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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"

Why Not Biden?

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) order from the menu at a sandwich shop near the White House in Washington on October 4, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Vice President Joe Biden (L) order from the menu at a sandwich shop near the White House in Washington on October 4, 2013 (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

Let’s be clear. Anyone who thinks that President Obama could leave Washington, DC, to travel to Asia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the midst of a virtual collapse of the U.S. government doesn’t understand the U.S. political system. The president would have been skewered—by the media, by the Republicans, and in private, by his own party. But why not send Vice President Biden? Read more »

How Damaging is the Cancellation of Obama’s Asia Trip?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah wave during a leaders' family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah wave during a leaders' family photo at the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 13, 2011. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama has finally bowed to the inevitable and cancelled his planned trip to Southeast Asia, which was supposed to begin this weekend and to include visits to the East Asia Summit, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders’ summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit, and a global entrepreneurs’ summit in Malaysia. As I noted in a recent Bloomberg Businessweek piece, the president had a lot of items on the planned Asia agenda, including trying to finalize trade talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, and using his visit to bolster growing strategic and defense ties with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia, among other Southeast Asian nations. Read more »

Obama’s October Trip to Asia

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor as they arrive at the opening dinner of the APEC Leaders Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 12, 2011. President Obama will be visiting Malaysia in October 2013. (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters)

The White House last week confirmed that President Obama will be traveling to Southeast Asia between October 6 and 12. He will visit Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia. Read more »

Intervention In Syria: The View From Pyongyang

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front R) walks with Abdullah al-Ahmar (2nd L), deputy general secretary of Syria's Baath Arab Socialist Party and his delegation, who are visiting North Korea to participate in the 60th anniversary of the truce of the Korean War, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 24, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (front R) walks with Abdullah al-Ahmar (2nd L), deputy general secretary of Syria's Baath Arab Socialist Party and his delegation, who are visiting North Korea to participate in the 60th anniversary of the truce of the Korean War, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on July 24, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

At Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on authorization of use of force in Syria, Secretary of State Kerry stated that “North Korea is hoping that ambivalence carries the day. They are listening for our silence.” Defense Secretary Hagel mentioned North Korea’s chemical weapons stockpiles, arguing that weakening of the norm against use of such weapons would “embolden other regimes to use or acquire chemical weapons.”  No doubt North Korean leaders are closely watching the U.S. debate over intervention in Syria, but they will exploit Syrian intervention for their own ends regardless of what action the United States decides to take. Read more »

Blink and You Will Miss It: Obama’s Quiet Pivot Progress

by Elizabeth C. Economy
Philippine President Benigno Aquino greets visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a courtesy call at the presidential palace in Manila on August 30, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters) Philippine President Benigno Aquino greets visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during a courtesy call at the presidential palace in Manila on August 30, 2013. (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters)

Amidst the din of Syrian intervention talk and Fed picks, the Obama administration is pushing forward quietly, but determinedly, to flesh out the pivot to Asia. While most of the critical attention on the pivot or rebalance is paid to what is transpiring on the security front, there is real, albeit slow, progress on the trade front and the potential for significant advances in other areas such as environmental protection. Read more »

Why is There a Military Build-up in Phnom Penh?

by Joshua Kurlantzick
U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama toasts with Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen as they participate in an East Asia Summit dinner in Phnom Penh on November 19, 2012. (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the weekend, tanks, armored personnel carriers and other heavy weaponry appeared in the Phnom Penh area, according to reports in the Cambodian press and in Asia Sentinel. Only a few weeks after Cambodia’s national elections, which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) allegedly won in a squeaker and the opposition claims was fraudulent, why are tanks and APCs rolling into Phnom Penh? Cambodia has no battles in the capital; even its border skirmishes with Thailand over the disputed Preah Vihear Temple have calmed down in the past two years. No, the show of force is designed to intimidate opposition supporters, who tend to live in urban areas. Defense Minister Tea Banh of the CPP didn’t mince words. According to the Cambodia Daily, he said, “You don’t have to wonder, they [the weapons] will be used to protect the country, and crack down on anyone who tries to destroy the nation.Read more »

Blair Rapalyea: Brazil, Internet Freedom, and Foreign Surveillance

by Guest Blogger for Adam Segal
Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a meeting of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on February 6, 2013. (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters) Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff reacts during a meeting of the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on February 6, 2013. (Ueslei Marcelino/Courtesy Reuters)

Several previous posts have covered China’s reaction to PRISM, the NSA’s surveillance program revealed by Edward Snowden. While Brazil usually falls outside of Asia Unbound’s coverage, this guest post by Blair Rapalyea, an intern for the Cybersecurity and Cyberconflict Initiative at the Council on Foreign Relations, shows how another emerging Internet power is reacting. There are some notable similarities—a focus on domestic technology and a look to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to play a greater role in Internet governance—but also some important differences as Brazil champions individual and Internet rights. Read more »

North Korea’s Defiant Proposal for Denuclearization Talks

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) poses with troops of Korean People's Army Unit 405 at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Only one week after proposing and then pulling the plug on inter-Korean dialogue over protocol differences, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)’s National Defense Commission on June 16 issued a surprise proposal for “high-level” U.S.-DPRK talks on easing of military tensions, establishment of a peace regime, and “various other issues both parties want to address, including the building of a nuclear-free world proposed by the United States.” Read more »

The Obama-Xi Summit And Renewed Inter-Korean Dialogue

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama meets Chinese President Xi Jinping at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California June 7, 2013.(Kevin Lamarque/courtesy Reuters)

When the United States and China move closer to each other, leaders of the two Koreas are apt to start talking. An unanticipated side effect of Nixon’s rapprochement with China in the early 1970s was that both Kim Il-sung and Park Chung-hee established secret talks in response to a new strategic reality in which their respective patrons had established dialogue. Those talks led to a landmark inter-Korean joint declaration on July 4, 1972. Although the Obama-Xi Sunnylands summit was advertised as an introductory session not designed to produce deliverables, one indirect effect of the summit is that it has jumpstarted inter-Korean dialogue. The first working-level inter-Korean talks between the Park Geun-hye and Kim Jong-un leaderships is being held at Panmunjom nearly simultaneously with the Xi-Obama summit. Read more »

Xi-Obama: The Good-Enough Summit

by Elizabeth C. Economy
U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California on June 8, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk the grounds at The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California on June 8, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

By most any measure, the Sunnylands summit cast some sunshine on the U.S.-China relationship. The optics were positive with plenty of snapshots of the two presidents walking, talking, and smiling. President Obama even referred to the talks as “terrific.” There were the usual agreements to talk more and to meet more, and both presidents reaffirmed the need and desire of the two countries to work together more effectively. Read more »