CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

Expanding South Korea’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific Region

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, March 8, 2017
South Korean Navy patrol combat corvettes stage an anti-submarine exercise off the western coast of Taean on May 27, 2010. North Korea said on Thursday it was ripping up military agreements signed with the South in a step seen as a prelude to shutting down a joint factory park, just as Seoul staged anti-submarine drills in tense border waters. (Reuters/Kim Jae-hwan)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae (Jacky) Park, research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

South Korea has become a nation with a global presence, but Seoul has yet to exercise its influence in Southeast Asia. In a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) discussion paper, Expanding South Korea’s Security Role in the Asia-Pacific Region, Patrick M. Cronin, senior advisor and senior director of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security, and Seongwon Lee, deputy director for the international cooperation division of the unification policy office at the Ministry of Unification of the Republic of Korea, argue that South Korea should play a larger role in the region, particularly with regard to dealing with a rising China and coping with rising maritime tensions. Read more »

Podcast: The Future of China’s Civil Society

by Elizabeth C. Economy Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Jack-Ma-climate-conference Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma delivers his speech during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 5, 2015. (Stephane Mahe/Reuters)

On this week’s Asia Unbound podcast, Andreas Fulda charts the shifting dynamics that are transforming how Chinese NGOs and their foreign partners operate. Fulda, assistant professor at the University of Nottingham and editor of Civil Society Contributions to Policy Innovation in the PR China, argues that because of increasing domestic pressures—such as that from China’s new foreign NGO management law—international actors face a challenging dilemma: ride out the political waves or pull out of China completely? Read more »

Malaysia’s Front Office Role in Enabling North Korean WMD Procurement

by Scott A. Snyder Monday, March 6, 2017
North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol (C), who was expelled from Malaysia, is escorted as he arrives at Kuala Lumpur international airport in Sepang, Malaysia March 6, 2017. (Reuters/Lai Seng Sin)

North Korea continues to evade UN sanctions designed to prevent its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) development by embedding its agents and intermediaries within the international trading system, according to the latest assessment of the UN Panel of Experts set up to monitor North Korean compliance with international sanctions. Read more »

The Kansas City Shooting Is Quickly Changing How Indians View The U.S.

by Alyssa Ayres Saturday, March 4, 2017
Alok Madasani, who was wounded in a bar shooting that killed Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, sings during a candlelight vigil at a conference center in Olathe, Kansas, U.S., February 26, 2017. On right is Madasani's wife Reepthi Gangula. (Dave Kaup/Reuters)

When a gunman shot two technology workers from Hyderabad, India in a Kansas City bar on February 22, the story quickly topped the headlines in India—especially once it emerged that the shooter singled the two men out to harass them over their immigration status. Read more »

Samsung Scandal, Islamic State and China, Philippine HIV, and More

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, March 3, 2017
Samsung Group chief Lee Jae-yong arrives at the office of the independent counsel team in Seoul, South Korea, February 22, 2017. (Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

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

1. Samsung heir indicted on corruption charges. Lee Jae-yong, the de facto head of Samsung Group, was formally indicted on Tuesday on bribery and embezzlement charges. Lee’s indictment was the culmination of a ninety-day special prosecutor investigation of an intensifying corruption scandal that has already brought about President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Lee was arrested on February 17 but was not formally indicted until February 28 on charges that include allegedly paying roughly $38 million (43 billion won) to Choi Soon-sil, Park’s close confidante and corruption scandal linchpin, and two nonprofit foundations Choi controlled. Read more »

Will Australia Join South China Sea FONOPs? Don’t Count on It

by Guest Blogger for Joshua Kurlantzick Thursday, March 2, 2017
The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in this August 15, 2013 file photo. The destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea on January 30, 2016 to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in 2013. This destroyer sailed within twelve nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea during a freedom of navigation operation on January 30, 2016. (U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Reuters)

Professor James Laurenceson is Deputy Director of the Australia-China Relations Institute (ACRI) at the University of Technology Sydney.

News last month that a U.S. Navy carrier strike group had moved into the South China Sea raised expectations that under President Donald J. Trump the United States might dramatically step up freedom of navigation patrols (FONOPs) in the South China Sea. Read more »

South Korea’s Strategic Choices: Separating the Forest from the Trees

by Scott A. Snyder Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Protesters gather and occupy major streets in the city center for a rally against South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, South Korea December 3, 2016. (Reuters/Chung Sung-Jun/Pool)

This post was coauthored with Sungtae (Jacky) Park, research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

South Korea is in turmoil, with President Park Geun-hye having been suspended from office by the South Korean national assembly after being implicated as an accomplice in the criminal investigation of her close friend, Choi Soon-sil. Consequently, the South Korean conservatives have lost popularity among the public, and the center-left Minjoo Party’s Moon Jae-in has emerged as the front-runner in South Korea’s looming presidential election, which must be held within sixty days if Park’s impeachment is upheld at the South Korean constitutional court. Read more »

Costs of South Korea’s Ongoing Political Vacuum

by Scott A. Snyder Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Judges of the Constitutional Court sit during the final hearing on whether to confirm the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye at the Constitutional Court in Seoul, South Korea, Febuary 27, 2017. (Reuters/Ahn Young-joon/Pool)

Two months following the passage by the ROK National Assembly of a motion of impeachment against Park Geun-hye, power remains in the hands of Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, South Korean conservatives are split between the pro-Park New Liberty Korea Party and the newly-established anti-Park Bareun (Righteous) Party, and a series of investigations has expanded the dimensions of South Korea’s political scandal and threatened to ensnare top Korean corporate leaders.1 South Korea’s most experienced leader in international affairs, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, ended his flirtation with presidential politics by concluding that he should remain out of the race, seemingly turning a looming presidential election into a fight among progressives.2 Hwang has succeeded, thus far, in fulfilling his caretaker role, insofar as he has kept current policies in place and maintained government momentum despite the looming threat of politicization and reversal of Park Geun-hye’s major foreign policy decisions. But while South Korea stands still and awaits new political leadership, regional tensions are increasing and potential cleavages in the Northeast Asian security environment are becoming more apparent. Read more »

Pakistan: Defeat Is an Orphan

by Alyssa Ayres Friday, February 24, 2017
Protesters hold placards and chant slogans against the recent bomb blasts in various parts of Pakistan during a protest in Peshawar, Pakistan February 17, 2017. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)

What ails Pakistan? A new book from former Reuters correspondent Myra MacDonald shows how the country’s chronic struggle to somehow best India has instead led to deleterious results on all fronts. I had the chance to interview her by email on her compelling book, and our exchange appears below. Read more »