BANGKOK, Thailand — The rekindling of formal diplomatic relations between Burma and North Korea this week completes a bizarre circle of skulduggery between two pariah states. The visit by Pyongyang’s deputy foreign minister, Kim Yong-Il, to Rangoon and the half-built new capital Naypyidaw is a formality, and certainly not the first visit by North Koreans since relations were formally severed in 1983. There have been persistent reports in recent years of North Korean technicians working in Burma, including isolated Naypyidaw — which means the abode of kings — 200 miles north of the old capital of Rangoon, a nine-hour train […]

China isn’t comfortable. The country’s spectacular growth over the last two decades has made it ever more thirsty for energy, but policymakers are not sure they can secure their energy supply into the future. Rather than gain confidence as the United States has stumbled in the Middle East, many Chinese take U.S. problems in the region as a sign of Chinese vulnerability as well. Some in the United States feared China would soon stand out as a rival to U.S. influence, but in recent months, the Chinese government has shown an interest in being helpful. That cooperation needs to be […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — While thousands of Nepalese gathered to mark the first anniversary of the king’s humiliating capitulation on April 24, 2006, King Gyanendra was, quite literally, praying for survival. At the Dakshinkali Temple, just outside of Katmandu, the king and Queen Komal oversaw the ritual slaughter of five animals — a rooster, duck, goat, sheep and water buffalo — in a ceremony to appease the bloodthirsty deity, Kali. It was on this day last year that King Gyanendra announced he was ending his 15-month autocratic reign, after 19 days of protests in the streets of Katmandu and around the […]

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s April 11-13 visit to Japan helped advance the modest détente that has marked Sino-Japanese relations since Shinzo Abe became Japanese Prime Minister in September 2006. Abe has made improving ties between China and Japan — which had deteriorated sharply — a priority. Despite some achievements, however, the summit failed to resolve the underlying economic and especially security tensions between the two countries. Wen’s sojourn represented the first visit by a senior Chinese leader to Japan in seven years. He described his trip as an effort to “melt the ice” that had characterized Sino-Japanese relations in recent […]

U.S. NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — The recent conviction of Australian kangaroo-skinner turned globetrotting jihadist David Hicks may, at least temporarily, bring an end to years of judicial power struggles that have surrounded the creation of a special war crimes tribunal here. However, while the special tribunal will bring some form of justice for men like Hicks and other high-profile detainees — including admitted Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the fate of hundreds of lesser-known prisoners is still undetermined. As Hicks inked a deal in late-March to plead guilty to providing material support for terrorism in exchange […]

Sapurmurat Niyazov, the Kim Jong-il of Central Asia, left quite a legacy: a crumbling infrastructure, egregious human rights abuses, rumors of mass starvation outside the capital, and a personality cult capped by a funny name. Turkmenbashi, the father of all Turkmen, left some pretty big shoes to fill when he died last December. As a result, Gurbanguli Berdymuhkammedov, Turkmenistan’s second dictator and the world’s most powerful dentist, faces some serious choices. The first is how closely he’ll stick to his election promise of keeping Niyazov’s policies in place. There are many encouraging signs that President Berdymuhkammedov will open his country […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — The quaint 1956 Hollywood musical “The King and I,” which most people might regard as innocuous, probably would have been banned in Thailand under broadening definitions of “national security” now being cited by military coup leaders to justify their increasing censorship. But in any case, the movie, starring the late Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, is already outlawed under another device that curbs public opinion, the increasingly catch-all “les majeste” rule. Brynner’s singing and dancing routine has long been considered by the authorities to insult the institution of the Thai monarchy, and to distort Thai history. The […]

Earlier this month, the government of Uzbekistan completed its ratification of the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (CANWFZ). The signatories of the so-called Semipalatinsk Treaty also include the former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Although the accord could provide timely support for international nonproliferation efforts, the signatories still need to satisfy the concerns of Britain, France, and the United States regarding possible loopholes in its underlying treaty. Article 3 of the CANWFZ prohibits the signatories from researching, developing, manufacturing, stockpiling or otherwise trying to acquire a nuclear explosive device. Furthermore, they pledge not to allow other parties to […]

DILI, East Timor — Australian and New Zealand troops and U.N. cops were on the streets in strength on April 9 when East Timorese voters hit the polls in their capital city to pick their next president. By evening, observers were predicting a win for interim Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, a moderate, and expected clashes between rival political gangs had failed to materialize. Though allegations of polling irregularities have surfaced in the days following the election, the lack of violence was a welcome sign of progress in this troubled little country. On April 4, young thugs apparently in the pay […]

On the whole, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s March 26-28 meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin was uneventful. As during past summits, the two leaders signed various commercial deals, issued joint declarations affirming Sino-Russian cooperation on diverse global issues, and attended high-profile cultural events. Much more noteworthy was Hu’s subsequent side trip to the Russian republic of Tatarstan on his way back to Beijing. During his March 28 sojourn, Hu met the republic’s leading industrial officials, visited a trade exhibition in the capital city of Kazan, and engaged in discussions with representatives from the republic’s major oil producer, Tatneft, […]

This week, a Chinese leader will address the Japanese Diet for the first time in over two decades. The speech is to be the highlight of Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka starting April 11. His visit is expected to lead to closer relations between China and Japan, which had soured under Japan’s previous prime minister. Relations across the East China Sea have steadily improved since the anti-Japanese riots in China in 2005. Following the election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last fall, Sino-Japanese relations have rapidly improved, and appear to be on their best terms since […]

KATMANDU, Nepal — With a mumbled oath and a round of handshakes in front of a writhing bank of cameras, it was done: The Maoists joined Nepal’s interim government, snaring five ministries. It was a moment of triumph for the former rebels and another step towards the mainstream for the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The Maoist chairman, who is still known by his wartime alias “Prachanda” (“the fierce one”), stayed out of the government to lead the party, but was positively beaming as he made an appearance at the swearing in ceremony on April 1. “Today is the historical […]

Elections in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, loom large on the country’s political calendar. Indeed, with a population of 170 million, Uttar Pradesh would, if it were its own country, be the fifth most populous in the world, and it also sends the most members to India’s federal parliament. The importance of the state’s assembly elections, which start April 7 and are to be completed in early May, are therefore clear. Yet despite the seemingly endless amount of ink spilt on the rising India, and despite near double-digit economic growth for the last two years, the country’s ruling Congress […]

article card

DENPASAR, Indonesia — On April 9, East Timor will choose who will replace ex-guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmao as president. The vote is the first since the country restored independence on May 20, 2002. But there is little to celebrate, as poverty, social and political upheaval, and widespread violence plague Asia’s newest nation. Among the eight candidates, Nobel Peace Prize winner and current Prime Minister Jose Ramon-Horta is the overwhelming favorite. While the directly elected presidency is a largely symbolic post, Gusmao played a central part in running the country and the next president could have a significant effect on the […]

Whatever the fate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, the strained relations between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) over this and other security issues make clear the need for both countries to take action to reinvigorate their bilateral defense alliance. During the past decade, relations between South Korea and the United States have deteriorated considerably. South Koreans appreciate having an American defense guarantee, both for helping them deter a possible North Korean attack and for enhancing their leverage vis-à-vis China and Japan. Yet, they oppose American military threats against North Korea and U.S. efforts to isolate […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — After the nightly curfew curtain comes down at 8 p.m. in parts of the southern Thailand city of Yala, only stray dogs and army patrols move about the streets. The eight-hour curfew has been in force since Muslim insurgents stepped up their bloodletting in the area, stopping a minibus and cold-bloodedly executing its eight Buddhist occupants, including women and children. But while people might sleep more easily in the curfew zones, the sectarian violence continues elsewhere in the Muslim-majority three southernmost provinces of Thailand. The death toll since a resurgence of violence began in 2004 has risen […]

Editor’s note: Click here to listen to our podcast featuring audio excerpts of the Hudson Institute’s March 16 conference on Pakistan. When lawyers in the United States are dissatisfied with government actions, they launch lawsuits and lobby for changes in procedures, policy, and legislation. In Pakistan, they stage street protests. The decision by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to dismiss Chief Supreme Court justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on March 9 has created the most serious domestic political crisis in the history of Musharraf’s government. The president claimed he acted after learning of unspecified misconduct on Chaudhry’s behalf. Most observers view the move […]