CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

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 »

Obama Makes the First U.S. Presidential Visit to Laos: Part 1

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, August 30, 2016
obama-laos-part 1 U.S. President Barack Obama welcomes Laos President Choummaly Sayasone upon his arrival at Sunnylands for a 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15, 2016. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Next week, President Obama will arrive in Laos for the first visit of a U.S. president to the country. He comes to Laos for the U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, for the East Asia Summit, and also for bilateral meetings with several of Laos’s leaders. The tiny communist country, the current chair of ASEAN, selected new leaders—in its typically opaque way—earlier this year. According to some reports, Laos’s new leaders are eager to move the country away from its growing dependence on China for trade and aid, and are seeking to shift Laos back toward its historically closer relations with Hanoi, which was the patron of Laos’s communist party during the Indochina wars. Read more »

Three Takeaways on U.S.-India Defense Ties

by Alyssa Ayres Monday, August 29, 2016
WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2016) Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hosts Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar at the Pentagon, Aug. 29. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee licensed under CC BY 2.0. WASHINGTON (Aug. 29, 2016) Secretary of Defense Ash Carter hosts Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar at the Pentagon, Aug. 29. DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar came to Washington today for his sixth meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.  Secretary Carter noted in his opening statement of their joint press conference that he has spent more time with Minister Parrikar “than with any other counterpart.” He did not qualify the statement further, and did not limit his remark to convey “any other non-NATO” counterpart or a similar formulation. For me, that gives us takeaway number one about U.S.-India defense ties: The time Carter and his counterpart, Parrikar, are investing in this venture illustrates the opportunity they perceive in a deepened strategic relationship—but also underscores the hard, time-consuming work required to find a way for the defense systems in both countries to learn to work together more seamlessly. Read more »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 26, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 26, 2016
China-Japan-Korea-trilateral Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second from R) meets South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (L), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (second from L) and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (R) during their meeting at the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2016. (Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters)

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

1. North Korean missile test facilitates China-Japan-South Korea talks. Earlier this week, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida hosted a two-day meeting with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts. The first since March 2015, the talks were slated to focus on increasing regional cooperation; however, North Korea’s Wednesday test of a submarine-launched missile dominated news coverage of the meeting and elicited wholesale criticism from all three foreign ministers. Read more »

What to Expect at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Peace Conference

by Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, August 25, 2016
aung-san-suu-kyi-xi-jinping Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and Chinese Premier Xi Jinping (R) poses for the media before a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, on August 19, 2016. (Rolex Dela Pena/Reuters)

Next week, Aung San Suu Kyi and a host of other dignitaries, including United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, will preside over a major peace conference in Naypyidaw. The conference is billed as a kind of sequel to the Panglong conference, held in February 1947, and presided over by Aung San Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San. At the original Panglong, Aung San, then essentially interim head of the government, and many ethnic minority leaders agreed to work together in a national government. Read more »

Owning Our Constitution, Our Future

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Monday, August 22, 2016
Japan's Masatoshi Ohno rides a wave during the quarterfinals of the Monster Energy Pro Pipeline surfing competition at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, February 23, 2005 (Lucy Pemoni/REUTERS). Japan's Masatoshi Ohno rides a wave during the quarterfinals of the Monster Energy Pro Pipeline surfing competition at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, February 23, 2005 (Lucy Pemoni/REUTERS).

This blog post is part of a series entitled Will the Japanese Change Their Constitution?, in which leading experts discuss the prospects for revising Japan’s postwar constitution. Ayumi Teraoka is research associate for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Read more »