CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Cracks in the U.S.-Australia Relationship

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, February 6, 2017
trump-turnbull U.S. President Donald Trump (L), seated at his desk with National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (2nd L) and senior advisor Steve Bannon (3rd L), speaks by phone with Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. on January 28, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

James Curran is Professor of History at the University of Sydney and the author of the recent Lowy Institute Paper Fighting With America: Why Saying No to the United States Wouldn’t Rupture the Alliance.

Now that much of the tumult over the recent phone call between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and U.S. President Donald Trump has abated, there remain some uncomfortable conclusions to be drawn from this drama in U.S.-Australia relations. And the conclusions are relevant not only for these two longstanding allies. Read more »

When the United States Abdicates the Throne, Who Will Lead?

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, February 6, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with the Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to reporters as he waits to speak by phone with Saudi Arabia's King Salman in the Oval Office on January 29, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

President Donald J. Trump’s initial forays into foreign policy suggest a desire to abdicate the throne. Not his own position as president of course, but rather the United States’ position as the world’s preeminent power—both as a driver of a globalized world and a defender of the traditional liberal order. He has withdrawn the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific trade pact that would have cemented U.S. leadership among the economies that make up 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Read more »

Trump and Chinese Investment, Pakistan’s Missiles, Indian Lychee Illness, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, February 3, 2017
Trump-Ma U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma speak with members of the news media after their meeting at Trump Tower in New York City, January 9, 2017. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

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

1. Trump doesn’t like China, but does he like Chinese money? President Donald J. Trump will soon face some important decisions on Chinese investment in the United States. Trump will need to decide whether to approve a plan by Alibaba’s Paypal-like subsidiary Ant Financial to buy U.S. payment processor MoneyGram, or block the acquisition on national-security grounds. Read more »

India Hopes Donald Trump Will Solve the Pakistan Problem

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, February 3, 2017
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (3rd R), a UN- and U.S.-designated terrorist, openly leads a rally against India and in support of Kashmir, in Karachi, Pakistan, December 18, 2016. (Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)

For those of us in Washington, the days since President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration have been head-spinning. The executive order banning citizens of seven countries from entry into the United States produced mass protests across the United States. A rejig of the National Security Council has raised questions about its politicization. Angry tweets on Mexico, Australia, Iran, Berkeley, Democrats, Chicago, numerous corporations, and many other targets have ushered in a high-speed news cycle centered on Twitter, and disrupted the more sedate pace of both foreign and domestic policy that many of us had grown used to. (Disclosure: I supported the Hillary Clinton campaign.) Read more »

SecDef Mattis’s Mission in Northeast Asia: Provide Reassurance from the Trump Administration

by Scott A. Snyder Thursday, February 2, 2017
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) shakes hands with South Korea's acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn (R) prior their meeting at the Government Complex in Seoul, South Korea February 2, 2017. (Reuters/Song Kyung-Seok/Pool)

Northeast Asia is facing profound political uncertainty: South Korea is immobilized by a political scandal that has resulted in the impeachment of its president, Park Geun-hye, and ensnared top business elites; Japan has been left high and dry after U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguably the country’s best chance at growth; and North Korea is getting closer and closer to becoming a nuclear power. Read more »

Assessing U.S. Policy Options Toward North Korea

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Newspapers with pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addressing the ruling Workers' Party congress are placed inside one of halls of the Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang textile mill during a government organised visit for foreign reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea May 9, 2016. (Reuters/Damir Sagolj)

On January 31, 2017, I testified together with Dr. Nicholas Eberstadt from the American Enterprise Institute before the Senate foreign relations committee on policy toward North Korea. My opening statement appears below, and my written testimony and a video recording of the hearing can be found here. Read more »

Podcast: A Great Place to Have a War

by Elizabeth C. Economy Monday, January 30, 2017
A Buddhist monk poses next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War, in Xieng Khouang in Laos September 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva A Buddhist monk poses on September 3, 2016, next to unexploded bombs dropped by the U.S. Air Force planes during the Vietnam War in Xieng Khouang in Laos. The United States dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos in the course of the war. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

While Vietnam and Cambodia loom large in American memories of the Vietnam War, neighboring Laos recedes into the background. But during the 1960s and 1970s, the tiny, landlocked nation was the site of the CIA’s transformation from a loosely organized spy agency to a powerful paramilitary organization. Read more »

How the Laos War Transformed the CIA

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Book jacket photography by John Quintero/Getty Images.

From 1961 until the early 1970s, the Central Intelligence Agency undertook, in Laos, what remains the largest covert operation in the history of the United States. Tiny Laos, which had not even existed as a coherent entity twenty years earlier and which had a smaller population than Los Angeles, suddenly was propelled to the center of U.S. foreign policy universe, only to vanish completely from that radar fifteen years later. Read more »

The CIA Isn’t Necessarily Going to Lose Out in the New Administration

by Joshua Kurlantzick Monday, January 23, 2017
trump-3 U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a visit to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia U.S. on January 21, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

During the transition period between November and January, President-elect Donald Trump developed perhaps the most publicly antagonistic relationship with U.S. intelligence agencies of any incoming president in at least decades. He compared the intelligence agencies to Nazis, repeatedly disdained their reports as fake, and dismissed their assessments of foreign interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published in the Wall Street Journal last Monday, outgoing CIA director John Brennan called Trump’s allegations “repugnant.” Other intelligence officials have reportedly expressed a sense of dread about what’s to come. Read more »

Samsung Scandal, Chinese Coal, Islamic State in Asia, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, January 20, 2017
jay-lee-samsung Chief of Samsung Group Lee Jae-yong is surrounded by media as he arrives at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

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

1. Sprawling influence-peddling scandal spreads to Samsung leadership. Last week, the de facto leader of Samsung, Lee Jae-yong, faced a twenty-two-hour interrogation regarding allegations that Samsung paid, and promised to pay, a total of 43 billion won (roughly $36.4 million) in bribes to South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her close confidante, Choi Soon-sil, in exchange for the government-controlled National Pension Service’s support of a contentious 2015 merger of two Samsung affiliates. Read more »