North Korea: Not Crazy, Just Weird

December 15, 2010 Leave a comment

The Korea Chair here at CSIS, Victor Cha, has an op-ed in the Washington Post this week, seeking to dispel five myths about North Korea– including the belief, often heard on cable news, that the regime in Pyongyang is irrational. He writes:

With tensions between North and South Korea running higher and higher, and America’s options only getting lousier, it is worth taking a moment to look closely at what’s happening on the Korean Peninsula — and what isn’t.

1. The North Koreans are crazy.

They may be weird, but they are not crazy. Yes, the unpredictable, nuke-toting Kim Jong Il puppet in the 2004 movie “Team America” has come to define the real Kim Jong Il in many people’s minds. But in truth, the country’s diplomats are savvy and well-educated about the United States, and have an epicurean taste for California’s red wines. In my negotiations with them as an official in President George W. Bush’s administration, I always found them to be rational. Read more…

Japan Must Resource Its New Defense Plan

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment

By Michael J. Green, Senior Adviser and Japan Chair, CSIS, and Nicholas Szechenyi, Fellow and Deputy Director of the Office of the Japan Chair, CSIS

The government of Japan will soon publish a strategy document known as the National Defense Program Guidelines (NDPG) outlining the fundamental tenets of Japanese defense policy and establishing parameters for defense spending over the next five to ten years. This is the first NDPG since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) assumed power for the first time last year and will be released amid a lively debate in Japan about how best to craft a security strategy in the wake of recent provocations such as the March Cheonan disaster, the September Senkaku incident, and Pyongyang’s bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island on November 23.

Japanese media reports suggest the NDPG will introduce the theme “dynamic defense capabilities” as a strategic framework for defense policy, meaning a departure from core principles focused on homeland defense, toward a more proactive posture to deter North Korea and China and support international security efforts such as the fight against terrorism. This is exactly the kind of strategic flexibility Japan needs right now and shows the promise for realism under the DPJ that we identified in the CSIS Japan Chair Platform “Green Shoots” a month ago. The report represents a consensus across the lines of the DPJ and the previous Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) governments.

That is the good news. The question is whether the current embattled government of Naoto Kan will be able to muster the political will to actually resource the strategy. The DPJ has an unfortunate pattern of promising big things (cap and trade, an East Asia Community, the Trans Pacific Partnership, reform of the tax system, etc.) and then failing to deliver when the policies became politically inconvenient. Any assessment of the NDPG therefore has to take into account both the strategy (which is impressive) and the resourcing (which is still uncertain). Read more…

ASEAN Should Bid for the World Cup in 2030

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Vietnamese football fans celebrate the national squad’s victory over Thailand in the 2008 ASEAN championship. Vietnam is hoping to repeat as regional champion during this year’s tournament, which is currently underway in Vietnam and Indonesia.

By Fuadi Pitsuwan, Adjunct Research Scholar, Georgetown University

ASEAN should host the World Cup in 2030. Doing so would benefit not only football fans, but also all Asean citizens.

The astounding decision last week by Fifa, the world’s football federation, to let Russia and Qatar host the World Cup in 2018 and 2022, respectively, gives Asean hope that it can seriously aspire to play host to the sporting event with the largest worldwide audience in 2030. The Fifa statutes stipulate that ‘tournaments may not be held on the same continent on two successive occasions’. Qatar is in the Asian Football Confederation together with all 10 Asean member states. Unless there is a rule change – for example, by splitting the 46-member confederation into western and eastern groups – Asean would be ineligible to host the 2026 World Cup. But there is still hope for 2030 (or any World Cup after that).

A World Cup final held in the Asean region would pack in the crowds. The grouping is, after all, home to some of the most fanatical football fans in the world. By 2030, the population of Asean, which now stands at almost 600 million, will be close to a billion. How’s that for a mega fan base? How exciting it would be if each member state were to provide at least one stadium for the tournament. With the prospect of Timor Leste joining the group as early as next year, Asean could quite easily build 11 stadiums. Read more…

New Zealand Officials Following Up on Stronger Ties with U.S.

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

New Zealand’s defence minister, Wayne Mapp, visited U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) last week and held discussions with the PACOM commander, Admiral Robert Willard. He was the first Kiwi defence minister to visit PACOM in the last two decades, yet another landmark in the improvement in relations between the two nations. He then came to Washington, D.C., for meetings with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other senior officials.

Robert Allen, chief executive officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), also visited Washington last week for talks with counterparts aimed at implementing plans supporting the Wellington Declaration signed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully last month. Allen was also consulting on plans for advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.

Strategic Logic on the Korean Peninsula Headed Toward War

December 7, 2010 1 comment

By Victor Cha, Senior Adviser and Korea Chair, CSIS

There is a real possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula. The cause is not a second North Korean invasion of the South like in June 1950, which was successfully deterred by U.S. and South Korean forces. The danger stems from two combustible trends: A North Korea which mistakenly believes it is invulnerable to retaliation due to its nascent nuclear capabilities, and a South Korea that feels increasingly compelled to react with military force to the string of ever more brash provocations like the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island.

The shelling of Yeongpyeong had for South Korea much broader effects than the partial evacuation of its 1,600 residents. It forced a temporary closure of Incheon International Airport, the sprawling ultramodern hub of air traffic throughout Asia that stands only 122 km from the shelled island. The artillery flew only days after world leaders converged on Seoul for the G20 summit, undoubtedly causing world leaders to think twice about the next trip given the unpredictability of the North. These periodic crises undercut South Korea’s future bids to host global mega events like the World Cup or the Winter Olympics.   Read more…

Fifth Round of TPP Negotiations Open in Auckland

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ernie Bower, Senior Adviser and Director of the Southeast Asia Program, CSIS

With a KORUS deal like wind in their sails, teams from the nine countries negotiating the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) kicked off their fifth round on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand. Talks are advancing, and text is being negotiated.

The KORUS deal was the first part of a two-step process that could catapult the TPP to the head of a new trade dynamic in the Asia Pacific region. The second step is passage by the incoming 112th Congress. If the Obama Administration and Congressional Leadership can push KORUS through, the TPP agreement looks very real. Business now senses that a bridge between Capitol Hill and the White House on trade is possible. That means real muscle will be applied to passing the KORUS, and can be transferred seamlessly to the support for a TPP deal. Read more…

Will Political Capital Be Spent on Trade?

December 2, 2010 3 comments

By Ernie Bower, Senior Adviser and Director, Southeast Asia Program, CSIS

As President Obama left Seoul last month without a U.S.-Korea trade agreement (KORUS) in hand, a proverbial sigh could be heard emanating from leaders of Asian countries. They share an interest with the majority of Americans – both want to see the U.S. economy strong again. Revitalizing trade is a vital factor in making that goal a reality. Energizing trade with Asia is of particular interest, given that the Asia Pacific accounts for nearly two thirds of world trade, and Asia is by far the fastest growing and most dynamic economic region on the planet.

“Chin up,” was the word after the Korea visit, “the President gets it.” He was crystal clear at APEC in Yokohama. He understood – trade is vital to a sustained U.S. recovery, and Asia is important. “In the 21st century, the security and prosperity of the American people is linked to the security and prosperity of Asia,” he said. Based on those signals, expectant Asian leaders and job-hungry Americans watched for the return to Washington, D.C. to see how and when the President would invest political capital in trade. Trade seemed to be an issue that the White House and congressional Republicans could agree to work on in the 112th Congress.

That is why there was real concern yesterday after rampant Congressional Republican leaders and less buoyant Democratic colleagues left their meeting with President Obama in Roosevelt Room and revealed that trade was not among the top issues discussed at the meeting. Pressing issues like taxes, the deficit, START and other unarguable priorities were addressed, but not trade. This raises real concern among American partners in Asia. Read more…