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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 "Southeast Asia"

How the Laos War Transformed the CIA

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Book jacket photography by John Quintero/Getty Images.

From 1961 until the early 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency undertook, in Laos, what remains the largest covert operation in the history of the United States. Tiny Laos, which had not even existed as a coherent entity twenty years earlier and which had a smaller population than Los Angeles, suddenly was propelled to the center of U.S. foreign policy universe, only to vanish completely from that radar fifteen years later. Read more »

The CIA Isn’t Necessarily Going to Lose Out in the New Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick
trump-3 U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia U.S. on January 21, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

During the transition period between November and January, President-elect Donald Trump developed perhaps the most publicly antagonistic relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies of any incoming president in at least decades. He compared the intelligence agencies to Nazis, repeatedly disdained their reports as fake, and dismissed their assessments of foreign interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal last Monday, outgoing CIA director John Brennan called Trump’s allegations “repugnant.” Other intelligence officials have reportedly expressed a sense of dread about what’s to come. Read more »

Samsung Scandal, Chinese Coal, Islamic State in Asia, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
jay-lee-samsung Chief of Samsung Group Lee Jae-yong is surrounded by media as he arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Sprawling influence-peddling scandal spreads to Samsung leadership. Last week, the de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, faced a twenty-two-hour interrogation regarding allegations that Samsung paid, and promised to pay, a total of 43 billion won (roughly $36.4 million) in bribes to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the government-controlled National Pension Service’s support of a contentious 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Read more »

Abe’s Mission Impossible in Manila

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-abe President Rodrigo Duterte joins Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) as he interacts with the pupils waving the Japan and Philippine flags before entering the Malacanang presidential palace in metro Manila, Philippines on January 12, 2017. (Malacanang Photo/ Handout via Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

As electoral shocks overhaul the Asian geopolitical landscape, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe is on an all-out charm offensive. When Donald Trump Jr. pulled off a surprising electoral victory on the back of a populist, anti-globalization rhetoric, the Japanese leader immediately scrambled to secure a meeting with the president-elect. Read more »

Chinese Carrier in the Strait, Philippine Birth Control, $100 Billion SoftBank Fund, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
liaoning-training-drill China’s Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of the South China Sea, in this undated photo taken December 2016. (Stringer/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lorand Laskai, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. China’s aircraft carrier sails through Taiwan Strait. Early Wednesday morning, China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, sailed into the Taiwan Strait, leading Taipei to scramble F-16 fighter jets and ships to “surveil and control” the movement of the Liaoning and its accompanying five warships. Read more »

The World Economy is Already Responding to the Presidential Transition

by Joshua Kurlantzick
trump-2 U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump speaks at the USA Thank You Tour event at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center in West Allis, Wisconsin, U.S., on December 13, 2016. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

As the Trump administration steps up its transition planning, the details of its proposed economic policies remain unclear. During the campaign, Trump took multiple positions that were at odds with Republican orthodoxy on economics, slamming current and potential U.S. free trade deals, calling for possible tariffs on China, Mexico, and other countries, and vowing to unleash a wave of spending in America that could, he argued, bolster infrastructure and revive withering manufacturing industries. Read more »

Duterte and the United States in 2017

by Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-4 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte looks on during an awarding ceremony for outstanding Filipinos and organizations overseas, at the Malacanang Palace in Manila, Philippines on December 19, 2016. (Ezra Acayan/Reuters)

Over the past year, new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signaled that he wants to dramatically shift Manila’s relationships with the United States, Russia, and China. Duterte also has taken a wrecking ball to many norms of Philippine democracy, overseeing a war on drugs that has led to a spike in extrajudicial killings, pushing his vice president out of Cabinet meetings, and reportedly threatening reporters and civil society activists who criticize him. He also vows to upend and radically reform Philippine politics and the Philippine economy, taking measures to reduce high economic inequality and, possibly, to shift the country to a more federalized system. Read more »

Chinese Ivory, Google in India, Philippine Jailbreak, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
china-ivory-ban A police officer stands guard next to ivory and ivory sculptures before they are destroyed in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on January 6, 2014. (Alex Lee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lorand Laskai, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. The world reacts to China’s ivory ban. Following a resolution at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in South Africa in October, the Chinese State Council last Friday announced a ban on all ivory trade and processing activities by the close of 2017. China currently sustains roughly 70 percent of the world’s ivory market, where the coveted material can cost upwards of $1,000 per kilogram. Read more »

Is Rakhine State Home to a Growing Insurgency?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
rakhine-rohingya The ruins of a market which was set on fire are seen at a Rohingya village outside Maugndaw in Rakhine state, Myanmar on October 27, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Rakhine State, where violence has been escalating for two months after Rohingya militants allegedly attacked a border guard post on October 9, is spiraling into chaos. As I noted in a recent post, the government of Aung San Suu Kyi seems unable, or unwilling to control security forces operating in northern Rakhine State, where they have been numerous reports of reprisal killings, beatings, and house-burnings against Rohingya in the weeks since October 9. The Myanmar government reportedly has made parts of northern Rakhine State off-limits to journalists and aid groups, making it hard to assess the true state of damage there. Read more »

Duterte and the Incoming U.S. Administration

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick
duterte-3 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a visit at Camp Servillano S. Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac, Philippines on December 11, 2016. (Czar Dancel/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

In the past few months, the Philippine-U.S. alliance has suffered an unprecedented setback. Diplomatic exchanges have been rife with tensions, while military cooperation has been downgraded, although it is unclear whether it has been formally downgraded. Read more »