CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Regional Architecture"

Asia’s Landlocked Spaces

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

A Kyrgyz customs officer talks on a radio in front of workers as they reload cargo from a Chinese truck to Kyrgyz one at the Irkeshtam border crossing in southern Kyrgyzstan. Courtesy Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov.

Chris Rickleton, a Bishkek-based journalist, has a fascinating piece up on EurasiaNet about prospective Chinese rail construction in Kyrgyzstan. The piece cuts directly to tough political choices—namely, the push and pull between Russian and Chinese interests in Central Asia and, more important, how politicians in landlocked countries, like Kyrgyzstan, must try to balance among the larger countries on whom their economies depend for transit.

I’ve written a lot on efforts to reconnect trade and transit routes across continental Asia. You can read some of what I’ve argued herehereherehere, and here.

But Rickleton’s piece got me thinking about two questions:

(1) Since the obstacles to continental trade and transit are so high, is the game really worth the candle?

This is especially relevant because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is vigorously promoting a “New Silk Road” concept, drawing heavily on a decade of prior efforts and experiences.

(2) With so much focus on the interests of the outside powers—Russia, China, Iran, and the United States, among others—what about the interests of the landlocked countries themselves?

Read more »

Dialogue and “Strategic Patience” with North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth (R) and U.S ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Glyn Davies (L) leave their hotel for the United States Mission in Geneva October 25, 2011

U.S. Special Envoy for North Korea Policy Stephen Bosworth (R) and U.S ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Glyn Davies (L) leave their hotel for the United States Mission in Geneva October 25, 2011. (Denis Balibouse/Courtesy Reuters)

U.S.-DPRK meetings in Geneva held early this week with the objective of reviving denuclearization negotiations have ended with a whimper. The apparent lack of sufficient progress to move forward will underscore lingering doubts about the North Korean will to pursue denuclearization via negotiations, which along with diplomatic normalization, economic development, and peace were the main agenda items of the moribund Six Party Talks. Despite Chinese exhortations to come back to Six Party Talks and Kim Jong-il’s willingness to return to talks as soon as possible based on the “principle of simultaneous action,” Six Party Talks can have no utility—and should not proceed—unless North Korea affirms that denuclearization is on the agenda.

Despite the disappointing outcome, the Obama administration was right to pursue the dialogue and to reiterate its insistence that North Korea take actions to restore the status quo ante that existed at the time of the last round of Six Party Talks in December 2008. This is the significance of the “pre-steps” for resumption of six-party negotiations: that North Korea pledge not to continue to pursue nuclear and missile tests, that it not engage in military provocations with South Korea, and that it come clean on the uranium enrichment program it revealed to Sig Hecker in November 2010. A failure to insist on these actions would allow North Korea to use resumption of the Six Party Talks to claim international recognition, if not acceptance, of its nuclear accomplishments, while a North Korean affirmation of the denuclearization agenda provides a pathway by which to return to Six Party Talks and abandon nuclear weapons development.

Read more »

Are Multilateral Groups Missing the Point?

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (center, L) and Defense Secretary Robert Gates (center, R) co-host the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto (L, back to camera) and Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa (R, back to camera) at the State Department in Washington, June 21, 2011. Courtesy Reuters/Kevin Lamarque.

At the June 21 meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee, Washington and Tokyo jointly agreed to promote trilateral strategic dialogue with India. And that announcement provided a nice opportunity to use my latest “DC Diary” column in India’s financial daily, the Business Standard, to revisit a theme from The United States in the New Asia, the CFR Special Report I wrote with Bob Manning in 2009.

What’s the point of all this geometry, anyway?  Innovation has been sadly lacking in the creation of various new Asian geometries, no matter whether they are large or small, trilateral or multilateral.

Read more »

Speaking of the SCO …

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization walk during a meeting in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg June 15, 2009. Courtesy Reuters/RIA Novosti/Vladimir Rodionov/Pool.

Over at another CFR blog, The Internationalist, my colleague, Stewart Patrick, has posted a good piece about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Boy, did that take me back to old times.

The SCO stokes up all kinds of opinions in the United States—some informed, some less informed; some vituperative, and others merely skeptical.

Back in 2007, while serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Central Asia, I became, I think, the only U.S. official ever to devote an entire speech to the SCO.  Just two years earlier, the SCO had called for a timeline to end the Coalition military presence in Afghanistan.  And since the U.S. was in the midst of prosecuting a war, there was a great deal that we in the United States were forced to wrestle with as a result. For one, we sought to forestall any repeat statements from the group.  But for another, we aimed to sort through the SCO’s deeper (and perhaps darker?) intentions.

Read more »

Why America No Longer Gets Asia

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

The author chats with Chinese traders in the Kara-Suu Bazaar, near Osh, Kyrgyzstan, October 2006. (Photo from the author)

I have a new article out in The Washington Quarterly, with a slightly provocative title, “Why America No Longer Gets Asia.”

It’s a think piece. And so it probably won’t be 100 percent persuasive to 100 percent of its readers in 100 percent of its aspects. But the article pulls together the strands of a lot of themes I’ve harped on in recent years, from speeches I was giving while at the State Department to a few years’ worth of articles and blogs. I also worked on an array of projects directly related to these themes while serving in the U.S. government, especially during the period from 2003 to 2007.

Here’s the headline: Asia is reintegrating, but the United States simply isn’t adapting quickly enough. And it is essential to adapt U.S. policy to the contours of change in Asia if the United States wishes to remain vital and relevant there.

Read more »

Asia’s Business in 2010 (and 2011)? Still Business!

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Shanghai's early-morning skyline. (Nir Elias/Courtesy Reuters)

What was the top Asia story of 2010? My colleagues, Liz and Adam, posted their own “top ten” list last week. I hate to disagree with them, but, for me, the top story—actually, the top three stories—were all about economics.

My latest “DC Diary” column is out in India’s financial newspaper, the Business Standard, and I try to make this case. The column offers a look-back at Asian economies in 2010 with a preview of some of what may be to come in 2011.

My bottom line is this: For two generations, much of Asia relied on global demand to power its growth. But as the world economy claws its way back from crisis, others are looking to Asia to step up and lead.

And that, to my mind, was the top Asia story of 2010.

Read more »

Building Regional Stability on the Korean Peninsula: A Chinese Perspective

by Scott A. Snyder
Chinese President Hu Jintao  talks to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the Seoul Forest park during a summit in Seoul, August 2008 (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy Reuters). Chinese President Hu Jintao talks to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak at the Seoul Forest park during a summit in Seoul, August 2008 (Lee Jin-man/Courtesy Reuters).

Shen Dingli is Professor and Executive Dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai.

Recent turbulence on the Korean Peninsula raises several key questions: What is the best way to assure stability? How can the U.S.-ROK  alliance play its due role while still being perceived as a stabilizer by other stakeholders? How can China positively interact with the two allies? Read more »

North Korea’s Provocations and Their Impact on Northeast Asian Regional Security

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Koreans watch the news on television showing smoke rising from Yeonpyeong Island after it was hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea November 23, 2010 (Truth Leem/Courtesy Reuters). South Koreans watch the news on television showing smoke rising from Yeonpyeong Island after it was hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea November 23, 2010 (Truth Leem/Courtesy Reuters).

This excerpt is based on a report by See-Won Byun from the Center for U.S.-Korea Policy, “North Korea’s Provocations and Their Impact on Northeast Asian Regional Security.” 

North Korean provocations against South Korea through the sinking of the Cheonan in March 2010 and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010 have not only heightened inter-Korean tensions, but have also exposed differences in the reactions of North Korea’s neighbors, underscoring the possibility that peninsular instability may heighten tensions and presage potential conflict among regional powers.  These tensions have exposed differing preferences among North Korea’s neighbors regarding what might constitute a preferred ‘end state’ on the Korean Peninsula that might result from North Korea’s continued decline (i.e., the potential regional impact of South Korean-led unification of the Korean Peninsula). Read more »

Continental and Maritime in U.S.-India Relations

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

The Indian financial newspaper, Business Standard, has published my latest “DC Diary” column.  With President Obama landing in New Delhi this week, it seemed like a good time to ask why Washington and New Delhi remain so burdened, even imprisoned, by continental preoccupations.

To Americans, India can be a real jumble of contradictions.  It is a maritime nation—strategically situated near key chokepoints—but with a continental strategic tradition.  It is a nation of illustrious mercantile traditions but for decades walled off large swaths of its economy.

Much has changed, principally because rapid economic growth has allowed India to break from the confining shackles of South Asia.  India is again an Asian player, better integrated into the East Asian economic system.  And it has a growing capacity to influence the wider Asian balance of power.

So, here’s my question:  Given all that change, why are the U.S. and India so bogged down in (and over) continental Asia?

Read more »

East Asia Summit, Take Two

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Nyein Chan Naing/Pool

A post over at East Asia Forum tweaks my recent blog about America and the East Asia Summit. It argues that I have an “empathy deficit.” Here’s how the post puts it: “Asian partners have good reason for concern” because Americans—on a bipartisan basis—have a tendency to “dismiss proposals for greater engagement with institutions that are not ‘results-focused.’” We “fail to grasp that concerns about regional institution building are based as much upon a preoccupation with the construction of regional identity as they are on economic arrangements or the balance of power.”

Actually, I grasp that pretty well. To a very great extent, Asian institution building has been about identity. Or, more precisely, it’s been about “community building,” not just results.

But for one thing, that’s exactly why Americans shouldn’t balk at every pan-Asian institution that doesn’t include the United States. And for that matter, it’s also why Americans should desist from trying to slam down the door of every single regional institution, often just for the sake of it.

Read more »