CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Dispatch From Pyongyang: An Offer You Can’t Refuse!

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang which Esquire magazine once dubbed "the worst building in the history of mankind", has come back to life with help from Egyptian company Orascom Group (The Korea Sharing Movement/Courtesy Reuters).

Every North Korean seems to have been mobilized for an all-out push to mark their country’s arrival as a “strong and powerful nation” in 2012, which marks the hundredth anniversary of Kim Il-sung’s birth, Kim Jong-il’s seventieth birthday, and the thirtieth birthday of Kim Jong-il’s third son and reported successor, Kim Jong-un.  Pyongyang citizens have cleaned up the city during a one hundred fifty-day labor campaign, followed by a second hundred-day campaign now underway.  The Ryugyong Hotel in the middle of Pyongyang, unfinished for over two decades, has been given a face lift courtesy of the Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom, which expects to have one hundred thousand mobile phone customers in Pyongyang by the end of the year.  But it is still difficult to shake the feeling in Pyongyang that one has walked onto a movie set in between takes.  Or that the used car looks good on the outside, but you really don’t know what you might find if you were able to look under the hood or give it a test drive. Read more »

Unfinished Business: The Futenma Story

by Sheila A. Smith Friday, November 13, 2009

As President Obama gets ready to visit Tokyo, much of the media coverage focuses on the high politics of the U.S.-Japan alliance. Is this tension a temporary affliction caused by the transition in Tokyo? Or is this the sign that the bilateral relationship has run aground, and will need a serious repair effort? All eyes are on the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the new government, and its first test of alliance management. Read more »

China’s ‘Green Sputnik’?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, November 9, 2009

Last month I testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China in Washington, D.C. The commission, which is co-chaired by Senator Byron L. Dorgan and Representative Sander M. Levin, monitors closely China’s record on human rights and the rule of law, and sets out recommendations for improvements in both of these areas. Read more »

What Can We Explore to Enhance the U.S.-ROK Alliance?

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Sunday, November 1, 2009
U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak giving a joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC June 16, 2009 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Assemblyman Hwang Jin-ha is the Chairman of the Second Policy Coordination Committee of the Grand National Party.

The traditional strategic foundation of the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has been security cooperation based exclusively on bilateral issues. Today, the alliance is faced with a complex set of future challenges and opportunities in a regional and global context beyond the Korean Peninsula. It is imperative for the Republic of Korea and the United States to articulate a joint vision and, accordingly, make mutual efforts to attain common strategic goals for a deeper, broader, and global alliance. Read more »

Uncommon Cold War: U.S.-ROK Cooperation to Battle the Flu

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Thursday, October 1, 2009
A man and his daughter wear masks as they wait for a H1N1 flu check-up at a temporary H1N1 flu treatment center at a hospital in Seoul (Choi Bu-seok/Courtesy Reuters).

James L. Schoff is associate director of Asia-Pacific studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis (IFPA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Since the outbreak of the new influenza virus H1N1 (swine flu) six months ago, it was clear that this year’s flu season would be unlike any other in recent memory. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared in June that the new virus was the first global flu epidemic in forty-one years, and a WHO official later suggested that over one billion people worldwide could become infected within the next one to two years. Although a U.S. presidential panel warned in August that the swine flu could infect up to half of the U.S. population this fall and winter, the potential lethality of the new virus is still not clear. Government leaders are trying to prepare prudently without overreacting, recognizing the high public health and economic stakes involved if they get it wrong. Read more »

Restoring Boldness and Flexibility to U.S.-ROK Coordination on North Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, September 1, 2009
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on the telephone at the presidential Blue House in Seoul May 26, 2009 in light of North Korea's defiant nuclear test (Blue House/Courtesy Reuters).

Song Min-soon is former foreign minister of the Republic of Korea and a National Assemblyman with the Democratic Party.

The North Korean issue, including its nuclear problem, has been the most difficult of many challenges to bilateral policy coordination within the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance. This is clear from the fact that since the first nuclear crisis in the 1990s, successive administrations in Seoul and Washington have alternated between periods of policy convergence and divergence. Pyongyang has since conducted two nuclear tests despite a series of bilateral and multilateral denuclearization efforts. Read more »

The Missing Consensus: U.S. Policy Specialist Views on Korea

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Saturday, August 1, 2009
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice speaks after the U.N. Security Council issued a statement unanimously condemning North Korea's recent missile launch April 13, 2009 (Chip East/Courtesy Reuters).

Stephen Costello is President of ProGlobal, Inc. He previously directed the Program on Korea at the Atlantic Council of the United States and was Director of the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation, U.S.A.

From the earliest days of the modern U.S.-Korea alliance, there have been tensions reflected by debates in the American policy community over how to deal with North Korea. Under the Clinton and Bush administrations, respectively, U.S. policy toward North Korea fluctuated wildly, from intensive engagement and deal-making to confrontation, coercion, and containment. There have been less noticed, but equally important, fluctuations in policy toward South Korea. These policy changes did not always correspond to developments in Korea, but sometimes reflected U.S. ideological and political battles. Read more »

Transformation of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and North Korean Threat: A South Korean Public Perspective

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Supporters shout slogans during a rally for the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) talks in Seoul (Jo Yong hak/Courtesy Reuters).

Gon Nam-kung is a professor at Ewha Woman’s University.

The U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance has now entered a crucial period in dealing with North Korean nuclear issues. At the same time, the alliance has been responding to the impact of a transformed international environment and South Korea’s democratization. One result of these changes is the rising importance of both political leadership and public opinion as developments that influence the effectiveness and viability of the alliance. Read more »

South Korea-U.S. Summit: A New Approach to North Korea and Afghanistan

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Monday, June 1, 2009
U.S. special envoy for North Korea Stephen Bosworth talks to reporters at Incheon airport (Pool/Courtesy of Reuters).

Ha Young-sun is professor of international politics at Seoul National University.

Lee Myung-bak will visit the White House next week for his first summit meeting in Washington with Barack Obama. The meeting will be important for relations between South Korea and the United States and will influence East Asia’s regional order for the next decade. The main agenda items will include: fashioning of a vision statement for the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) strategic alliance for the twenty-first century; coordination of a policy response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile tests; South Korea’s assistance to the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan; recovery from the global economic crisis; and the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. At the summit, the two presidents should pay special attention to two primary issues: North Korea’s nuclear weapons and support for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. Read more »

Achievements of the London G20 Summit and Korea as a Troika

by Guest Blogger for Scott A. Snyder Friday, May 1, 2009
Heads of delegation pose for the official group photograph at the G20 London Summit April 2, 2009 (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters).

Kong Il-sa is Chairman and CEO of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA), Senior Economic Advisor to the President, Chairman of the G20 Summit Korea Coordinating Committee and former Finance Minister.

Why G20 instead of G7? Read more »