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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"

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 »

North Korea’s Satellite Launch: Pyongyang Style Theater or Prelude to Crisis?

by Scott A. Snyder
A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters) A soldier stands guard in front of the Unha-3 (Milky Way 3) rocket sitting on a launch pad at the West Sea Satellite Launch Site, during a guided media tour by North Korean authorities in the northwest of Pyongyang. (Bobby Yip/Courtesy Reuters)

North Korea’s announcement of plans to pursue another satellite launch between December 10 and 22 may have been unwelcome, but it should not have been entirely unanticipated. North Korea defiantly stated that it would continue to test long-range multi-stage rockets on its April 17 response to a UN Security Council Presidential statement condemning North Korea’s failed April 12 launch. Another launch will likely have a disproportionate political impact since it comes prior to national elections scheduled in Japan on December 16 and in South Korea on December 19. Here’s a rundown of the challenges a North Korean satellite launch poses during this political transition period: Read more »

China’s Not-So-Beautiful Neighborhood

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. (Fred Prouser/Courtesy Reuters)

It is time for China and the rest of Asia to wave good-bye to Mr. Rogers. The Asia Pacific is no longer a beautiful neighborhood. Instead, it has become a battleground for demarcating property lines, grandiose plans for home expansion, and a general lack of good manners. And the situation is only likely to get more contentious with the arrival of Xi Jinping and the new Chinese Politburo Standing Committee to the neighborhood. Read more »

Review: ‘A Contest for Supremacy’ by Aaron Friedberg

by Joshua Kurlantzick
In ‘A Contest for Supremacy,’ Aaron Friedberg portrays the United States and China as almost fated to wind up in conflict, and suggests Beijing is already lapping Washington in preparing for such a fight (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters). In ‘A Contest for Supremacy,’ Aaron Friedberg portrays the United States and China as almost fated to wind up in conflict, and suggests Beijing is already lapping Washington in preparing for such a fight (Aly Song/Courtesy Reuters).

In the spring of 2010, after years of relative quiet in the South China Sea —the strategic body of water separating southeastern China from Southeast Asia, and including regions disputed by at least five claimants including China, Vietnam and the Philippines, tensions suddenly seemed to explode. Beijing announced that the Sea was a “core interest,” putting it in the highest pantheon of Chinese policy issues, alongside Tibet and Taiwan, on which China brooks no interference; China also increasingly pushed its claim that it controlled the territorial waters of nearly the entire South China Sea. It had warned other countries not to explore for oil and gas in the Sea, and had warned Western multinationals as well. Chinese ships would cut the lines of other countries’ fishing vessels operating in the Sea, while nationalist Chinese publications warned that other countries claiming even tiny portions of the water would lead to war. Read more »

Liaoning – Paper Tiger or Growing Cub?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, seen following its maiden sea trial at Dalian Port, Liaoning province, on August 15, 2011. The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, seen following its maiden sea trial at Dalian Port, Liaoning province, on August 15, 2011. (China Daily China Daily Information Corp - CDIC/Courtesy Reuters)

Colonel Brian Killough is the U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On Tuesday, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) joined 9 other nations—the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, India, Thailand, Spain, Italy, and Brazil—that have aircraft carriers in their naval arsenal. But what does that mean for nations in the region and how should we assess the long-term implications? Read more »

News Flash: Washington Source of All Beijing’s Problems

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in an arrival ceremony at Rarotonga International Airport in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in an arrival ceremony at Rarotonga International Airport in Rarotonga, Cook Islands on August 31, 2012. (Jim Watson / Courtesy Reuters)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s swing through Asia has been marked by a revelation in Beijing: the source of all China’s problems with its neighbors is the United States. A Xinhua editorial paints the United States as a “sneaky trouble maker sitting behind some nations in the region and pulling strings.” In the Global Times, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences scholar Ni Feng states that the U.S. pivot is “stirring up tensions between China and its neighbors”; while Renmin University scholar Jin Canrong argues that Washington aims to “dominate the region’s political agenda, and build a Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China, as well as further consolidate its military edge.” Read more »

Why ASEAN Will Stay Weak

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. secretary of state Clinton delivers remarks during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. U.S. secretary of state Clinton delivers remarks during a meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).

In her visit to Asia this week, including her trip to Jakarta on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not only highlighted the renewed American focus on Southeast Asia, especially regarding the South China Sea, but also highlighted the rising importance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), by visiting the organization’s headquarters, or secretariat, in Jakarta. At a bilateral meeting with ASEAN’s secretary-general, Clinton remarked, “We [the United States] have an interest in strengthening ASEAN’s ability to address regional challenges in an effective, comprehensive way.” Read more »

China’s Political Silly Season Arrives

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden address a meeting with governors and Chinese provincial officials in Los Angeles on February 18, 2012. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden address a meeting with governors and Chinese provincial officials in Los Angeles on February 18, 2012. (David McNew / Courtesy Reuters)

Election season in the United States is often called the “silly season” as a result of all the name-calling and heightened nationalistic rhetoric that it tends to produce.  China policy, while never a central focus of the campaign season, nonetheless is always raised, and this year is no exception. Both the Obama and the Romney campaigns have condemned Beijing for its weak adherence to global trade norms and its negative impact on the American economy, with Romney supporters threatening serious action if their guy is elected. Read more »

Cooler Heads on the South China Sea?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (L) is greeted by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a meeting at the presidential office in Jakarta August 10, 2012. China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (L) is greeted by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a meeting at the presidential office in Jakarta August 10, 2012 (Enny Nuraheni/Courtesy Reuters).

During his trip to Southeast Asia this week, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi vowed to work with ASEAN to reach consensus on a code of conduct for the South China Sea, according to reports by the Asia News Network. Yang visited Indonesia, which has been trying to rally ASEAN unity on the South China Sea, as well as Malaysia and Brunei, two of the nations that have claims to the South China Sea —but ones that have been far more reticent to cross China than Vietnam or the Philippines have been. Read more »