CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Where Next for Cambodian Politics?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 20, 2016
kem-sokha-cambodia Kem Sokha (C), leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), greets his supporters during his speech at the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, on September 9, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

Over the past two years, Cambodia’s government has steadily ramped up the pressure on the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), as well as on any civil society activists and journalists who question the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). In just the past year, security forces have cracked down on demonstrators holding regular Monday protests, while the government has pursued criminal charges against opposition leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy. In July, someone murdered prominent activist Kem Ley in broad daylight at a gas station, and while police have arrested one suspect, the motive for why he would kill the activist remains murky. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 16, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 16, 2016
delhi-mosquito-net A boy covered with a mosquito net sleeps in a cot on a hot summer day in New Delhi, India, April 18, 2016. (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

Rachel Brown, Sherry Cho, Lincoln Davidson, Gabriella Meltzer, and Gabriel Walker look at five stories from Asia this week.

1. Delhi battles major chikungunya outbreak. Over 1,000 people have fallen ill and at least twelve have died due to a major outbreak of chikungunya in Delhi. Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus similar to Zika and dengue, is typically not fatal, but can cause debilitating joint pain along with fever, fatigue, and nausea. Health minister J. P. Nadda has assured the Indian public that chikungunya did not cause the fatalities, but rather exacerbated deadly illnesses that were already ailing the elderly. Read more »

A Sharper Choice on North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 16, 2016
A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters) A rally celebrating the success of a recent nuclear test is held in Kim Il Sung square in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. (KCNA/via Reuters)

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a report of an independent task force on policy toward North Korea, titled A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia,  directed by Adam Mount, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and co-chaired by retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, and former Senator Sam Nunn (R-GA). The task force grapples comprehensively with all the dimensions of U.S. policy toward North Korea, breaking new ground in its recommendations in several areas and confirming the stepped up efforts by the Barack Obama administration and Congress to reinvigorate the U.S. response in others. The product benefits from the participation of a diverse group of specialists and former policymakers who bring a wealth of experience to the elusive task of effectively addressing the challenge to U.S. and South Korean interests posed by the North Korean regime, both through its nuclear development and its human rights practices. Read more »

Assessing Duterte’s Diplomacy

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 15, 2016
duterte-asean-diplomacy Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte walks between meetings at the ASEAN Summit in Vientiane, Laos on September 6, 2016. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in political science at De La Salle University in Manila, and, most recently, the author of Asia’s New Battlefield: The U.S., China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.

Three months into office, the Philippines’ firebrand president, Rodrigo Duterte, made his global diplomatic debut, when he attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Group summits earlier this month. Read more »

U.S.-North Korea Exchange After the Fifth Nuclear Test

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, September 15, 2016
A sales assistant watches TV sets broadcasting a news report on North Korea's fifth nuclear test, in Seoul, South Korea, September 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) A sales assistant watches TV sets broadcasting a news report on North Korea's fifth nuclear test, in Seoul, South Korea, September 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

U.S. President Barack Obama stated clearly immediately following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test that “the United States does not, and never will, accept North Korea as a nuclear state. Far from achieving its stated national security and economic development goals, North Korea’s provocative and destabilizing actions have instead served to isolate and impoverish its people through its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities.” Read more »

Podcast: The Perfect Dictatorship

by Elizabeth C. Economy Wednesday, September 14, 2016
wukan-protests Villagers, including schoolchildren, take part in a protest against the arrest of village chief Lin Zuluan in Wukan, in China's Guangdong province, June 22, 2016. (James Pomfret/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Stein Ringen, emeritus professor at the University of Oxford and author of The Perfect Dictatorship: China in the 21st Century, gives us his take on the Chinese party-state. He dubs China today a “controlocracy,” a sophisticated dictatorship that values its grip on power above all else. Ringen believes that Xi Jinping’s anticorruption campaign aims not just to flush out political rivals or protect state coffers, but to root out competing power centers that subvert Beijing’s control. His book is as exacting and stark as a Jo Nesbø novel—and his conclusions are just as grim. Read more »

Will Aung San Suu Kyi’s Visit Spark U.S. Investment in Myanmar?

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, September 13, 2016
National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar March 15, 2016. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at Union Parliament in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on March 15, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Later this week, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi will visit Washington, as part of a broader trip to the United States that will include addressing the United Nations General Assembly. In addition to meeting President Obama, Vice President Biden, and several senators and congresspeople, Suu Kyi reportedly will appear at a dinner hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council. There, she plans to outline Naypyidaw’s economic strategies, and likely make a pitch to potential U.S. investors in sectors ranging from mining to telecommunications. Read more »

North Korea’s Nuclear Ambition Lives in the Gap between the United States and China- So Close It

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, September 12, 2016
A cut-out of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set on fire during an anti-North Korea rally in central Seoul, South Korea, September 10, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) A cut-out of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set on fire during an anti-North Korea rally in central Seoul, South Korea, September 10, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

The direction of North Korea’s nuclear program has been clear for more than a decade, since it first tested a nuclear device in October 2006. But the pace has quickened, with two nuclear tests and tests of several missile platforms that will reduce warning time and extend North Korea’s capability to credibly deliver a nuclear weapon. The North Koreans have insisted that they are a “permanent” nuclear state and have signaled that the United States is their ultimate target, threatening nuclear strikes on the mainland. Read more »

What Aung San Suu Kyi Hopes to Gain From Her U.S. Visit

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, September 12, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-u-s-visit Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives at the ASEAN-India Summit in Vientiane, Laos on September 8, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Later this week, Myanmar State Counselor, and de facto head of government, Aung San Suu Kyi travels to the United States. She will address the United Nations General Assembly and will meet with President Barack Obama in the White House this Wednesday. She also will hold meetings with a range of other U.S. officials, Myanmar specialists, and companies. As James Hookaway of the Wall Street Journal notes, the trip clearly solidifies Aung San Suu Kyi’s role as de facto head of government, although she is not technically president. Read more »

Why China Should be Concerned About Zika

by Yanzhong Huang Monday, September 12, 2016
Workers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department kill mosquitoes outside a construction site near a residential area in Hong Kong, China August 26, 2016, after the first case of Zika was confirmed in the city (Bobby Yip/Reuters). Workers from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department kill mosquitoes outside a construction site near a residential area in Hong Kong, China August 26, 2016, after the first case of Zika was confirmed in the city (Bobby Yip/Reuters).

Zika, a mosquito-borne virus that was first discovered in 1947 in Uganda, has resurged, spreading rapidly across the world.  There were only thirteen countries with evidence of local Zika infections in or before 2015.  Since then, more than seventy countries and territories have reported evidence of Zika virus transmission.  In February 2016, the World Health Organization declared Zika a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).  Thus far, most cases have been clustered in Latin America (with Brazil reporting the largest number of cases), but they are increasingly being identified in North America, Asia, Africa, and the South Pacific. On September 10, fourteen new cases of locally transmitted Zika were confirmed by Singapore’s health authorities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 318, making the city-state house the largest cluster of the disease in Asia.

Read more »