PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A U.N.-backed court in Cambodia has begun its initial hearings into war crimes allegations with mixed success and predictions of a long and bumpy road ahead for a tribunal described by legal experts as more complex than the Nuremberg trials held immediately after World War II. Its importance was underscored by the United States ambassador at large for war crime issues, Stephen Rapp, who called the Khmer Rouge tribunal “the most important trial in the world.” Rapp, in Phnom Penh for the start of the proceedings, drew parallels between the Khmer Rouge tribunal and the trials […]

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Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse recently met with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of an economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the two leaders pledged closer cooperation. In an email interview, Swaran Singh, a professor and chairman of the Center for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, discussed China-Sri Lanka relations. WPR: What is the recent history of China-Sri Lanka relations, and what is driving the relationship? Swaran Singh: China has been a major source of economic, military and technical assistance for Sri Lanka, which in turn supports China on its […]

BEIJING — China’s expanding economic engagement with Latin America has been largely based on securing access to the continent’s abundant natural resources. But despite the opportunities presented by the wave of Chinese capital, concerns have arisen over the asymmetric and one-dimensional nature of China’s relations in the region, which generally conform to the classic center-periphery model. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s recent three-country tour of the continent was aimed at addressing these concerns, outlining a blueprint for how China’s incoming leadership intends to deepen its international relations and consolidate recent economic foreign policy gains. In 2010, more than 90 percent […]

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The start of a U.N.-backed war crimes trial for the four surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge may finally set the stage for Cambodia to bring real closure to the graphic horrors it suffered during the latter half of the 20th century. “The trial is highly important in terms of Cambodian culture,” says Luke Hunt, a World Politics Review contributor and freelance journalist who has covered Cambodia and greater Asia for the past three decades. “I’ve spoken to many Khmers who believe in the total cathartic experience of seeing their tormentors put in the dock and their personalities laid bare […]

The triple catastrophe represented by Japan’s March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency has thus far had two main effects on Japan’s national security policies. First, the crisis has focused the attention of Japanese security managers inward toward domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. Second, it has reinforced the Japanese-U.S. alliance, which had already been strengthened by the Japanese government’s decision to abandon its earlier quest for a more independent security policy in light of increased external threats from the East Asian mainland. Given this increased salience of external threats, Japan’s earthquake-induced domestic preoccupation may prove to be of […]

Any hopes that volatile global oil markets would settle has been dispelled by events over the past two weeks: With OPEC unable to agree on a price target at its latest meeting, the International Energy Agency (IEA) decided to release 60 million barrels of strategic reserves. As a result, markets have little idea how to set prices. A 7 percent price drop following the IEA’s actions suggests that the market is trending downward. But while lower prices will be welcome news to consuming countries, the IEA is playing a dangerous game in seeking to influence short-term sentiment by putting more […]

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Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna recently visited Myanmar, the first high-level trip since Myanmar’s military junta installed a nominally civilian government last year. In an email interview, K. Yhome, a research fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, discussed India-Myanmar relations. WPR: What is the recent trajectory of India-Myanmar relations? K. Yhome: India-Myanmar relations have come a long way since New Delhi adopted a pragmatic approach toward Myanmar in the early 1990s. Even as relations began to improve with important initiatives taken to step up security and economic cooperation, such as joint military operations and border-trade measures, the […]

Against the backdrop of a sputtering economy and a spate of scandals battering India’s global image, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is in Washington today. The visit — largely touted as a damage-control and public relations initiative — will see the senior minister meet U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and American industry leaders to reinforce the message that the Indian growth story is still robust and that the country remains an attractive investment destination. The timing of the Mukherjee-Geithner summit is also significant, as it takes place shortly before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to New Delhi in July […]

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The UN-backed trial of the top surviving members of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime has finally gotten under way in Phnom Penh. The four defendants include the now 84-year-old Nuon Chea, or Brother Number 2, the chief ideologist behind Pol Pot’s “Killing Fields” revolution.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, has raised uncomfortable questions about both Islamabad’s relationship with terrorism and Washington’s relationship with Islamabad. Even as the U.S. edges toward its goal of “disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” a cocktail of other groups in Pakistan — Harakat-ul-Jihad ul-Islami (HuJI), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) key among them — are ready to step into any void left by al-Qaida, often with official support. In fact, Islamabad has an economic incentive to keep them alive: As long as such groups are active, the U.S. will provide Pakistan with […]

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Last month, the Australian government announced that it would pursue a deal with Malaysia to resettle some Australian-bound asylum seekers. In an email interview, Matthew J. Gibney, an expert in asylum policies at Oxford University, discussed Australia’s “Malaysian Solution.” WPR: How would the Australian government’s “Malaysian Solution” operate? Matthew J. Gibney: The “Malaysian Solution” is a deal, initially outlined on May 7, but yet to be finalized, between Australia and Malaysia, under which up to 800 asylum seekers who land in Australian territories would be transferred to Malaysia. In Malaysia, the asylum seekers would be processed for refugee status by […]

Thailand has enjoyed a relative calm in the past few months. Political demonstrations have been orderly, and a string of bombs that shook the capital toward the end of 2010 did not continue into 2011. This lull, however, could be merely the calm before another storm. In fact, with a general election scheduled for July 3, a distinct lack of fundamental change characterizes Thailand’s faulty democratic system, offering scant hope for a political resolution to the country’s longstanding fault lines in the short-to-medium term. A key prerequisite for any definition of democracy is that elections decide who governs. In Thailand, […]

President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday evening announcing America’s policy toward Afghanistan in the coming year is another manifestation of his “Just Enough” doctrine, by which he takes “only those steps that are likely to produce a satisfactory outcome, rather than guaranteeing an optimal one.” It helps, of course, that Obama’s December 2009 West Point speech announcing the Afghanistan surge did not set very strict criteria for U.S. success. In his remarks two days ago, he reiterated those benchmarks: a U.S. effort designed “to refocus on al-Qaida; reverse the Taliban’s momentum; and train Afghan Security Forces to defend their own country.” […]

Against the backdrop of an escalating crisis with Vietnam over territorial claims in the waters off the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, China declared that it would boost its “offshore surveillance capability.” This, a Chinese state media report claimed, was aimed at forestalling any aggressive moves by China’s neighbors in its claimed maritime territories. Though the report did not name any particular nation, the message was seen as being squarely directed at Vietnam, which Beijing has described as being “overtly hostile” in its recent actions and pronouncements. China’s decision to enhance its ocean surveillance capability is not surprising. […]

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In thinking about the trajectory of President Barack Obama’s approach to the Afghanistan War, from the initial March 2009 strategy review to the December 2009 troop surge to last night’s address, it occurred to me that, when it comes to the politics of the war, Afghanistan has gone from being the “Good War” to being what is now the “Subprime War.” The administration’s initial March 2009 review was the equivalent of a “nothing down” mortgage. As I noted at the time, it threaded a political needle, articulating a strategy — a counterinsurgency approach to counterterrorism — that allowed everyone to […]

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s announcement Monday that he desires a second term as president but won’t run against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should Putin declare his candidacy has inspired heightened speculation over Russia’s unusual power-sharing duo ahead of elections next March. When attempting to understand the Putin-Medvedev dynamic, Ben Judah, a London-based policy fellow and Russia specialist with the European Council on Foreign Relations, says one must take care not to view the two as being in competition with each other. “It shouldn’t be confused as a battle between two rivals,” Judah reminded Trend Lines earlier this week. “The tandem […]

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