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Asia Unbound

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

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Park’s Impeachment, Myanmar Exodus, ZTE Fine, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Pro-Park-protest A supporter of impeached President Park Geun-hye lies in front of a barricade of riot police during a protest after Park’s impeachment was accepted, near the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, March 10, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

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

1. Park Geun-hye impeached. South Korea’s Constitutional Court ruled unanimously on Friday to uphold a parliamentary vote that impeached Park Geun-hye in December, decisively ousting her from office and igniting violence from pro- and anti-Park demonstrators that led to at least two deaths in Seoul. Park’s abbreviated term, serving four years of a five-year term, has been marked by controversy and criticism of her apparent aloof and autocratic governing manner. Read more »

Expanding South Korea’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific Region

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korean Navy patrol combat corvettes stage an anti-submarine exercise off the western coast of Taean on May 27, 2010. North Korea said on Thursday it was ripping up military agreements signed with the South in a step seen as a prelude to shutting down a joint factory park, just as Seoul staged anti-submarine drills in tense border waters. (Reuters/Kim Jae-hwan)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae (Jacky) Park, research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

South Korea has become a nation with a global presence, but Seoul has yet to exercise its influence in Southeast Asia. In a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) discussion paper, Expanding South Korea’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific Region, Patrick M. Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security, and Seongwon Lee, deputy director for the international cooperation division of the unification policy office at the Ministry of Unification of the Republic of Korea, argue that South Korea should play a larger role in the region, particularly with regard to dealing with a rising China and coping with rising maritime tensions. Read more »

Malaysia’s Front Office Role in Enabling North Korean WMD Procurement

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol (C), who was expelled from Malaysia, is escorted as he arrives at Kuala Lumpur international airport in Sepang, Malaysia March 6, 2017. (Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

North Korea continues to evade UN sanctions designed to prevent its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) development by embedding its agents and intermediaries within the international trading system, according to the latest assessment of the UN Panel of Experts set up to monitor North Korean compliance with international sanctions. Read more »

The Death of Kim Jong Nam

by Joshua Kurlantzick and Scott A. Snyder
North Korean heir-apparent Kim Jong Nam emerges from a bus as he is escorted by Japanese authorities upon his deportation from Japan at Tokyo's Narita international airport May 4, 2001. Kim Jong Nam, eldest son of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the man entered Japan with a forged passport on Tuesday, but was deported to China on Friday. (Eriko Sugita)

The death in Malaysia of Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of former North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, was shocking on its surface. Reports indicate that two women may have poisoned him at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, while others suggest a larger group of people might have been involved. Reports further suggest the attackers may have poisoned Kim Jong Nam with a needle, while other reports allege they sprayed or used a cloth to apply some kind of poison on him. He died on his way to a hospital in the Malaysian capital. Read more »

When the United States Abdicates the Throne, Who Will Lead?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with the Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office on January 29, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Donald J. Trump’s initial forays into foreign policy suggest a desire to abdicate the throne. Not his own position as president of course, but rather the United States’ position as the world’s preeminent power—both as a driver of a globalized world and a defender of the traditional liberal order. He has withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific trade pact that would have cemented U.S. leadership among the economies that make up 40 percent of the world’s GDP. 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 »

The U.S.-ROK Alliance and the Trump Administration

by Scott A. Snyder
A woman takes a photograph of her friend with a cut-out of Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump during a U.S. Election Watch event hosted by the U.S. Embassy at a hotel in Seoul, South Korea, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

South Korea’s unfolding domestic political crisis has been all-consuming, with daily revelations by an unrestrained Korean media into multiple scandals that have created the likelihood of a prolonged political vacuum and implicated President Park Geun-hye. Despite the biggest Korean political scandal in decades, however, Koreans have been focused on seeking explanations and assurances from American visitors following the election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States. Read more »

Four Ways to Unilaterally Sanction North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder
Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. China on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang. (REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan)

It has been almost three weeks since North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test, but China and the United States have not yet reached agreement on the text of a new UN Security Council resolution condemning the country. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of July 15, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippines-decision-waiting Activists watch an announcement by a government official regarding a ruling on the South China Sea disputes by an arbitration court in the Hague at a restaurant in Manila, Philippines, July 12, 2016. (Erik De Castro/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Lincoln Davidson, Bochen Han, Theresa Lou, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Asia reacts to the South China Sea decision. The ruling of the arbitral tribunal in the Philippines’ case against China regarding the South China Sea sent ripples across the region. The Chinese government responded with an unequivocal rejection and state media irately critiqued the tribunal’s award, which included a ruling that China was not entitled to historic rights in the waters and that the Spratly Islands—alone or individually—do not generate any exclusive economic zones. Read more »

TPP and its Implications for Global Access to Medicines

by Guest Blogger for Yanzhong Huang
The twelve Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Ministers hold a press conference to discuss progress in the negotiations in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii July 31, 2015. Pacific Rim trade ministers failed to clinch a deal on Friday to free up trade between a dozen nations after a dispute flared between Japan and North America over autos, New Zealand dug in over dairy trade and no agreement was reached on monopoly periods for next-generation drugs. (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Mi Lin is an intern for Global Health Governance at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On March 9-10 and March 16-17, two sections of the United Nations Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines (UNGSAM) were held in London and Johannesburg, respectively. These two conventions were launched in response to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call last November to “find solutions to the lack of access to medicines.” This was the first time such a high-level panel on access to medicines was made open to the public.  Though the two dialogues, one in a developed country and the other in a developing country, had different conversational dynamics, issues surrounding intellectual property (IP) rules in free trade agreements (FTAs) were frequently raised in both sections. Health advocates have long argued that stricter IP provisions in FTAs is a main barrier to access to essential medicines for populations in developing countries. As the recently signed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) adds the latest development to this decades-long debate on trade and health, issues around TPP and its potential effects on global access to medicine also arose frequently at the panel. Read more »