CFR Presents

Asia Unbound

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

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 »

Friday Asia Update: Five Stories From the Week of August 19, 2016

by Guest Blogger for Elizabeth C. Economy Friday, August 19, 2016
Indonesia-destroys-fishing-boats Four of eight confiscated Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed in Mempawah Regency, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, February 22, 2016. (Antara Foto/Reuters)

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

1. Indonesia sinks illegal fishing boats. In a move intended to assert sovereignty over resource-rich waters surrounding the Natuna Islands off the Borneo coast, Indonesia sank sixty boats impounded for illegal fishing. Read more »

Constitutional Revision: More Than Yes or No

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Friday, August 19, 2016
A man raises his hands and shouts "banzai" as he and others gather to watch the sunrise over Mount Fuji, which is known locally as "Diamond Fuji", from atop Ryugatake mountain in Fujikawaguchiko town, southwest of Tokyo January 1, 2010 (Yuriko Nakao/REUTERS). A man raises his hands and shouts "banzai" as he and others gather to watch the sunrise over Mount Fuji, which is known locally as "Diamond Fuji", from atop Ryugatake mountain in Fujikawaguchiko town, southwest of Tokyo January 1, 2010 (Yuriko Nakao/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. Masatoshi Asaoka is currently a master’s candidate in the Asian studies program of Georgetown University and an intern for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Read more »

The Unbearable Lightness of Our Constitution

by Guest Blogger for Sheila A. Smith Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Plato-resized

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.

Keigo Komamura, a Japanese constitutional scholar, is professor of law and vice president of Keio University. He serves on the advisory council for the constitutional revision research project led by Helen Hardacre, Reischauer Institute professor of Japanese religions and society at Harvard University. His most recent publication is an edited volume with Satoshi Machidori, Kenpou kaisei no hikaku seijigaku [Comparative Politics of Constitutional Revision], published by Koubundou Press in 2016.  Read more »

G20, Global Health, and China

by Yanzhong Huang Tuesday, August 16, 2016
A man rides an electronic bike past a billboard for the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou (Aly Song/Reuters) A man rides an electronic bike past a billboard for the upcoming G20 summit in Hangzhou (Aly Song/Reuters)

New Yorkers who have been used to the annual UNGA sessions (which typically last two weeks and attract over one hundred heads of state and government) in September will probably have difficulty understanding why the two-day G20 summit—to be held in Hangzhou early next month—is such a big deal in China, as tight security measures appear to be causing a great deal of inconvenience to local residents. These measures can be rationalized when we take into account the fact that this will be the first ever G20 summit hosted in China and the second international summit since President Xi Jinping took the reins of the Chinese Communist Party and the military in 2012. Read more »

Cambodia’s Democratic Transition Has Collapsed, With Dangerous Consequences

by Joshua Kurlantzick Tuesday, August 16, 2016
cambodia Tens of thousands of people attend a funeral procession to carry the body of Kem Ley, an anti-government figure and the head of a grassroots advocacy group, "Khmer for Khmer" who was shot dead on July 10, to his hometown, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on July 24, 2016. (Samrang Pring/Reuters)

As Cambodia prepares for national elections in two years, its politics have veered dangerously out of control. Even though young Cambodians are demanding political alternatives and accessing more information outside of state media, the country’s transition toward two-party politics has collapsed. The government’s brutal tactics of the 1990s and early 2000s, when political activists were routinely murdered and opposition parties nearly put out of business, have returned. Young Cambodians may be left with no outlet for their grievances, creating a potentially explosive situation, especially given the promise of reform and dialogue just a few years ago. Read more »