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Asia Unbound

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

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India’s Stakes in the Middle East

by Alyssa Ayres
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (L) shakes hands with India's Vice President Hamid Ansari upon his arrival at the airport in New Delhi February 26, 2014 (Adnan Abidi/Courtesy Reuters).

The Pew Research Center just released a superb infographic drawing on World Bank remittance data that makes it possible, with just a few clicks, to instantly see how remittances flow from source to recipient countries. It might not be a surprise to anyone that the United States is the number one source country, with more than $123 billion in remittances flowing to countries all over the world in 2012, the most recently available year. And it might not be a surprise, either, to learn that India is the number one recipient country, with $69 billion coming in during 2012. But how many people would guess that even though the United States is the number one source country for outflows worldwide, it isn’t the largest source of remittances going to India. That would be the United Arab Emirates (UAE). More than $15 billion was remitted to India from the UAE during 2012, compared with $11 billion from the United States. Read more »

A Divided Family Reunification Bonanza in Korea?

by Scott A. Snyder
korea-family-reunions South Koreans on a bus bid farewell to their North Korean relatives after the November 2010 inter-Korean family reunions at Mount Kumgang resort in North Korea. This week’s reunions are the first held since they were suspended in 2010 following increased tension between the two Koreas. (Kim Chang-Gil/Courtesy Reuters).

A few lucky Korean family members from North and South will meet loved ones that they haven’t seen for over sixty years at the snowy, virtually abandoned Mount Kumgang tourist hotel complex, which itself is an apt backdrop for an uncertain “breakthrough” in inter-Korean relations. Fueled by parallel New Year’s speeches and resolutions by South and North Korean leaders last month (Kim Jong-un pledged to seek inter-Korean rapprochement; Park Geun-hye called reunification a daebak, or “bonanza”), North Korea has actually lived up to National Defense Commission declarations and pledges to set aside slander (for now) and possibly even to ignore the annual U.S.-ROK training exercises set to start on February 24 so that these inter-Korean family meetings can go forward. But on the rare occasions when inter-Korean relations ease, such circumstances always engender doubts about how and when the other shoe will drop. Read more »

The Limits of Speech in India

by Alyssa Ayres

India is the world’s largest democracy, with possibly the world’s largest number of political parties (six national, twenty-two regional, and 1500+ official unrecognized parties), and what must surely be the most disputatious and argumentative broadcast media. Anyone who has ever watched the myriad prime time talk shows, with six to ten guests shouting at each other (sometimes the host, too), would know what I mean. It has also been my experience over the last nearly twenty-five years traveling to and engaging with India, that people love a good argument. You can have a fierce debate over a meal, and over very serious ideas, but by the time sweets come around you’ve moved on to something else—even if you still disagree. One of the great things about India, in my view, is the wonderful acceptance of vigorous disagreement. Read more »

Overcoming the Japan-South Korea Historical Identity Complex

by Scott A. Snyder
abe_park Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korea's President Park Geun-hye link hands during the family photo at the ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan on October 10, 2013. (Ahim Rani/Courtesy Reuters)

This blog post was co-authored with Brad Glosserman, executive director of Honolulu-based Pacific Forum CSIS. A version of this post also appeared as a Pacific Forum CSIS PacNet publication, and can be found here.

The announcement that China has cooperated with South Korea to open a memorial hall in Harbin in honor of Ahn Jung-geun, the independence activist who in 1909 assassinated Hirobumi Ito, Japanese colonial governor of Korea (then a Japanese protectorate), symbolizes the historical obstacles to forward-looking Japan-South Korea relations. The ensuing controversy reflects divergent views of history – one man’s terrorist is another’s “freedom fighter” – but this incident also illuminates a deeper, and more compelling, dimension of the split between Japan and the ROK as it is currently framed: contradictory conceptions of national identity that stand in the way of reconciliation steps necessary to improve relations. Read more »

Challenges in Designing an Effective North Korean Human Rights Policy

by Scott A. Snyder
refugee-interview-photos North Korean refugees provide some of the mounting evidence against systemic human rights abuses in North Korea. Here, one refugee shows pictures of his family in North Korea. (Kim Hong-Ji/Courtesy Reuters).

There is no more vexing issue than the challenge of how to support the improvement of human rights in North Korea, a country that has consistently ranked at the bottom of international indices rating human freedom around the world.  The U.S. Congress passed the North Korea Human Rights Act almost a decade ago, the United Nations has appointed a rapporteur to examine the human rights situation inside North Korea for almost as long, and the Korean Institute for National Unification has published an ever-growing annual white paper on North Korean human rights since 1996.  This year the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Commission of Inquiry that has held public hearings in Seoul, Tokyo, London, and Washington, DC; the commission will report back to the UN Human Rights Council with its assessment and recommendations by spring of next year.  But the stream of North Korean refugee testimony to unspeakable atrocities and evidence of systemic abuses inside North Korea continues to grow. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Top Five Stories for the Week of September 20, 2013

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Government soldiers escort residents who were taken hostage and used as human shields by Muslim rebels of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during fighting with government soldiers, in Zamboanga city in southern Philippines on September 17, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos and Sharone Tobias look at the top five stories in Asia this week.

1. Chinese President wraps up trip to Central Asia.  President Xi Jinping ended a ten-day trip to Central Asia with a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) last weekend. Xi signed a number of bilateral economic and energy deals with countries in the region, and the SCO reached consensus on a number of foreign policy issues (largely in line with Chinese and Russian interests). With the U.S. withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2014, Central Asia is a region ripe for Chinese leadership. Read more »

North Korea’s Next Provocation: When and Why?

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un salutes during a parade to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of a truce in the 1950-3 Korean War, at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang July 27, 2013. (KCNA/courtesy Reuters)

Following an extended period of North Korean threats and inter-Korean tension during March and April of this year, North Korea prepared then abandoned a missile launch opting instead to shift back to charm diplomacy. Low-level inter-Korean talks over a possible restart of Kaesong drag on, as the North Korean leadership has turned its focus toward economic improvement, and Kim Jong-un presided over an unprecedented military “fatherland victory” parade to mark the sixteeth anniversary of the armistice in late July. But it would be a mistake to think that recent calm will be sustained. Read more »

Paula Briscoe: Greenland—China’s Foothold in Europe?

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
A lab manager at Activation laboratories prepares samples of mines to check ore grades of minerals in Nuuk, Greenland, on October 15, 2012. A lab manager at Activation laboratories prepares samples of mines to check ore grades of minerals in Nuuk, Greenland, on October 15, 2012. (Alistair Scrutton/Courtesy Reuters)

Paula Briscoe is the National Intelligence Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

China’s current and planned investments in Greenland raise concerns, not only about Chinese access to more of the world’s resources but also about China’s longer term objectives and the foothold in Europe that a strong partnership with Greenland could provide for Beijing. Read more »

South Korea’s Launch and North Korean Satellite Envy: Take Two

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung. (Ho/Courtesy Reuters) South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung. (Ho/Courtesy Reuters)

In a previous post from last month, I asserted that South Korea’s efforts to launch its own satellite would likely enrage North Korea, which is banned from conducting similar launches under UN Security Council Resolutions 1695, 1718, and 1874. That post highlighted an essay by Clay Moltz of the Naval Postgraduate School that we posted last month. Read more »

South Korea’s Satellite Launch and North Korean Satellite Envy

by Scott A. Snyder
South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung (courtesy Reuters) South Korea's first space rocket is launched from its launch pad at the Naro Space Centre in Goheung (courtesy Reuters)

South Korea tries for the third time to successfully launch its own satellite into earth orbit using Russian technology this Friday, October 26, 2012. A new essay by the Naval Postgraduate School’s Clay Moltz analyzes South Korea’s space strategy in a new U.S.-Korea program essay. The essay analyzes South Korea’s program achievements and strategic challenges in the context of rapidly advancing Chinese, Indian, and Japanese programs. Moltz also analyzes opportunities and challenges to enhanced U.S.-ROK cooperation in space as part of my edited volume released earlier this year entitled The US-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges. Read more »