CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

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.

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Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of September 9, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, September 9, 2016
kim-jong-un-nuclear-test KRT bulletin shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in this still image taken from video on September 9, 2016. North Korea conducted its fifth and biggest nuclear test on Friday and said it had mastered the ability to mount a warhead on a ballistic missile, ratcheting up a threat that its rivals and the United Nations have been powerless to contain. (KRT via Reuters)

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

1. North Korea conducts fifth nuclear test. Pyongyang celebrated the sixty-eighth anniversary of the country’s founding today by conducting its fifth and largest nuclear test. The Nuclear Weapons Institute of the DPRK claims that the nuclear warhead “has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets,” and that the DPRK can now produce “a variety of smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear warheads of higher strike power.” Read more »

India, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the Paris Climate Accord

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, September 9, 2016
Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shake hands during a joint ratification of the Paris climate change agreement ceremony ahead of the G20 Summit at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016. (How Hwee Young/Reuters) Chinese President Xi Jinping (C), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shake hands during a joint ratification of the Paris climate change agreement ceremony ahead of the G20 Summit at the West Lake State Guest House in Hangzhou, China, September 3, 2016. (How Hwee Young/Reuters)

The Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Hangzhou brought big news: U.S.-China ratification of the Paris climate agreement, heralded as an important sign of “climate change cooperation.” The world’s two largest carbon emitters called upon other Paris signatories to join them in bringing the global agreement into effect. India remains the third largest carbon emitter globally, although its per capita emissions are much lower than those of the United States or China, so many eyes have been watching to see what New Delhi does next. Read more »

North Korea’s Fifth Nuclear Test and the International Response

by Scott A. Snyder Friday, September 9, 2016
Ryoo Yong-gyu, Earthquake and Volcano Monitoring Division Director, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, September 9, 2016.  (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji) Ryoo Yong-gyu, Earthquake and Volcano Monitoring Division Director, points at where seismic waves observed in South Korea came from, during a media briefing at Korea Meteorological Administration in Seoul, South Korea, September 9, 2016. (Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji)

North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test (second in 2016) on September 9, 2016, the sixty-eighth anniversary of the country’s founding. North Korea claimed the test would enable it to build a nuclear warhead that is “able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.” South Korean President Park Geun-hye condemned the “fanatic recklessness” of the North Korean leadership. U.S. President Barack Obama stated that North Korea’s actions would have “serious consequences.” The Chinese foreign ministry stated that it was “resolutely opposed to North Korea’s latest nuclear test and strongly urges North Korea to stop taking any actions that will worsen the situation.” Read more »

China’s One Road From Paris

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Thursday, September 8, 2016
Belt-and-Road-Hong-Kong A man walks past the podium at the Belt and Road summit in Hong Kong, May 18, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Gabriel Walker is a research associate for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This is the final part of a series on China’s role in international development. Read the first and second parts on the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and green bonds.

On the eve of this year’s Group of Twenty meeting in Hangzhou, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping formally ratified the Paris Agreement, the UN’s landmark treaty on fighting climate change. Read more »

Great Promise, but Still Huge Obstacles to Myanmar Peace

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, September 7, 2016
panglong-peace-conference State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi addresses the opening ceremony of the 21st Century Panglong Conference in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on August 31, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Over the past week, Myanmar has held its eagerly awaited national peace conference in Naypyidaw, the capital. Adding to the weight of expectations, United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon attended the conference, and told participants, “There is a long road ahead, but the path is very promising.” But the conference itself has delivered mixed results. Read more »

China’s Summer of Discontent

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Student leader Nathan Law (C) celebrates on the podium after his win in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, China September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip Student leader Nathan Law (C) celebrates on the podium after his win in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, China on September 5, 2016. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

I was struck by a recent headline in the South China Morning Post heralding Xi Jinping’s political gains at home from his diplomacy abroad. If the assessment is correct, it would suggest that a series of foreign policy travails has only served to heighten Xi’s popularity; by almost any objective calculation, it has been a challenging summer for Xi and his foreign policy team. Read more »

Is Duterte Upending Philippine Foreign Policy?

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 1, 2016
duterte-foreign policy Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks in front of a national flag during a National Heroes Day commemoration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (National Heroes Cemetery) at Taguig city, Metro Manila, in the Philippines on August 29, 2016. (Erik De Castro/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.

While the world is transfixed by the Duterte administration’s ‘shock and awe’ crackdown on the drug trade, which has drawn global condemnation for its alleged widespread use of extrajudicial killings yet enjoys significant domestic support, the newly-inaugurated President Rodrigo Duterte, a self-described ‘socialist’, is also shaking up Philippine foreign policy. So far, however, under the country’s new firebrand leader, the country has seen more change than continuity in its foreign policy. Read more »

Obama’s Visit to Laos: Part 2—The Legacy of the War

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, September 1, 2016
obama-laos-part 2 A fence made of collected American bomb shells is seen in a Hmong village near Phonsavan in Xieng Khouang province on October 29, 2007. (Tim Chong/Reuters)

In my previous blog post, I noted that the bilateral relationship between the United States and Laos remains limited, and will likely remain very limited for years to come. Sure, Laos is the chair of ASEAN this year, which gives the tiny country some influence, but Laos remains a minor destination for U.S. investment, and a country of more strategic relevance to China, Vietnam, and Thailand (among others) than to the United States. U.S. assistance to Laos is primarily focused on humanitarian areas. Read more »

The Indonesia Model for Combating Radicalism

by Joshua Kurlantzick Wednesday, August 31, 2016
indonesia-islamic-state-current-history Muhammad Fachry (2nd L), also known as Tuah Febriansyah, who is accused of supporting Islamic State, is escorted by a policeman as he arrives for his trial at West Jakarta court in Jakarta, on February 9, 2016. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

In early May, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, three countries that often have trouble cooperating on transnational challenges, and have long disputed some of their adjacent waters made a major announcement. They would begin coordinated patrols at sea, and would launch a tri-country hotline to discuss kidnappings and other militant activities. The announcement came after ten Indonesian sailors had been kidnapped in the southern Philippines by the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group operating in the lawless deep south. Read more »