In a matter of weeks, all of China’s fears have come to a head on the Korean Peninsula. At an airport in Malaysia in mid-February, the exiled half-brother of North Korea’s ruler was assassinated with a nerve agent, reminding the world that the Hermit Kingdom is run by a paranoid and violent regime. Closer to home, North Korea conducted two rounds of ballistic missile tests in stark violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
“For Tokyo, this decision by Seoul and Washington [to move forward with the THAAD system] is as much about U.S. staying power as it is about Pyongyang’s missile launches. Just beyond the horizon, the influence of Beijing looms too large for Tokyo’s comfort,” writes CFR Senior Fellow Sheila Smith.
By far the biggest winner if NAFTA ends will be China, writes Shannon O’Neil. As for the losers, “are thousands of small and medium-sized American businesses, which are more likely to export to Mexico than anywhere else in the world.”
North Korean sanctions evasion has largely eviscerated the intent and impact of UN sanctions resolutions designed to block international financial and material support for North Korean nuclear and missile development efforts. Aside from the obvious Chinese loophole, the assassination of Kim Jong Nam has shone a bright light on another major portal for North Korean illicit actions and sanctions evasion: Malaysia.
From a White House largely defined by caprice, there’s been a consistent message that it’s time to get tough on China: to push back in the South China Sea, to challenge China’s unfair trade and investment practices, and to demand more from Beijing on North Korea.
A surge in deaths in China from a virulent form of influenza has set off a scramble among health officials to find infected bird stocks, while experts have yet to produce a viable vaccine, writes CFR’s Laurie Garrett.
Benn Steil and Emma Smith show how China mirrors the U.S. “exorbitant privilege” from minting the world’s primary reserve currency. While the United States is deeply indebted to the rest of the world, it still earns far more abroad than it pays out. China, in contrast, has become the world’s largest creditor while paying foreigners far more than it receives. Steil and Smith argue that China is making itself vulnerable to financial crisis by massively subsidizing its geostrategic objectives.
As U.S.-China tensions intensify and as the North Korean threat grows, the importance of the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) as a pivot state in East Asia and as a valuable ally for the United States has become clearer than ever.
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.
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 »