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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 "South China Sea"

So Many Southeast Asia Top Events, So Many Questions

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters). A member of the pro-government "red shirt" group holds a picture of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Nakhon Pathom province on the outskirts of Bangkok on May 10, 2014 (Athit Perawongmetha/Courtesy: Reuters).

The past week has been so busy with events, both tragic and hopeful, related to Southeast Asia, that I barely have time to keep up with the news.  A few short thoughts:

1. Is Prabowo Going to Concede?

No way. Prabowo Subianto is now tacitly hinting in interviews that, on July 22, he might be declared the loser of Indonesia’s presidential election, and he is now using interviews to argue that, whatever the result announced on July 22, it is likely a fraud. This is a shift from his earlier position stating simply that he was going to win. On July 22 he will expand on his fraud argument and file a case to the Constitutional Court. Jokowi – and Indonesia – better be prepared for a long and drawn-out legal contest. Read more »

Is Washington Getting China Policy Wrong?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping talk before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit in Shanghai on May 21, 2014. (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters)

It would be easy to think that U.S. policy toward China has gone off the rails. Washington is at odds with Beijing in the East and South China Seas; accusations of cyber espionage are flying across the Pacific; and Beijing is signing big oil and gas deals and talking about shared security concerns with Moscow, even as the United States is trying to coordinate sanctions against Russia for its crisis-inducing behavior in Ukraine. 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 »

John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

At the end of his current trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry will be stopping in Jakarta and meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. Although his visit in Jakarta will be short, Kerry will undoubtedly emphasize the same themes he is hitting throughout the visit, including pushing to restart talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and prodding China to work more seriously with Southeast Asian nations on a real code of conduct for the South China Sea. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, traveling with Kerry, has a thorough summary of the trip’s agenda here. Read more »

Typhoon Haiyan, the Philippines, the United States, and China

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Evacuated residents prepare to get onto a U.S. military plane at Tacloban airport in central Philippines on November 13, 2013, five days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) Evacuated residents prepare to get onto a U.S. military plane at Tacloban airport in central Philippines on November 13, 2013, five days after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

As more news of the extensive destruction wrought by Typhoon Haiyan rolls in—some storm experts are saying that it is the most powerful typhoon ever to hit land—I have spoken with a number of reporters in the United States and Asia about how the relief effort will be impacted by U.S. relations with the Philippines and the Philippines’ relationships with other major regional powers. The United States and the Philippines, a relationship always fraught with the challenges of former colony/colonizer history and ties between Filipinos in the United States and the Philippines, has clearly been on the upswing over the past five years. Read more »

How Damaging is the Cancellation of Obama’s Asia Trip?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah wave during a leaders' family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah wave during a leaders' family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama has finally bowed to the inevitable and cancelled his planned trip to Southeast Asia, which was supposed to begin this weekend and to include visits to the East Asia Summit, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders’ summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit, and a global entrepreneurs’ summit in Malaysia. As I noted in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek piece, the president had a lot of items on the planned Asia agenda, including trying to finalize trade talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and using his visit to bolster growing strategic and defense ties with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia, among other Southeast Asian nations. Read more »

China’s Maritime Disputes: Are There Any Real Solutions?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Vessels from the China Maritime Surveillance and the Japan Coast Guard are seen near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea, in this photo taken on September 10, 2013. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters) Vessels from the China Maritime Surveillance and the Japan Coast Guard are seen near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea, in this photo taken on September 10, 2013. (Kyodo/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past year, China’s disputes over the South China Sea, which had sharply divided Beijing from Southeast Asian claimants like the Philippines, Malaysia, and especially Vietnam, seems to have cooled somewhat. China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been working on a code of conduct to manage disputes over the Sea and reduce tensions before they flare up. Read more »

Indonesia Adrift?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Children cover their noses near burnt land in Marpoyan Damai sub district, in the outskirts of Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province on June 20, 2013. (Stringer Indonesia/Courtesy Reuters) Children cover their noses near burnt land in Marpoyan Damai sub district, in the outskirts of Pekanbaru, in Indonesia's Riau province on June 20, 2013. (Stringer Indonesia/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past month,Indonesia, the natural leader of Southeast Asia, has often seemed rudderless in its foreign policy, lashing out at other nations in the region over a haze crisis caused primarily in Indonesia, and offering little leadership as the region tries to work toward serious negotiations with China on a realistic South China Sea code of conduct. Does Indonesia have a regional strategy, or even an international one? Does it have a foreign ministry up to the challenge of returning to leadership in ASEAN, and playing a leading role in global organizations like the G-20 and the UN? Read more »

The Shangri-La Dialogue: A Wrap-up

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during the first plenary session of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore on June 1, 2013. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel speaks during the first plenary session of the 12th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue, in Singapore on June 1, 2013. (Edgar Su/Courtesy Reutgers)

As always, at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the premier Asian regional security forum, the most important news had to be read in the subtexts, beneath the usual cant and pleasantries. This past weekend, there were no public confrontations between potential adversaries, as happened in 2010, when then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly argued over North Korea policy with Chinese Major General Zhu Chenghu, director-general of the National Defense University in Beijing. The next day, General Ma Xiaotian, during his own speech to the forum, launched a tirade at the United States, blaming the Pentagon for escalating U.S.-China animosity and a breakdown in military-military cooperation. Read more »

South China Sea: Going to Get Worse Before It (Might) Gets Better

by Joshua Kurlantzick
A Chinese national flag is seen on a boat at a fishing village in Tanmen town, Hainan province, next to the South China Sea. A Chinese national flag is seen on a boat at a fishing village in Tanmen town, Hainan province, next to the South China Sea (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

This week’s latest South China Sea incident, in which a Chinese fishing boat cut a Vietnamese seismic cable —at least according to Hanoi— is a reminder that, despite the South China Sea dominating nearly every meeting in Southeast Asia this year, the situation in the Sea appears to be getting worse. This is in contrast to flare-ups in the past, when after a period of tension, as in the mid-1990s, there was usually a cooling-off period. Although there have been several brief cooling-off periods in the past two years, including some initiated by senior Chinese leaders traveling to Southeast Asia, they have not stuck, and the situation continues to deteriorate and get more dangerous.

In the new year, it will likely get even worse. Here’s why: Read more »