Northeast Asia is facing profound political uncertainty: South Korea is immobilized by a political scandal that has resulted in the impeachment of its president 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. And no one knows what President Trump's "America First" agenda means for the country's Asian allies. What both Japan and South Korea need right now is assurance from the United States that its alliances are a priority. In his first overseas trip as the new Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis will be sure to affirm that commitment.
In a testimony to the Senate committee on foreign relations, Scott A. Snyder provided an assessment of the threat posed by North Korea and listed a number of policy options that the United States can pursue. Snyder argued that the window of opportunity to achieve North Korea’s peaceful denuclearization may have closed. He argued that the Donald Trump administration should appoint a senior envoy for North Korea, seek to spur internal debates among North Korean elites over the costs of North Korea’s nuclear development, and maintain diplomatic dialogue with North Korea in order to spell out clearly the parameters for managing the relationship and expectations for North Korean behavior while strengthening deterrence and applying international pressure.
“Over the course of the war, U.S. bombing of Laos would become so intense that it averaged one attack every eight minutes for nearly a decade,” observes Joshua Kurlantzickin his new book, A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA. Kurlantzick, a Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, mines extensive interviews and recently declassified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) records to give a definitive account of the secret war in the tiny Southeast Asian nation of Laos, which lasted from 1961 to 1973, and was the largest covert operation in U.S. history. The conflict forever changed the CIA from a relatively small spying agency into an organization with vast paramilitary powers.
“Uncertainty abounds on the economic and strategic fronts in the coming year, but the biggest unknown for the bilateral relationship will be the new US president and his approach to Asia,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Sheila Smith.
South Korea’s domestic political vacuum following the impeachment of Park Geun-hye on December 9 overshadows prospects for renewing China-ROK relations in the year ahead. While the current cycle of DPRK provocations and international sanctions has drawn attention to vital Chinese interests in ensuring stability on the peninsula, Beijing’s deteriorating bilateral relationships with the two Koreas and the United States impede immediate regional efforts to break this cycle.
“Although Abe’s quick reach out to Trump in the wake of an election has eased some of the anxiety about the future of the alliance under new U.S. leadership, the larger uncertainty about how the new president will shake up U.S. policy toward Asia continues to shape Japanese attitudes on the transition,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Sheila Smith.
In this article Elizabeth Economy analyzes Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos and argues that the form of globalization promoted by China is not consistent with how the concept has previously been understood.
"For much of Japan’s modern history, the sea has protected the Japanese from their neighbors,” yet today they are alarmed by the increasing evidence that “China may have a far greater appetite for risk in Asia’s near seas,” says CFR Senior Fellow Sheila Smith
CFR hosted a workshop to discuss environmental health linkages in China, the Chinese government’s capability to respond to associated health crises, and international experience for coping with similar challenges.
During his annual New Year’s address on Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s dropped a bombshell: He stated as part of his review of the past year's accomplishments that North Korea has entered “the final stage in preparations to test-launch” an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). One that could hit the United States. To deal with the threat, the Trump administration should strengthen sanctions and find a way to work with China or, at a minimum, should isolate North Korea as an essential area of cooperation in an otherwise contentious U.S.-China relationship.
When the Chinese Foreign Ministry expresses “serious concern” about things Donald Trump has said about Taiwan—and a party-controlled newspaper calls him “as ignorant as a child”—it’s clear that Beijing is alarmed. Yet after spending last week in China, I came away struck by the overall complacency of Chinese attitudes toward the president-elect, writes Stephen Sestanovich.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »