on August 7, 2013. (Courtesy Reuters/Kim Hong-ji)

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

1. North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong complex. After seven rounds of negotiations, the shuttered Kaesong complex, closed for months following a period of particularly high tensions, is set to be reopened, though there is no timetable yet. The complex was a major source of hard currency and jobs for North Korea until it was shut down, and it is one of the few symbols of cooperation between the two Koreas. The agreement includes a pledge from both sides to prevent any future shutdowns, an agreement to try to attract foreign companies to the complex, and permission for South Korean managers to use the Internet and mobile phones. Read more »

Salvaging of Kaesong: A Potential “Reset” for Inter-Korean Relations

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean workers make shoes at a factory of a South Korean shoes company in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. (Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters) North Korean workers make shoes at a factory of a South Korean shoes company in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. (Lee Jin-man/courtesy Reuters)

Following seven rounds of arduous working-level negotiations stretching over the last six weeks that involved plenty of stubbornness and brinkmanship on both sides, North and South Korea announced a joint agreement today that establishes a new framework for reopening and jointly managing the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). The complex has remained shuttered and immobilized since North Korea pulled its workers from the complex on April 9. The agreement paves the way for the resumption of operations at the complex, but more importantly it constitutes a potential “reset” both for how the complex is managed and helps to stabilizeinter-Korean relations. Read more »

North Korea’s Next Provocation: When and Why?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Following an extended period of North Korean threats and inter-Korean tension during March and April of this year, North Korea prepared then abandoned a missile launch opting instead to shift back to charm diplomacy. Low-level inter-Korean talks over a possible restart of Kaesong drag on, as the North Korean leadership has turned its focus toward economic improvement, and Kim Jong-un presided over an unprecedented military “fatherland victory” parade to mark the sixteeth anniversary of the armistice in late July. But it would be a mistake to think that recent calm will be sustained. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 2, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) speaks to the media as he inspects a bridge construction site in Phnom Penh on July 31, 2013. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters) Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) speaks to the media as he inspects a bridge construction site in Phnom Penh on July 31, 2013. (Samrang Pring/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Cambodian opposition makes historic gains in election. Cambodia held elections last Sunday, with the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) almost doubling the number of seats it holds in the national assembly. The CNRP said on Monday that they rejected the results of the election, hoping to gain a majority in the national assembly, and accused the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of large-scale cheating; a number of monitoring organizations reported voting irregularities. Read more »

China and the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean president Park Geun-hye (R) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 27, 2013. Park is on a visit to China from June 27 to 30. (Wang Zhao / courtesy Reuters) South Korean president Park Geun-hye (R) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing June 27, 2013. Park is on a visit to China from June 27 to 30. (Wang Zhao / courtesy Reuters)

People’s Republic of China president Xi Jinping has taken a noticeably stronger rhetorical stand against North Korea’s nuclear program since he came to office in March on the heels of North Korea’s third nuclear test on February 12, 2013. China backed a new UN Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s test and clearly distanced itself from North Korea, in contrast to its decision to embrace and defend North Korea as a strategic asset following North Korea’s second nuclear test in 2009. There has been a slowdown in high-level contacts with Kim Jong-un and a striking chilliness to Sino-DPRK interaction following meetings in July and November 2012 between Kim Jong-un and high-level Chinese officials in Pyongyang. Last week DPRK Vice Minister held a “strategic dialogue” with his PRC foreign ministry counterpart Zhang Yesui that was devoid of the party-to-party interaction that has long made China-DPRK interactions “special” rather than “normal.” Read more »

North Korea’s Defiant Proposal for Denuclearization Talks

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Only one week after proposing and then pulling the plug on inter-Korean dialogue over protocol differences, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)’s National Defense Commission on June 16 issued a surprise proposal for “high-level” U.S.-DPRK talks on easing of military tensions, establishment of a peace regime, and “various other issues both parties want to address, including the building of a nuclear-free world proposed by the United States.” Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 14, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Protesters supporting Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), chant slogans as they march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on June 13, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters supporting Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), chant slogans as they march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong on June 13, 2013. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

Sharone Tobias and Will Piekos look at the top five stories in Asia this week. There will be no Friday Asia Update next week, June 21st. 

1. Leaked NSA information could hurt U.S.-China ties; Snowden makes it to Hong Kong. Edward Snowden, a twenty-nine year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee and contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA), fled to Hong Kong shortly before leaking information about a secretive NSA program called Prism. From Hong Kong, Snowden told Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post that the U.S. government has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China for years. Read more »

The Obama-Xi Summit And Renewed Inter-Korean Dialogue

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters)

When the United States and China move closer to each other, leaders of the two Koreas are apt to start talking. An unanticipated side effect of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in the early 1970s was that both Kim Il-sung and Park Chung-hee established secret talks in response to a new strategic reality in which their respective patrons had established dialogue. Those talks led to a landmark inter-Korean joint declaration on July 4, 1972. Although the Obama-Xi Sunnylands summit was advertised as an introductory session not designed to produce deliverables, one indirect effect of the summit is that it has jumpstarted inter-Korean dialogue. The first working-level inter-Korean talks between the Park Geun-hye and Kim Jong-un leaderships is being held at Panmunjom nearly simultaneously with the Xi-Obama summit. Read more »

Has North Korea Shut the Door to Diplomacy?

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. (Yuri Gripas/courtesy Reuters) South Korean President Park Geun-hye visits Arlington National Cemetery near Washington. (Yuri Gripas/courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s efforts to legitimize itself as a nuclear weapons state and its cut-off of access to the Kaesong Industrial Complex have diminished prospects for peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula. American and South Korean tolerance of North Korean provocations has waned, and it is increasingly clear that strategic patience in dealing with North Korea may only result in increasingly unattractive options.  When they meet today, Presidents Park and Obama must pursue an even more closely coordinated effort to change the North Korean leadership’s calculus sooner rather than later or North Korea’s capacity to impose higher costs and burdens on the allies will only grow. Read more »

Kaesong Closure and the U.S.-South Korea Summit

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean vehicles return from the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea to the customs, immigration, and quarantine office just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters) South Korean vehicles return from the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea to the customs, immigration, and quarantine office just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas. (Lee Jae-won/courtesy Reuters)

The muting of North Korean threats toward the United States has dropped it from the American headlines in recent weeks, but stepped up inter-Korean tensions over the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) have consumed the time and attention of South Korean policymakers. Since April 3 Pyongyang has blocked the entry of South Korean people and goods for the complex and on April 9 withdrew its North Korean workers. In response, South Korea issued an ultimatum on April 25 demanding that Pyongyang agree by that day to negotiations on renewed access to the site. KIC hosts 123 South Korean companies, provides employment for 53,000 North Korean workers, and generates labor and tax payments to North Korea, which in 2012 amounted to $90 million in cash payments. (For an excellent review of Kaesong’s history and development, see Patrick Cronin’s CNAS report “Vital Venture.”) Read more »