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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. Foreign Policy"

Our Anxiety as the President Heads to Asia

by Sheila A. Smith
U.S. President Barack Obama walks among Cherry Blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama walks among cherry blossoms in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 20, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Anxiety is everywhere these days in the debate over U.S. policy toward Asia. Here in Washington, there seems to be deep anxiety about the Obama administration’s ability to fulfill its promise to rebalance to Asia. In Asia itself, the anxiety is more about the staying power of the United States in a region undergoing a challenging geostrategic shift, and often that anxiety is manifest not in what the United States does on a daily basis but in what the president will or will not say out loud when he goes there next week.

There is reason for anxiety, to be sure. But let’s make sure we are anxious about what matters. Let’s have a conversation about policy goals instead of atmospherics and personalities. And, rather than declare Obama’s visit to Asia doomed before it even begins, it might be wise to consider on balance the positive accomplishments as well as the limitations of current U.S. policy initiatives in Asia. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of April 11, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
india-electonic-voting-booth A voter looks at an electronic voting machine before casting his vote inside a booth at a polling station in Bhangel village on the outskirts of New Delhi on April 10, 2014. Around 815 million people have registered to vote in the world's biggest election—a number exceeding the population of Europe and a world record—and results of the mammoth exercise, which concludes on May 12, are due on May 16 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy: Reuters).

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

1. Indian election underway. With over 814 million eligible voters, India’s election is the largest democratic undertaking in history and will take place over a period of five weeks in nine phases—three of which were completed this week. On Thursday, constituencies were at stake in eleven of India’s states and three federally administered territories. India’s Election Commission reported impressive voter turnout in most regions, including over 60 percent turnout in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. Read more »

Obama in Malaysia: A Strategic Partnership?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
najib-and-obama-in-2011 U.S. president Barack Obama meets with Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, on November 18, 2011 (Jason Reed/Courtesy: Reuters).

During his upcoming late April trip to Asia, President Obama will visit two nations in Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to stops in Northeast Asia. The White House already has been briefing reporters on the overall messaging of the trip, and the specific themes the president plans to hit in Malaysia and the Philippines. In Malaysia, it appears from several news reports and from speaking with several administration officials, President Obama will add to the Malaysian government’s self-promotion that Kuala Lumpur is a successful and democratic nation, an example of other Muslim-majority countries, and a force for moderation in the world. The president apparently plans to hit these themes despite the regional anger at Malaysia’s handling of the Malaysia Airlines vanished plane, which exposed to the world many of the problems with Malaysia’s governance. 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 »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of March 7, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Policemen check unclaimed luggage at a square outside the Kunming railway station after a knife attack, in Kunming, Yunnan province on March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Mass stabbing in Kunming, China, leaves thirty-three dead and 130 injured. Eight people armed with knives attacked travelers in a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on Saturday. Four attackers were shot dead, one was wounded and captured, and three other attackers were apprehended near the border with Vietnam. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, called “China’s 9/11” by Chinese media, early signs suggest that Uighur separatists are the perpetrators. Read more »

Piekos and Tobias: China’s Place in ‘House of Cards’

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Cast member Kevin Spacey poses at the premiere for the second season of the television series "House of Cards" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters) Cast member Kevin Spacey poses at the premiere for the second season of the television series "House of Cards" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, California on February 13, 2014. (Mario Anzuoni/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a program coordinator and Sharone Tobias is a research associate in the Council on Foreign Relation’s Asia Studies program.

Warning: This blog post contains spoilers for House of Cards.

Netflix’s original series House of Cards returned with a second season on Valentine’s Day this year. 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 »

Assessing John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a group of students before delivering a speech on climate change in Jakarta on February 16, 2014. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit this weekend (U.S. time) to Jakarta was brief, packed into his whirlwind Asia trip. His short stay in Jakarta was understandable—I think Kerry, despite criticism that he has focused too much on the Middle East, has put in enough of the face time in Asia to justify his claim that he has continued the administration’s policy of re-engagement with Southeast Asia. The fact that Kerry chose to give a speech in front of an audience of students at a cultural center highlighted some of the American embassy in Jakarta’s soft power efforts in the archipelago. And I certainly would agree with most of what Kerry said in his speech on climate change and the threat of global warming—that climate change is a near-apocalyptic threat to the world, that the science about global warming is settled, that Indonesia is one of the developing nations most likely to be affected by climate change, that global warming could prove a death blow to many parts of the archipelago. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of February 14, 2014

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
kerry_in_beijing U.S. secretary of state John Kerry meets with Chinese premier Li Keqiang at the Zhongnanhai Leadership Compound in Beijing on February 14, 2014. (Evan Vucci/Courtesy Reuters)

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

1. Secretary Kerry visits South Korea, China, and Indonesia on Asia tour. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry’s trip marks his fifth to Asia during his first year in office. In Seoul, he met with South Korean president Park Geun-hye and Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se to discuss the South’s relations with North Korea, including efforts to facilitate reunions between family members on the divided peninsula. Read more »

John Kerry’s Visit to Jakarta

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he arrives for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit official dinner in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7, 2013. (Pool New/Courtesy Reuters)

At the end of his current trip to Asia, Secretary of State John Kerry will be stopping in Jakarta and meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Le Luong Minh. Although his visit in Jakarta will be short, Kerry will undoubtedly emphasize the same themes he is hitting throughout the visit, including pushing to restart talks on North Korea’s nuclear program and prodding China to work more seriously with Southeast Asian nations on a real code of conduct for the South China Sea. Matthew Lee of the Associated Press, traveling with Kerry, has a thorough summary of the trip’s agenda here. Read more »