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China’s Role in Syria: How Beijing Can Help End the Violence

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on October 31, 2012. U.N.-Arab League peace envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi before their meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on October 31, 2012. (Takuro Yabe/Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a Research Associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry recently announced a “new” four-point peace initiative to solve the crisis in Syria. During a visit to Beijing by U.N. and Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi in October, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stated that “political dialogue is the only correct way to tackle this issue,” and he added that he hoped the mediation discussions would promote “mutual understanding” and “the appropriate handling of the Syrian issue.” Read more »

The Underground Railroad from North Korea to Freedom

by Scott A. Snyder
Kim Han-mi watches her mother being dragged by Chinese policemen when her family attempted to enter into the Japanese Consulate in order to seek asylum in Shenyang. (Kyodo/courtesy Reuters) Kim Han-mi watches her mother being dragged by Chinese policemen when her family attempted to enter into the Japanese Consulate in order to seek asylum in Shenyang. (Kyodo/courtesy Reuters)

Former deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal Melanie Kirkpatrick has written a compelling book describing the tortuous path North Koreans must undertake across China to freedom in South Korea and other countries in the West. The book captures the multiple paths that desperate North Koreans have taken upon their departure from North Korea through China and other countries to safety in South Korea and the West. It champions the sacrifices of a range of dedicated individuals outside North Korea who have risked their lives to assist North Koreans in their road to freedom and to provide information back to North Korea about the outside world. And it savages the policies of governments including China, the United States, and South Korea’s progressive administrations for turning a blind eye to the suffering of North Koreans who are victims of an uncompromising totalitarian political system. Read more »

A Deep Chill or Heated Clash for Japan and China?

by Sheila A. Smith
Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press). Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka (left) and Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (right) meet in Beijing for the first Sino-Japanese summit on September 25, 1972 (Courtesy Jiji Press).

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda departed Tokyo today for the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, and Japan’s vice minister for foreign affairs, Chikao Kawai, departed for Beijing. At best, a chill lies ahead for the Japan-China relationship. At worst, a confrontation in the waters around the disputed islands in the East China Sea could propel the two Asian giants into a very dangerous scenario.

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute will be high on the UN agenda. Washington and other regional powers should assist in finding a credible mechanism for peaceful dispute resolution before this crisis worsens. Read more »

China as a Responsible Power: “Known by the Company You Keep”

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (L) meets China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Damascus on April 26, 2009. (Sana Sana / Courtesy Reuters)

Will Piekos is a Research Associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On August 3, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a non-binding resolution condemning the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for its human rights violations against opposition rebels. The West, the Arab League, and most other UN member states voted to censure Assad’s government, while China, Russia, and an array of authoritarian states—including North Korea, Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran, Myanmar, and Cuba—voted against the resolution. Though China’s vote is not unexpected, it does little to enhance Beijing’s efforts to be considered a responsible power.       Read more »

Ban Ki-moon’s Trip to Myanmar

by Joshua Kurlantzick
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) after their news conference at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon May 1, 2012. Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L) after their news conference at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon May 1, 2012. (Soe Zeya Tun/Courtesy Reuters)

Thus far, Ban Ki-moon’s trip to Myanmar has proven surprisingly productive, and the UN chief has been far more vocal than on previous visits, when he deferred too readily to the then-military regime, and at times even seemed unprepared for the complexities of dealing with Burmese politics, including the tricky ethnic issues. Of course, a lot is changing in Myanmar, opening up room for the UN to play a larger role, and the apparent retirement of former senior general Than Shwe, who appeared to have a visceral disdain for international institutions and outside interlocutors, also plays a role. But Ban seems better briefed, more comfortable, and clearer in his view on Myanmar’s progress. Read more »

A Tough UN Presidential Statement and North Korea’s Defiant Response

by Scott A. Snyder
U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks to the media after Security Council consultations at the United Nations in New York (Courtesy Reuters/Allison Joyce) U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice speaks to the media after Security Council consultations at the United Nations in New York (Courtesy Reuters/Allison Joyce)

The UN Security Council issued a toughly-worded Presidential Statement on April 16, 2012, that deplored North Korea’s April 13 launch, called upon North Korea to “re-establish its preexisting commitments to a moratorium on missile launches” and directed the committee responsible for implementing UN security council resolutions against North Korea to make additional sanctions recommendations. Read more »

Prime Minister Noda Outlines His Priorities in New York

by Sheila A. Smith
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks during a high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 22, 2011.

Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda speaks during a high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security at the United Nations headquarters in New York September 22, 2011 (Shannon Stapleton/Courtesy Reuters).

Japan’s newest prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, arrived in the United States this week for his much anticipated first meeting with President Obama, and a debut at the UN General Assembly—the first conversation there since the March 11 earthquake-tsunami disaster struck.

U.S. officials seemed upbeat about the prime minister’s meeting with President Obama. Yet, media questioning about the infamous Futenma Marine base on Okinawa set off another round of speculation about the state of the relationship. Earlier in the week, at a George Washington University conference hosted by Professor Michael Mochizuki, the governor of Okinawa, Hirokazu Nakaima, laid out current political realities in Okinawa and argued the U.S.-Japan governments’ plan to relocate the marine airfield was too difficult to realize. The governor presented his thinking on how to proceed, a position that surprised few of us who have been watching Okinawa politics of late. Pressure is building again here in Washington, as Congressional budget cuts loom, and the governor spent some time on Capitol Hill with Senators Levin, McCain and Webb sharing his thoughts.

But Prime Minister Noda presented a broader—and more strategic—agenda during his New York visit.

Read more »

A Six-Step Formula for Resumption of Six Party Talks

by Scott A. Snyder
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan (L) shakes hands with Clifford Hart, Special Envoy to the Six Party Talks on North Korean De-Nuclearization, as he arrives at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, July 29, 2011

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan (L) shakes hands with Clifford Hart, Special Envoy to the Six Party Talks on North Korean De-Nuclearization, as he arrives at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, July 29, 2011 (Jamie Fine/Courtesy Reuters)

Since before the sinking of the Cheonan in March of 2010, the People’s Republic of China has been pushing a three-step formula for resumption of Six Party Talks: resume inter-Korean dialogue, resume high-level U.S.-DPRK contacts through a visit by Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan to the United States, and reconvene Six Party Talks in Beijing. The first two steps were accomplished in relatively short order at the end of July with a surprising meeting between the foreign ministers and chief negotiators of the two Koreas in Bali on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum and a visit by Kim Kye-gwan to New York a week later for two days of informal dialogue with U.S. officials, including Special Representative Stephen Bosworth, Special Envoy for Six Party Talks Clifford Hart, and Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King. Although the State Department labeled these talks “exploratory and preliminary,” the North Korean side described the talks as “negotiations” while KCNA re-initiated a propaganda campaign calling for a Peace Treaty to end the Armistice.

The next step in the Chinese-formulated three-step plan would be the resumption of Six Party Talks in Beijing, but it seems doubtful that the third step will come as quickly as the first two have proceeded. In fact, there are at least three missing steps in the Chinese three-step plan that must be pursued before it would be possible, in my view, to return to the Six Party Talks, and even then it will be politically impossible for the United States to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea that follows the template of the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework or the September 19, 2005, Six Party Joint Statement. For this reason, I am advocating a six-step plan for returning to Six Party Talks. The missing steps are as follows:

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Even If China Comes Around on Iran Sanctions …

by Evan A. Feigenbaum

Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Today’s Washington Post quotes Brazil’s foreign minister, Celso Amorim, to the effect that China and India share his country’s skepticism about new sanctions on Iran.  But the administration—both on the record and in background briefings—clearly believes China is coming around.  And the U.S. has certainly succeeded in moving China’s position compared to, say, three or four months ago.

It’s tough to know just what’s happening in New York, where representatives of the five permanent members (P-5) of the UN Security Council have been discussing the text of an Iran-related sanctions resolution.  But three things seem clear to me:

Read more »