Writing 10 years ago in Orbis magazine (.pdf), Ray Takeyh and I argued that, if a wave of democratization were to topple formerly pro-American autocrats in the Middle East, the new Arab democracies “would seek what they perceived to be equitable and fair relations with the United States, but object to . . . cumbersome American . . . demands, especially regarding Israel.” The speech delivered this week by Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, at the United Nations General Assembly has confirmed this analysis. Unlike Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose pronouncements before the international community regularly conform to […]

Vietnam has made international headlines in recent weeks, but for all the wrong reasons. Vietnam’s dynamic economy, which until recently dominated news coverage of the country, has been replaced by accounts of economic decline, political infighting and the arrest of leading figures tied to the party leadership. Until a few years ago, because of its remarkable economic growth — about 7 percent a year — Vietnam was considered one of the world’s hottest emerging markets and a rising Asian star racing to catch up with its neighbors. However, all of that is apparently over: The country’s economy has slowed sharply, […]

The Indian government finally approved a plan last week to allow international firms such as Wal-Mart to own 51 percent of multibrand retail stores. In an email interview, Pravakar Sahoo, an associate professor at the Institute for Economic Growth in India, discussed India’s retail opening. WPR: What concrete changes will the retail opening bring to India’s economy? Pravakar Sahoo: The approval of 51 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in multibrand retailing, which was initially approved by the Cabinet in November 2011 after two years of deliberation but suspended due to the ensuing political furor, is a big step. It will […]

The U.S. and Japan recently concluded an agreement to expand their joint missile defense program by installing a new X-Band radar in southern Japan, in addition to the one already located in Shiriki, Japan. Reports also suggest that the U.S. is looking to deploy another of these highly intrusive and sensitive systems somewhere in Southeast Asia, further complementing the missile-defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped U.S. warships that patrol international waters in the region. Combined, the developments suggest that the U.S. intends to build a string of missile defense systems around the arc of the South China Sea. Obviously unhappy with these […]

With global temperatures on the rise, melting ice is making the Arctic more accessible to maritime navigation, opening up shipping routes for global trade as well as areas containing sizable deposits of minerals and fossil fuels. As the five nations with Arctic coastlines address how to manage these new opportunities and the challenges they raise, South Korea is actively seeking to overcome its geography and gain a seat at the table. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak recently completed his first trip to the Arctic, where he apparently made some progress in advancing Seoul’s political, commercial and logistical interests. Overall, the […]

Yesterday marked the 16th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Although it has not become a campaign issue, ratification of the treaty will be a question facing the next U.S. presidential administration, with important implications for a wide range of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals. The CTBT prohibits all nuclear explosions, whether for military or other purposes, in any environment. As of today, 183 national governments out of 196 possible signatories have signed the CTBT, and 157 countries have ratified it. The treaty specifies, however, that it will only enter into force 180 days […]

How to manage trade relations with China, with an eye toward achieving reciprocity, is the million-dollar question on both sides of the Atlantic. The question was on prominent display at the 15th European Union-China summit last Thursday, where the two economic giants once again agreed to avoid protectionism, at least on paper. Trade between China and the EU rose to $556 billion in 2011, but grievances on both sides continue to weigh heavily on the relationship. At the summit, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao complained pointedly about the EU arms embargo against China as well as Brussels’ refusal to grant China […]

Meeting in Sydney earlier this month, the foreign and defense ministers of Australia and Japan pledged closer defense cooperation. In an email interview, Thomas Wilkins, a senior lecturer at the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Sydney, discussed the strategic relationship between Australia and Japan. WPR: What are the top priorities on the bilateral agenda between Australia and Japan? Thomas Wilkins: There is no single stand-out issue for the annual Australia-Japan “2 + 2” Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting talks, but rather a consolidation of relations around the issues of security cooperation, trade liberalization, energy security, climate […]

In India, a growing number of political leaders are threatening to withdraw their support for the governing coalition of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the face of new economic measures that, among other changes, allow for greater foreign investment by global retail giants in India’s heretofore protected domestic retail sector.* The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mamata Banerjee, the populist chief minister of West Bengal, announced that her party, the Trinamool Congress, would formally leave the government. Meanwhile, Kunal Ghosh, a member of the Indian Parliament from the same party, suggested that Singh should resign. “India is passing through […]

One hot day last July, India — one of the world’s largest, fastest-growing economies — suddenly and unexpectedly ground to a halt. Unable to handle soaring electricity demand, much of the country’s electrical grid collapsed, leaving more than 600 million people without power. Observers abroad reacted in disbelief. At home, exasperated residents responded in a manner that tells us much about what electrical service has come to signify in emerging economies. A common joke asked, What do you call a power failure in Delhi? Answer: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In other words, an electrical failure is a power failure — […]

The large-scale anti-Japanese protests that swept across China over the weekend are likely to reach a crescendo today, as Sept. 18 marks the official Chinese anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China in 1931. The wave of public demonstrations was triggered by Tokyo’s announcement last week that it would purchase the disputed Senkaku Islands, known as Diaoyu in China, from a private Japanese owner. The islands are claimed by China and Taiwan but controlled by Japan. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is on a week-long tour in Asia, and other American officials have expressed concern that the escalating dispute between […]

While in Japan on Monday to start off a three-nation tour of Asia, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the United States and Japan had reached an agreement to deploy a second missile defense radar installation on Japanese soil. Panetta, who continued on to Beijing, China, following his stopover in Tokyo, said the agreement would enhance the Japanese-American alliance, improve Japanese defense and protect the U.S. from the threat of North Korea’s ballistic missile program. While Panetta insisted that the move does not target China, Beijing responded angrily to the announcement, which came amid heightened tensions between China and […]

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Thousands of Chinese protested Tokyo’s purchase of islands claimed by Beijing in a territorial dispute while marking the 81st anniversary of a Japanese invasion that China has never forgotten. Video News by NewsLook

Three separate incidents this week have all highlighted how the growing distraction in Washington over the upcoming U.S. presidential election is undermining U.S. diplomacy. The first has to do with the territorial dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, possession of which confers exploitation rights to the lucrative fishing grounds and vast offshore hydrocarbon fields in the exclusive economic zone that surrounds them. The Japanese government earlier this week announced that it would buy the islands from the family that holds the deed to the property, raising tensions with China, which also claims the islands as the Diaoyou. […]

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