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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 "North Korea"

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 April 4, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Residents cover their faces as they ride a motorcycle along a street after tear gas was released by police to disperse a protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guandong province, China on March 31, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Residents cover their faces as they ride a motorcycle along a street after tear gas was released by police to disperse a protest against a chemical plant project in Maoming, Guandong province, China on March 31, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Tensions rise on the Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea exchanged artillery fire across a disputed martime border off the peninsula’s western coast on March 31. Neither side aimed at land or military installations, but 100 of the 500 rounds from North Korea fell south of the boundary, followed by 300 South Korean artillery shells shot into the northern side of the boundary. The incident occurred not far from Baengnyeong Island, where in March 2010 North Korean torpedoes sunk the South Korean warship Cheonan. 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 »

Bruce Bechtol: Nukes Aren’t the Only Weapons in North Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
north-korea-mid-range-missile Models of a North Korean Scud-B missile (right) and South Korean missiles are displayed at the Korean War Memorial Museum in Seoul in this photo from March 2012. In February and March 2014, North Korea continued to maintain its ballistic missile capabilities with a series of test launches off its east coast (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters).

Bruce E. Bechtol, Jr., is associate professor of political science at Angelo State University and president of the International Council on Korean Studies.  His is the author of North Korea and Regional Security in the Kim Jong-un Era.

During the latter part of February, North Korea conducted test launches of a new long-range 300 mm multiple rocket launcher (MRL) system. These launches from North Korea’s east coast were followed up by still more launches in following weeks. Since then, North Korea has launched Scud missiles from its east coast, 300 mm MRLs, 240 mm MRLs, and Free Rocket Over Ground (FROG) systems. This week, North Korea launched Rodong ballistic missiles.  All systems were launched from the east coast, and all tests were conducted even as North Korea appeared to be moving toward a more reasonable attitude toward the United States and its neighbor to the South. Read more »

The President as Facilitator in Chief

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral 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 March 25, 2014 U.S. president Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

As if on cue, Pyongyang yet again emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea when it fired two Nodong missiles into the Sea of Japan. The timing was perfect—President Barack Obama was meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. The focus of their talks? North Korea’s threat to regional security. Read more »

Despite North Korean Political Risks, Sino-DPRK Trade Shows Stable Growth

by Scott A. Snyder
sinuiju-trade North Koreans sit beside bags of chemical fertilizer in Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, in March 2013. In 2013, China stepped up checks on shipments to and from North Korea almost two months after agreeing to new U.N. sanctions that demand greater scrutiny of trade, but the flow of goods in and out of the reclusive state appears largely unaffected. Picture taken March 29, 2013 (Jacky Chen/Courtesy: Reuters).

North Korea’s dependency on China for energy and food has long been cited as a source of Chinese political leverage and a primary factor that could influence North Korean stability.  But if North Korea depends on China for the bulk of its food and fuel, why does China not punish tiny North Korea for biting the hands that feed it?  On the contrary, underlying trends run in the opposite direction, possibly due in part to China’s energy demand and in part to North Korea’s growing foreign currency need. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 21, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, looks on as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama writes calligraphy in a class at the Beijing Normal School on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/courtesy Reuters) Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, looks on as U.S. first lady Michelle Obama writes calligraphy in a class at the Beijing Normal School on March 21, 2014. (Andy Wong/courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Michelle Obama visits China. U.S. first lady Michelle Obama arrived in Beijing on Thursday and will spend six days in China. Accompanied by her mother and two daughters, Obama toured Beijing with Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Obama will stay away from politicized topics such as human rights, and instead promote cultural and educational exchanges, particularly for young people. 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 March 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) International school students light candles to pray for passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Zhuji, Zhejiang province, on March 10, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Missing Malaysia Airlines flight leaves the fate of 239 passengers shrouded in mystery. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared Saturday, and its fate has still not been determined nearly a week after it vanished from radar screens. The most recent information indicates that the plane was deliberately flown off course, making a sharp left and flying hundreds of miles toward India’s remote Andaman and Nicobar islands. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Mass stabbing in Kunming, China, leaves thirty-three dead and 130 injured. Eight people armed with knives attacked travelers in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on Saturday. Four attackers were shot dead, one was wounded and captured, and three other attackers were apprehended near the border with Vietnam. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, called “China’s 9/11” by Chinese media, early signs suggest that Uighur separatists are the perpetrators. Read more »