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At her joint press conference with President Barack Obama last month in Seoul, South Korean president Park Geun-hye stated against the backdrop of apparent preparations by North Korea to conduct a fourth nuclear test that such a test could trigger a nuclear arms race and would spell the end of efforts to resume Six Party Talks. South Korean foreign minister Yun Byung-se subsequently said that a fourth North Korean nuclear test would be a “gamechanger.” North Korea appears to have delayed plans for a test that many had expected might be timed to coincide with President Obama’s visit to Asia, but all indications are that North Korea is poised to go ahead with a fourth test at any time. Read more »
Ashlyn Anderson, Lauren Dickey, Darcie Draudt, Charles McClean, Will Piekos, and Sharone Tobias look at the top stories in Asia today.
1. Obama on a four-country tour of Asia to reassure allies and reinforce U.S. rebalancing. Obama began his Asia tour in Japan, where he discussed trade negotiations (see story below). He made waves when he reassured Japan that Washington was committed to its defense, including in the East China Sea, where maritime disputes between China and Japan have caused skirmishes and tension. Read more »
On April 27, President Obama will become the first sitting American president to visit Malaysia in five decades. This trip, which already had been postponed from the fall, has been complicated by the Malaysian government’s recent crackdown on opposition politicians, and by Kuala Lumpur’s inept handling of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 tragedy. However, Obama still plans to highlight the growing strategic and economic relationship between Malaysia and the United States, the relationship between himself and Prime Minister Najib tun Razak, and Malaysia’s supposed credentials as a moderate, Muslim-majority state and emerging democracy. But on his trip, the president should try to maintain a balanced focus, hitting the following points: Read more »
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 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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Asia Unbound examines political, economic, and social developments in Asia and the region’s growing importance in global affairs. Named one of the top fifty blogs following Asian business by Bschool.com.
The Asia Program informs policymakers, business leaders, and the public about the complex challenges that lie ahead for the world's largest and fastest changing continent.