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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 Korea"

South Korea’s Delicate Regional Balancing Act

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Jason Reed) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Jason Reed)

South Korea finds itself at the epicenter of a geostrategic danger zone that is all the more fragile today as a result of frictions resulting from China’s rise. More than ever, a volatile and self-isolated North Korean leadership is perceived as the trigger that could set off the regional powderkeg. Hence, South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s discussion with U.S. President Barack Obama regarding the North Korean issue will be an important and timely one. She will need strong support from the United States in her efforts to maintain South Korea’s delicate position between China and Japan and to stabilize the Korean peninsula. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of October 9, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Indonesia-fires Residents carry water as they try to extinguish fires near their homes at Pal 7 village in Ogan Ilir district, Indonesia's South Sumatra province, September 3, 2015. (Nova Wahyudi/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Sungtae “Jacky” Park, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia this week.

1. Raging flames in Indonesia. Intense forest fires have been burning for the past few months on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, blanketing vast areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand with smoke. Annual but illegal slash-and-burn agricultural practices that spiraled out of control caused the blazes, now amounting to more than 1,000 fire clusters on the islands. Read more »

The Need for Dual-Track Efforts to Strengthen International Norms in Northeast Asia

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se speaks at the 2014 NAPCI Forum. (Courtesy ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se speaks at the 2014 NAPCI Forum. (Courtesy ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

This post was co-authored with Kang Choi, the vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and director of the Center for Foreign Policy and National Security.

The establishment of a comprehensive vision for the U.S.-ROK alliance is based on converging interests and shared values. As a result, U.S.-ROK coordination in response to North Korean provocations has been strengthened, as demonstrated by how both sides worked together in support of tension-reduction during the recent exchange of fire in August along the DMZ. The United States and South Korea also coordinate regularly on other global issues, which include international public health, international development, and climate change. Nevertheless, a gap in U.S. and South Korean approaches on regional issues remains. The United States has framed its “rebalance” to Asia in regional terms while South Korea’s signature initiative in support of multilateral institution building, the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), focuses on the sub-region of Northeast Asia. The gap exists despite the fact that both countries share the goal of strengthening a strong foundation for the effective application of international norms within the region. Read more »

The UN Sustainable Development Goals: An Opportunity for Niche Diplomacy by Middle-Power Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2014. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Brendan Howe is a professor at Ewha Womans University’s Graduate School of International Studies.

From September 25 to 27, South Korean President Park Geun-hye will be attending the United Nations (UN) Development Summit in New York, where she will be giving the keynote address. Much of the summit will focus on the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDGs are a set of proposals that look to build on two high profile international governance agendas: [1] international development cooperation, dominated since 2000 by the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of 2015; and [2] twenty years of environmental cooperation since the landmark United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). Read more »

Prospects for a U.S.-South Korea-India Triangle?

by Scott A. Snyder
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye prior to their meeting at the presidential Blue House on May 18, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Courtesy Reuters) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye prior to their meeting at the presidential Blue House on May 18, 2015 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Courtesy Reuters)

Yonsei University Professor Chung Min Lee has described prospects for relations between South Korea and India as historically hampered by “geographic distance” and “mutual disinterest.” India was South Korea’s eighth largest export destination and only the twenty-second largest source of imports in 2014, with a total trade volume of $17.9 billion. Yet during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seoul last May, he and South Korean President Park Geun-hye signed a Special Strategic Partnership agreement reflecting mutual aspirations for broad-based cooperation. Will the two countries’ parallel universes finally converge around a broader set of interests beyond their mutual concern with the Pakistan-North Korea nuclear proliferation axis? Read more »

Will South Korean Nuclear Leadership Make a Difference in 2016?

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) reaches out to shake the hand of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in Seoul March 26, 2012. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak (L) reaches out to shake the hand of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano as he arrives for a working dinner at the Nuclear Security Summit at the Convention and Exhibition Center (COEX) in Seoul March 26, 2012. (Yuriko Nakao/Courtesy Reuters)

Toby Dalton is the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced this week that the Republic of Korea will chair the December 2016 ministerial meeting on nuclear security in Vienna, Austria. South Korea will also chair the forty-eight-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) next year and is slated to host the group’s annual plenary meeting in Seoul. 2016 is shaping up to be a critical year for South Korea’s nuclear diplomacy. Read more »

Park’s Decision to Join Xi Jinping’s World War II Commemoration

by Scott A. Snyder
Park Geun-hye Xi Jinping China's President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in front of Chinese and South Korean national flags during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People, on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, in Beijing, November 10, 2014 (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters).

Many Western observers are likely to raise their eyebrows tomorrow when they see that South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye is standing alongside Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin on the reviewing stand at Tiananmen Square to mark China’s newly established holiday commemorating the end of World War II (WWII). As China’s next-door neighbor and a military ally of the United States, Park may seem to be a big catch for Beijing, which has been lobbying hard for the attendance of Park and other leaders of countries that experienced Japanese aggression during WWII. Some critics have already suggested that Park’s visit is evidence that South Korea cannot resist the growing centripetal pull of Beijing’s orbit. But Park’s presence alongside Xi is less about Park being snared by Beijing than it is about Park pressing to consolidate China’s support for Korean unification in the context of unprecedently weak ties between Beijing and Pyongyang. Read more »

A Modest Start Toward Inter-Korean Dialogue and Cooperation

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters) South Korean soldiers set up barricades at a checkpoint on the Grand Unification Bridge which leads to the truce village Panmunjom, just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Paju, South Korea, on August 22, 2015. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

Senior representatives of the two Koreas completed three days of marathon negotiations to avert further escalation of military tensions on August 25 at 12:55 a.m. local time. Despite hours spent at the negotiating table, the agreement itself is relatively short and straightforward. However, the fact that it took so long to reach the agreement underscores the difficulty both sides had in allowing each other to save face despite high tensions. Read more »

Inter-Korean Exchange of Fire Yields to Marathon Talks at the DMZ

by Scott A. Snyder
Kim Jong un North Korea South Korea Fire North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2nd L) speaks at an emergency meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) Central Military Commission, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 21, 2015 (KCNA/Reuters).

The South Korean injuries incurred on August 4 from land mines allegedly planted by North Korean soldiers at a South Korean guard post adjacent to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) has set off an inter-Korean rollercoaster ride punctuated by rising tensions: the first South Korean propaganda broadcasts toward the North in over a decade beginning August 10, an exchange of artillery fire across the DMZ on August 22, an ultimatum from the North demanding that South Korea stop the broadcasts by 5:00 p.m. on August 24 or face all-out war, and finally an agreement hours in advance of the North’s deadline to pursue over thirty hours (thus far) of marathon talks, led by senior military and civilian officials of the two governments at the Peace House on the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of August 21, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Bangkok-bombing People pray at the Erawan Shrine, the site of Monday's deadly blast, in central Bangkok, Thailand, August 20, 2015. (Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters)

Ashlyn Anderson, Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Ayumi Teraoka, and Gabriel Walker look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. Bombing in Bangkok. On Monday evening a bomb exploded within the popular Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 120 more. Thai authorities are investigating a suspect identified as a foreigner, who was caught on CCTV footage leaving a large backpack near the shrine, in connection with the blast. Read more »