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Asia Unbound

CFR experts give their take on the cutting-edge issues emerging in Asia today.

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Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 6, 2015

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters). A policeman stands guard in front of the U.S. embassy in central Seoul after Ambassador Mark Lippert was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist on March 4, 2015 (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. U.S. Ambassador to South Korea attacked in Seoul. A South Korean man identified as Kim Ki-jong, a fifty-five-year-old South Korean with a record of violent activism, slashed U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert with a knife across the face and hand on Thursday morning local time. Lippert received eighty stitches on his face, from chin to cheek and is reported to be in good condition as of Friday. The assailant told reporters he attacked the ambassador to protest regular U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. U.S. diplomats have varied levels of security details, and though Seoul is considered a “low-threat” post, a security team was accompanying Lippert at the time of the attack. Lippert, who took up his post in Seoul in October 2014, has taken a proactively friendly approach toward his post, taking his dog Grigsby on regular walks in the city, maintaining an active Twitter account, and giving his son, born in Seoul in January 2015, a Korean middle name. Read more »

Shocking Reminder of Korea Tensions

by Scott A. Snyder
support for lippert Activists from a conservative and pro-U.S. civic group hold banners bearing messages to wish U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert a speedy recovery in front of a hospital where he is admitted to, in Seoul on March 5, 2015. Lippert underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery after he was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist, Kim Ki-jong, in an attack at a forum held in Seoul on Thursday to discuss Korean reunification, officials said. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy: Reuters)

A version of this post originally appeared on CNN and can be found here.

The attack on Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, allegedly by a knife-wielding Korean progressive activist at a breakfast meeting in Seoul, was a rare and shocking reminder of the ongoing conflict that continues to divide the Korean Peninsula. Read more »

Cybersecurity, Nuclear Safety, and the Need for a Security Regime in Northeast Asia

by Scott A. Snyder
EAS summit Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye, Myanmar's President Thein Sein, and China's Premier Li Keqiang hold hands as they pose for a photo before the ASEAN Plus Three Summit during the 25th ASEAN Summit in Naypyitaw November 13, 2014. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy: Reuters)

The U.S.-DPRK tit-fo-tat over the Sony hack has continued into the new year, with the Obama administration announcing sanctions on three organizations and ten individuals on January 2 and North Korea responding with indignation two days later. But the media focus on the Sony hack obscures a potentially much more dangerous hacking incident that has also been attributed to North Korea involving release of personal information of over 10,000 employees of the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company (KHNP), which operates twenty-three nuclear reactors in South Korea. Read more »

New Challenges for the U.S.-ROK Alliance

by Scott A. Snyder
2014 US-ROK 2 plus 2 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (second right) and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel co-hosted the 2+2 Ministerial with South Korea's Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (second left) and Minister of National Defense Han Min-Koo, at the State Department in Washington on October 24, 2014 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy: Reuters).

The U.S.-South Korea alliance has grown deeper since 2009, when Presidents Obama and Lee Myung-bak announced a U.S.-ROK Joint Vision Statement that expanded the framework for bilateral cooperation beyond the Korean peninsula to regional and global issues. This statement set the stage for both deeper U.S.-ROK security coordination toward North Korea and for South Korean contributions to anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden and South Korean participation in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. The vision was reaffirmed by Park Geun-hye last year in Washington on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the alliance. I argue in my chapter for National Bureau of Asian Research’s most recent volume, Strategic Asia 2014-2015: U.S. Alliances and Partnerships at the Center of Global Power, that further implementation of this broadened vision has created new internal and external challenges. Read more »

Not U.S. Isolationism, But a Rebalancing of Priorities and Means

by Scott A. Snyder
shangri la sideline U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (center) join hands with Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera (left) and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin during a trilateral meeting on the sidelines 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: Reuters).

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2014 survey released last month entitled “Foreign Policy in the Age of Retrenchment” reports that over 40 percent of Americans believe that the United States should “stay out” rather than take an active part in global affairs. But the survey also shows that over four-fifths of Americans believe that the United States should continue to show strong leadership in world affairs. Possibly the strongest counter-arguments for smart American leadership versus isolationism and retrenchment are expressed in poll results regarding American attitudes toward its alliances in Asia. This is an important finding because it shows growing American understanding of the importance of Asia and growing support for the strategic value of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. Read more »

South Korea-U.S. Nuclear Cooperation: How to Move Forward

by Scott A. Snyder
shin kori 3 and 4_au The Shin Kori No. 1 reactor of state-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) are seen in Ulsan, about 255 miles southeast of Seoul. Picture taken on September 3, 2013 (Lee Jae-Won/Courtesy: Reuters).

South Korea’s vibrant civilian nuclear sector, which consists of 23 reactors that supplied approximately 30 percent of its electricity in 2012, was built through cooperation with the United States. The United States shared know-how and technology that enabled the construction and operation of South Korea’s first reactors in the 1960s. American companies such as Westinghouse and the former Combustion Engineering worked closely with South Korean counterparts over decades to build a vibrant nuclear power generation capacity in South Korea, a country that has virtually no indigenous energy production resources. Read more »

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 »