CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "North Korea"

Podcast: China’s Influence on the North Korean Economy

by Elizabeth C. Economy
A female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province May 31, 2009. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Saturday the United States would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and he warned Pyongyang against transferring nuclear material overseas. REUTERS/Jason Lee (NORTH KOREA POLITICS MILITARY IMAGES OF THE DAY) A female North Korean soldier guards the banks of the Yalu River near the Chongsong county of North Korea opposite the Chinese border town of Hekou, northeastern China's Liaoning province on May 31, 2009 (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters).

China and North Korea historically have had a close relationship—as close as “lips and teeth,” as leaders in both countries were fond of saying during the Cold War. To this day, China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, energy provider, and source of aid. Despite these close ties, however, the past eighteen months have revealed fissures in the relationship. Since coming to power, neither Chinese President Xi Jinping nor North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made an official state visit to see his counterpart; Xi even chose to visit South Korea first. In Pyongyang, the execution of Jang Song-taek, a major proponent of engagement with China, caused consternation in Beijing.  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 »

North Korea’s Food Situation: Stable and Improving

by Scott A. Snyder
A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr) A North Korean farmer rests with his tractor in a rice paddy field in this photo taken May 31, 2014. (Todd Mecklem/Courtesy: Flickr)

When asked in his January 22 interview with YouTube [9:00 ff.] about the likely effects of greater sanctions on North Korea following the Sony hack, President Obama repeated a mantra widely associated with North Korea that as a result of its isolated, authoritarian leadership, “the country can’t really even feed its own people” and that “over time, a regime like this will collapse.” But the latest reports show that North Korea’s food situation is stable, and the leadership probably thinks it is doing better, not worse. Read more »

South Korea’s Self-Defense Needs: Does China Get a Veto?

by Scott A. Snyder
A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters). A missile is fired from a naval vessel during the test-firing of a new type of anti-ship cruise missile to be equipped at Korean People's Army naval units in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 7, 2015 (KCNA/Courtesy: Reuters).

During his visit to Seoul on February 4, PRC Defense minister Chang Wanquan is reported to have raised objections with South Korean counterparts to the potential deployment of a THAAD (Theater High-Altitude Area Defense) battery  to South Korean territory, and Xi Jinping reportedly raised the issue during his July 2014 summit meeting with Park Geun-hye. Read more »

Sony Hack: North Korea’s “Toughest Counteraction” to Obama’s “Proportional” Response

by Scott A. Snyder
the-interview-open General Manager Brandon Delaney looks up at the marquee sign after the announcement that the Plaza Theatre would be showing the movie "The Interview" beginning Christmas Day in Atlanta, Georgia on December 23, 2014. Sony Pictures said on Tuesday it will release "The Interview" to a limited number of theaters on December 25, less than a week after it canceled the comedy's release following a devastating cyberattack blamed on North Korea. (Tami Chappell/Courtesy: Reuters)

For most Americans and for President Obama, the turn of events over the last few days feels like a happy ending:  1) Sony and Seth Rogen have defended the American right to free speech, regardless of its quality; 2) the bad guys and their leader have been deprived of their internet connection for at least nine hours, plus the deplorable North Korean human rights record made its debut Monday on the agenda of the UN Security Council; 3) the Obama administration can claim victory for giving Sony and a few independent theaters some backbone while helping to formally expose North Korea’s human rights tragedy to the light of day. But, the North Koreans being North Koreans, it is unlikely that this story will end on Christmas Day. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of December 19, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters). A child stands behind candles, lit for the victims of the attack by Taliban gunmen on the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 19, 2014 (Ahktar Soomro/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Pakistan engulfed in anger and grief after the Taliban kills 132 schoolchildren and sixteen teachers. Members of the Pakistani Taliban attacked a military school in Peshawar, killing 132 schoolchildren and 16 teachers, many of them shot at point-blank range and some burned alive. The Taliban claimed that the attack was to avenge Pakistani military operations in the northwest Taliban haven of North Waziristan. Read more »

The Interview and Its Challenge to North Korea’s Leadership

by Scott A. Snyder
the-interview-premiere A security guard stands at the entrance of United Artists theater during the premiere of the film The Interview in Los Angeles, California on December 11, 2014. (Kevork Djansezian/Courtesy: Reuters)

Today is the third anniversary of Kim Jong-il’s death, marking the completion of a traditional period of mourning for Korean leaders and the presumed consolidation of power under Kim Jong-il’s successor, Kim Jong-un. During the three-year mourning period following the death of North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung in the mid-1990s, Kim Jong-il waged a struggle behind the scenes to overcome the Arduous March, a famine that decimated North Korea’s population. In 1997, Kim Jong-il emerged publicly as chairman of the National Defense Commission and as leader of a “military first [pdf]” policy. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: The Top Five Stories for the Week of December 5, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 14, 2012. China's senior leadership has agreed to open a corruption investigation into Zhou, one of China's most powerful politicians in the past decade, stepping up its anti-graft campaign, the South China Morning Post reported on August 30, 2013. Picture taken March 14, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS) China's former Politburo Standing Committee Member Zhou Yongkang attends the closing ceremony of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 14, 2012. (Jason Lee/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Zhou Yongkang arrested. Former head of China’s domestic security Zhou Yongkang was expelled from the Communist Party and arrested earlier today on charges including accepting bribes, helping family members and associates access government assets, disclosing state secrets, and leaking official secrets, Chinese state news service Xinhua announced. The decision was made by the Communist Party Politburo, comprised of the twenty-five most powerful officials in China, meaning that it is very likely that Zhou will be convicted. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of November 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) nations' leaders and spouses pose for a family photo in Beijing on November 10, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Obama and Xi strike deals at APEC summit. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum proved remarkably productive for U.S.-China relations this week. U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly announced commitments to cut carbon emissions, and agreed to a reduction in tariffs on a range of technology products, to greater communication between their militaries in the Pacific, and to extend the duration of visas. Though these agreements are certainly a welcome change from years of stagnating relations, underlying issues still remain. China and the United States have fundamentally different visions of Asia’s security and trade architecture that are not easily reconciled. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 24, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Jeffrey Fowle (C) and his wife (R) are greeted by U.S. Air Force 88 Air Base Wing Commander Col. John Devillier upon arrival at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio early on October 22, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters). Jeffrey Fowle (C) and his wife (R) are greeted by U.S. Air Force 88 Air Base Wing Commander Col. John Devillier upon arrival at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio early on October 22, 2014 (Courtesy: Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Andrew Hill, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. North Korea releases U.S. prisoner. On Tuesday, Pyongyang released Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans currently detained in North Korea. Fowle, a fifty-six-year-old road maintenance worker from Ohio, was detained after he was found to have left a Bible in his hotel during a tour of North Korea; ownership of Bibles and missionary-related activities are illegal in North Korea. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said there was no deal made for Fowle’s release and urged Pyongyang to release the two other detainees, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller. Read more »