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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"

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of June 26, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014. The leaders were concluding the sixth round of U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (CHINA - Tags: POLITICS) U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (L-R), Secretary of State John Kerry, China's State Councillor Yang Jiechi and Vice Premier Wang Yang arrive to deliver joint statements at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014 (Jim Bourg/Reuters).

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

1. U.S. and China meet in Washington, DC, for annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). The talks, coming at a time of high tension between the two countries, managed to steer clear of acrimonious charges. The U.S. State Department highlighted 127 issues the two sides agreed upon at the S&ED, but agreements on China’s actions in the South China Sea and conflicting accusations of harmful activity in cyberspace were conspicuously absent. While both sides vowed to continue discussing a potential bilateral investment treaty, little was achieved on the economic side beyond platitudes about the importance of the US$590 billion of annual trade between the two countries. On a more positive note, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that China promised to limit currency interventions, a small victory in Treasury’s long fight to get China to liberalize the yuan. Moving forward, more dialogue between the two countries will be necessary to keep the relationship constructive; hopefully Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington in September will help with that. Read more »

China’s Muddled Message on the South China Sea

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy on May 21, 2015 (U.S. Navy/Reuters).

If the recent Shangri-La Dialogue demonstrated one thing—aside from the fact that Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong can deliver an important speech that is both strong and subtle—it is that mitigating tensions in the South China Sea remains a problem with no solution in sight. As the Chinese have continued with their reef reclamation and low-level militarization of small islands in the South China Sea, a number of Chinese scholars and foreign policy officials have sought to clarify the reasons behind Beijing’s actions. Yet what emerges from all the disparate voices is a sense that there is no compelling rationale—or at least not one that the foreign policy community can acknowledge. Instead, there is significant effort to impute an acceptable rationale to the country’s destabilizing behavior. Read more »

Next Steps in the U.S.-Vietnam Relationship

by Joshua Kurlantzick
ash-carter-vietnam U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Vietnam's Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh (L) review the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony at the Defense Ministry in Hanoi, Vietnam on June 1, 2015. (Hoang Dinh Nam/Reuters)

After this week’s Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore, which featured the U.S.-China war of words that has come to characterize the security meeting, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter traveled on to Vietnam to meet with Hanoi’s defense minister. Carter visited Vietnam’s Naval Command and the city of Haiphong, becoming the first U.S. Defense Secretary to do so. Haiphong harbor famously—or infamously—was mined by the U.S., in 1972, during the Vietnam War. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 1, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in front of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 29, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in front of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), on Capitol Hill in Washington on April 29, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Shinzo Abe visits the United States. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the United States this week to discuss the future of U.S.­-Japan relations. Increased security cooperation as well as relations with China topped the agenda. Abe delivered the first-ever speech by a Japanese prime minister to a joint session of Congress. In his speech, Abe described his vision for a stronger alliance between the United States and Japan and expressed his condolences for Japanese behavior in World War II. He announced his determination to “take more responsibility for peace and stability in the world.” Read more »

Philippines and Vietnam Rapidly Building Strategic Partnership

by Joshua Kurlantzick
benigno-aquino-nguyen-tan-dung Philippines' President Benigno Aquino (R) greets Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during his courtesy call at the Malacanang Presidential Palace in Manila on May 21, 2014. (Aaron Favila/Courtesy: Reuters)

Until the past five years, the Philippines and Vietnam had minimal strategic ties other than working together, through ASEAN initiatives, on a range of nontraditional security issues. The two countries had very different styles of leadership—the Philippines is a vibrant democracy with one of the freest media markets in the world, while Vietnam remains run by a highly opaque Party—and Hanoi remained wary of diverging from its strategy of hedging close ties with China with increasingly close relations with the United States. By contrast, the Philippines, despite a very mixed historical relationship with the United States, was (and is) a U.S. treaty ally and one of Washington’s closest partners in Southeast Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 10, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters) A ship (top) of Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off shore of Vietnam May 14, 2014. Vietnamese ships were followed by Chinese vessels as they neared China's oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday, Vietnam's Coast Guard said. Vietnam has condemned as illegal the operation of a Chinese deepwater drilling rig in what Vietnam says is its territorial water in the South China Sea and has told China's state-run oil company to remove it. China has said the rig was operating completely within its waters. (Nguyen Minh/Courtesy: Reuters)

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

1. U.S. Secretary of Defense wraps up inaugural visit to Northeast Asia. Recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Ash Carter arrived in East Asia this week, reinforcing the importance of the rebalance policy under his watch at the Pentagon. On his way to the region from Washington, Carter spoke at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University on Monday, where he underscored the importance of U.S. presence in the Asia-Pacific through both military strength and economic growth. Read more »

Power Trip: Might China’s Struggles With Its Neighbors Bring War to Asia?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
spratlys Members of the Philippine marines are transported on a rubber boat from a patrol ship after conducting a mission on the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, as they make their way to a naval forces camp in Palawan province, southwest Philippines on March 31, 2014. (Erik De Castro/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post also appeared at The Nationaland can be found here.

From the air, the Spratly Islands, a cluster of miniature rocks and sandbars 160,000 miles square in the middle of the South China Sea, are almost imperceptible. Even up close, the Spratlys do not look like much – a few islands have tiny rocky beaches or occasional makeshift buildings. A tiny contingent of Filipino Marines camp on a rusty hulk of an American World War II-era ship grounded in the Spratlys. Read more »

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 »