CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Stakes Rise for U.S.-ROK Nuclear Energy Talks

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Monday, February 1, 2010
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the UAE president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan watch as Korea Electric Power Co president Kim Ssang-su and chairman of Emirates Nuclear Energy Co Khaldoon Khalifa al-Mubarak sign a contract in Abu Dhab (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Miles A. Pomper is a Senior Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, DC.

When South Korea and the United States negotiated their last nuclear cooperation agreement in the early 1970s, the talks were a low-key affair. As a poor economy lagging behind its Northern neighbor, South Korea did not have a single operating nuclear power plant, let alone piles of spent nuclear fuel. It seemed impossible that a South Korean company would one day be able to design and export nuclear reactors.U.S.nuclear nonproliferation efforts remained in their infancy. The United States had not yet attempted to clamp down on sales of sensitive fuel cycle technology and supplied most of the world’s enriched uranium. Pyongyang and Seoul had not yet pledged not to pursue uranium enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing—which can be used for nuclear weapons or nuclear energy—and Pyongyang had yet to violate that agreement. Iran was still a U.S.ally. Not surprisingly, little political attention or concern was attached to the U.S.-South Korea nuclear pact. Read more »

The China Factor in Southeast Asia’s Arms Spree

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 1, 2010

On the surface, Southeast Asia in 2010 appears relatively peaceful. The saber-rattling between Thailand and Cambodia over a disputed border temple appears to be dying down, and internal conflicts in Papua and southern Thailand, though hardly dormant, have at least seen the level of bloodshed decrease over the past year. Yet as highlighted in a long article Thursday in the Financial Times, many Southeast Asian nations have gone on arms-buying sprees. Vietnam last year bought new submarines and fighter jets from Russia, which has re-emerged as a major arms seller in the region. Thailand recently bought its own new stock of fighter jets, from Sweden. Burma’s junta plans to buy a new round of fighters and attack helicopters from Russia. Read more »

The Chinese Internet Century

by Adam Segal Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My reaction to Secretary of State Clinton’s speech on Internet freedom, “The Chinese Internet Century,” is now up.  While Clinton’s call for an open, global Internet was both stirring and the right thing to do, we have to start planning for a world where China and others shape their own cyberspaces to meet economic, political, and strategic interests. Go read the whole thing at foreignpolicy.com. Read more »

Nago Election Ushers in “Plan B” on Futenma

by Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The election last Sunday of Susumu Inamine as mayor of Nago City in northern Okinawa effectively puts an end to the idea that the current plan for relocating Futenma Marine Air Station can somehow be realized. The mayor, in his first press conference, in fact stated that Nago would not accept either a landfill facility or one that rests solely on land,  and thus made clear his intention to oppose any compromise effort to downscale the existing plan so as to avoid the environmental damage to Okinawan coastal waters.    Read more »

Looking Back: Human Rights in 2009

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Although it was buried amidst the past month’s news of the global financial crisis and Barack Obama’s struggles to maintain any political momentum, the global monitoring group Freedom House released its annual Freedom in the World outlook, which assesses the state of political and civil liberties in each country. For the fourth year in a row, global freedom declined, which Freedom House said was the longest continuous decline in the nearly forty years it has been producing the report. (Disclosure: I participated in some of the Freedom House assessments of countries in Southeast Asia.) Indeed, 2009 was one of the worst years in recent memory for human rights activists, with crackdowns on prominent figures from Liu Xiaobo to Shirin Ebadi, whose Nobel Peace Prize was seized by the Iranian government. (Talk about spite!) Read more »

South Korea’s Role in Promoting the Nuclear Renaissance

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, January 25, 2010

South Korea’s surprising success last December against more experienced competitors in winning a bid to produce nuclear reactors in the U.A.E. has had a powerful ripple effect, boosting Korean hopes to become a serious player in the nuclear plant export market with the goal of capturing twenty percent of the global nuclear energy market by 2030. According to a recent Congressional Research Service report by Mark Holt, South Korea’s KEPCO-led consortium successfully underbid Areva and Hitachi by about thirty percent by offering a price of U.S.$20 billion (4200 megawatts of electricity generating capacity at $3571 per kilowatt). In so doing, South Korea is attempting to position itself as a reliable and low-cost supplier to other Middle Eastern countries who may follow the U.A.E. in pursuing the development of the nuclear energy option. For South Koreans, winning the U.A.E. bid was like hearing the starter’s gun at the beginning of a track competition. Read more »

Harmony without Uniformity

by Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 22, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Internet speech was noteworthy for a number of reasons—but what struck me most was her comment that principles like information freedom aren’t just good policy connected to American values; they are universal. I like the sound of that. Read more »

China-DPRK Relations: A Return to a Strategic Relationship?

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, January 22, 2010

Following North Korea’s second nuclear test in May of 2009, Chinese analysts did not hide their frustration with Pyongyang. China signed on to a robust UN Security Council resolution condemning the tests, but stopped short of making compliance with the resolution obligatory. Despite the toughness of the resolution, China has had wiggle room not to implement the resolution aggressively. Aside from two high-profile cases involving exports of sensitive materials and a joint venture with a North Korean company with which the UN Security Council banned economic interactions, it is hard to find cases where China is aggressively implementing UN sanctions. While noting Chinese frustrations, several analysts (International Crisis Group, Bonnie Glaser, Han Suk-hee) remarked that maintenance of regional stability remains China’s bottom line. Read more »

The Fallout from Google

by Adam Segal Friday, January 15, 2010

I am going to stay away from the by now well-trod debate about why Google made its decision to stop censoring the web and possibly retreat from the China market (you can read those here, here, here, and here; this and this, however, bring a new twist: Google left because the hacking exposed how it was collecting information on all of its users through an “internal intercept system.”). Instead, I’ll tackle some other questions: Read more »