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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 "U.S.-ROK Relations"

Can Beijing and Seoul Become Strategic Partners?

by Scott A. Snyder
park-xi-2013 South Korean president Park Geun-Hye (right) and Chinese president Xi Jinping inspect Chinese honor guards during a welcoming ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on June 27, 2013. Park visited China in June 2013, and Xi will pay a return visit to Seoul this week (Wang Zhao/Courtesy: Reuters).

China’s President Xi Jinping will complete an exchange of state visits with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the space of a little less than a year. This is a remarkable intensification of the relationship between Seoul and Beijing, especially when one considers that Xi Jinping has yet to visit Pyongyang or receive Kim Jong-un. Likewise, routinized summits between Seoul and Tokyo have vanished as Seoul-Beijing relations have intensified, raising questions in Tokyo about whether Seoul might prefer Beijing over the United States and Japan. But despite a burgeoning trade relationship between Seoul and Beijing that is larger than the combined value of South Korea’s trade with the United States and Japan, what future can Xi and Park forge for China-South Korea relations going forward, and to what purpose? Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of May 30, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters). Trucks packed with criminals and suspects are seen during a mass sentencing rally at a stadium in Yili, Xinjiang on May 27, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters).

Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.

1. China convicts fifty-five people in Xinjiang mass sentencing. Fifty-five people were sentenced for terrorism, separatism, international homicide, and murder at a stadium of 7,000 onlookers in Yili, Xinjiang. Standing in backs of vehicles surrounded by armed guards, the defendants all appeared to be from the region’s Muslim Uighur community. The rare mass trial, in which three defendants were sentenced to death, is part of Beijing’s hardline response to a recent string of deadly attacks across the country. Human rights advocates criticized the mass sentencing for its failure to address underlying public security problems. Meanwhile, authorities in Xinjiang are hoping to overcome fears of terrorist attacks by offering cash bonuses to tourists to the region from elsewhere in China. Read more »

Obama and Park: Political Leadership Needed in the Face of Crisis

by Scott A. Snyder
park-on-sewol South Korean president Park Geun-hye speaks to family members of missing passengers who were on South Korean ferry Sewol, which sank at the sea off Jindo, during her visit to a gym in Jindo where family members gathered, on April 17, 2014. President Park said on Monday the actions of some crew of the ferry that sank with hundreds feared dead were tantamount to murder, as a four-year-old video transcript showed the captain promoting the safety of the same route (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

Rumors of an impending North Korean nuclear test have more than justified President Obama’s decision to add South Korea to his agenda during his trip to Asia this week. Rather than discussing security challenges, it would not be surprising if the American and South Korean leaders spend most of their time commiserating with each other over the limits and obstacles their respective governments are facing against high public expectations. Read more »

Obama’s Mission in Asia: Bring the Allies Together

by Scott A. Snyder
park-obama-abe-at-the-hague U.S. president Barack Obama hosted a trilateral meeting with South Korean president Park Geun-hye Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014 (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy: Reuters).

President Obama took an important step before this week’s visit to Asia by bringing together Japanese and South Korean leaders for a trilateral summit at The Hague a few weeks ago. That meeting sent a crucial message that the president should hammer home at every opportunity in Asia this week: for the Obama administration’s rebalancing strategy toward Asia to be successful, America and its allies must work more closely with each other. Read more »

The President as Facilitator in Chief

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of the South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014 U.S. president Barack Obama holds a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea (L) and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (R) after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague March 25, 2014. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

As if on cue, Pyongyang yet again emphasized the importance of trilateral cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea when it fired two Nodong missiles into the Sea of Japan. The timing was perfect—President Barack Obama was meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. The focus of their talks? North Korea’s threat to regional security. Read more »

Kerry and the Diplomatic Dead End With North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
kerry-in-beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry walks off after a news conference in Beijing on February 14, 2014. Kerry urged the Chinese to use “all of the means of persuasion that they have” to achieve a denuclearized North Korea (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters).

Secretary of State John Kerry’s first visit to Northeast Asia last April was consumed with near-term crisis management since it coincided with the peak of regional tensions driven by North Korea’s provocative rhetoric. In contrast, his second visit to the region last week occurred against the backdrop of apparent easing of inter-Korean tensions and afforded a better environment for long-term coordination toward North Korea. Unfortunately, the visit appears to have illuminated the dead ends the administration faces on denuclearization of North Korea rather than showing a way forward. Washington has placed its bet on pressure from Beijing as the best hope for turning Pyongyang back to denuclearization, but Kerry’s conversations in Bejing raise questions about whether this route can really succeed. Read more »

Drawing Lines in the East China Sea

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks after a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013 U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks after a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 4, 2013 (Lintao Zhang/Courtesy Reuters).

When Vice President Joe Biden originally planned his trip to Northeast Asia, the policy agenda for each of his stops differed. In Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership was high on his list; in Beijing, it was cementing his friendship with China’s new leader, Xi Jinping; and, in Seoul the road ahead in coping with Pyongyang seemed most important. Liz Economy does a terrific job of evaluating the vice president’s impact in China, and Scott Snyder offers his insights on how Biden managed the sensitive diplomatic moment in Seoul. Read more »

Biden’s Bet on a South Korea Squeezed on All Sides

by Scott A. Snyder
biden-and-park-in-seoul South Korean President Park Geun-hye shakes hands with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden before their meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul December 6, 2013. (Ahn Young-joon/Courtesy Reuters)

Joe Biden wasted no time in affirming American security assurances to South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye during his meeting in Seoul, stating that it has “never been a good bet to bet against America . . . and America will continue to place its bet on South Korea.” Read more »

South Korea and Vietnam Between Beijing and Washington

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters) South Korea's President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with her Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang after a news briefing at the Presidential Palace during her official visit in Hanoi on September 9, 2013. (Luong Thai Linh/courtesy Reuters)

One of the most dramatic effects of China’s economic rise has been the potential strategic dilemma facing South Korea (and the other countries in East Asia), as it depends on relations with China as a major source of economic growth while it still relies on Washington for security. As reflected in President Park Geun-hye’s discussion of the “Asian paradox” and her Northeast Asian cooperation proposals, South Korea’s strategic preference is to avoid having to make a choice between Washington and Beijing. Therefore, South Korea has a major stake in good China-U.S. relations. Nonetheless, what are the hypothetical circumstances under which South Korea would make a strategic choice in favor of China over the United States? Read more »

Big Decisions Facing South Korea’s New Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Admiral Choi Yun-hee (2nd L, front) talks with officers in front of launch pad equipped with cruise missiles on South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyer Sejong on the sea off Busan, southeast of Seoul February 14, 2013. (courtesy Reuters) South Korean Admiral Choi Yun-hee (2nd L, front) talks with officers in front of launch pad equipped with cruise missiles on South Korean Navy's Aegis destroyer Sejong on the sea off Busan, southeast of Seoul February 14, 2013. (courtesy Reuters)

South Korea’s National Assembly confirmed for the first time this week a naval officer, Admiral Choi Yun-hee, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Given the historic dominance of the army in South Korea’s military, which once focused solely on deterring an all out land war with North Korea, Admiral Choi’s appointment corresponds to a widening scope in South Korea’s thinking about defense. This evolving outlook should help South Korea better address the country’s increasing interest in protecting maritime trade routes and challenges posed by rising regional maritime tensions in Asia. Read more »