More than four years after President Barack Obama’s 2009 Prague speech declared the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide, the nuclear landscape has become more complex and precarious and shows little sign of movement toward abolition. The so-called global zero initiative has arguably been overtaken by countervailing nuclear realities. Yet the administration remains mired in a Cold War paradigm, gearing up for more U.S.-Russia arms control. Instead, the Obama administration should focus on other components of its 2010 Nuclear Posture Review as priorities for advancing nonproliferation objectives. These include securing nuclear materials, institutionalizing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), capping […]

The U.S. Treasury Department asserted earlier this month that informal financial transactions through networks known as hawala are helping Iran evade international sanctions. In an email interview, Roger Ballard, a consultant anthropologist and director of the University of Manchester’s Center for Applied South Asian Studies who has written extensively on hawala, explained the long history of these networks and how they currently operate. WPR: What purposes are the hawala networks in Iran used for, and what volume of transactions passes through them? Roger Ballard: For well more than a thousand years, traders operating throughout the Indian Ocean region have routinely […]

As the U.S. looks to the end of one phase of the war on terror, with military operations having ended in Iraq and currently winding down in Afghanistan, a new one is well underway, characterized by drone strikes and covert missions by special operations forces. In Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are battling serious challenges from Islamist terrorist groups. Meanwhile, in the Sahel, al-Qaida’s affiliates are carrying on the group’s ideology even as its central organization falters, with implications for the U.S. and Europe. This WPR Special Report examines the new fronts in the war on terror. Counterterrorism Containment Should Guide […]

A sense of optimism is palpable in Japan as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes the country’s helm for a second time. Yet as his government promises to create more jobs and invest in emerging technologies to get the country back on its feet once and for all, the reality is that Japan cannot afford to spend its way out of lackluster growth. What the country really needs is sweeping social change that will tap into the power of women in the labor market and bold leadership to make painful cuts to welfare spending. The fact that Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party […]

Since assuming power in early 2011, Myanmar’s government, led by President Thein Sein, has focused its energies on the domestic agenda: rejuvenating the economy, liberalizing the political system and bringing an end to the decades-long ethnic conflicts along the country’s periphery. In tandem with these reforms, however, Naypyidaw has also endeavored to rebalance its foreign relations, with a particular emphasis on improving ties with the United States and members of the European Union, as well as important Asian neighbors such as Japan and India. China, which forged a close economic and political relationship with Myanmar during the 1990s and 2000s […]

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, marking the first time a leader of the majority-Muslim Southeast Asian nation has visited the Palestinian enclave controlled by Hamas. While Najib said his visit was a humanitarian mission intended to “express deep concern” over “what is happening to the Palestinian people in Gaza,” Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Hamas’ rival Fatah, said the visit would worsen divisions between the two Palestinian factions. Two experts who spoke with Trend Lines pointed to Malaysian domestic politics in the run-up to general elections that Najib must […]

Although it is difficult to predict the precise course of Venezuela’s current leadership transition, it is almost certain that President Hugo Chavez will pass away within the coming weeks or months. His departure will impact not only Venezuela, but also the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), the regional bloc that Chavez founded to promote his vision of Bolivarian socialism. While conventional wisdom assumes these impacts will be mostly negative, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, another outcome is possible: A rejuvenated ALBA could take shape, one centered on a new coalition of pragmatists and restructured around economic […]

A Vietnamese court has convicted 14 bloggers and activists on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. In an email interview, Vietnam expert Adam Fforde, a professor at Victoria University’s Center for Strategic Economic Studies and honorary principal fellow at University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, discussed the significance of the convictions and how they fit into the broader state of civil liberties in Vietnam. WPR: What is the overall state of civil liberties in Vietnam? Adam Fforde: The state of civil liberties in Vietnam has two very different aspects. On the one hand, since the de-Stalinization of the late-1980s, Vietnamese […]

Since the election of reformist President Benigno Aquino, the Philippine economy has been on an unprecedented upswing, defying almost all earlier forecasts. Today, the country is among the fastest-growing economies in the world, expected to grow by up to 8 percent this year. No wonder the Philippines is seen as the next Asian tiger economy and is expected to attain a much-coveted “investment grade” rating this year. The emerging consensus among experts is that the increasingly positive economic outlook is a result, first, of the Aquino administration’s good governance agenda focused on tough anti-corruption reforms and, second, of the larger […]

In a recent WPR feature essay on economic integration and security competition in Asia, Amitav Acharya used our article in Foreign Policy, “A Tale of Two Asias,” as a conceptual framework for thinking about the future of this dynamic and important region. But his piece, “Why Two Asias May be Better Than None,” misunderstands or fails to address many of our key arguments. On some points, we agree with Acharya. For example, he notes that Japan “started the process” of economic integration in Asia, or what we call “Economic Asia,” and “still plays a vital role in it.” We made […]

As China prepares to complete its leadership transition with the handover of the presidency in March, activists are seeing positive signs about government HIV/AIDS policy, with incoming Premier Li Keqiang prominently endorsing grassroots treatment efforts. In an email interview, Jia Ping, the founder and chief executive officer of the China Global Fund Watch Initiative, discussed China’s HIV/AIDS policies. WPR: How have China’s efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS evolved in recent years? Jia Ping: China has made some progress but not enough. The government has begun to pay attention to marginalized groups. The number of nongovernmental organizations is increasing; there is an […]

Last week’s meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai felt like a last desperate attempt to salvage a crumbling marriage: With the relationship clearly dying, the two sides quibbled over the pace of U.S. disengagement and the extent of future American aid and assistance. But as U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winds down, Americans should already be thinking about what they can learn from their longest war. U.S. national security strategy, as I explained in my book “Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy,” is shaped by the lessons drawn, rightly or wrongly, from previous conflicts, wars […]

Contemporary Vietnam, officially known at the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV), was formed in 1976 after a four-and-a-half decade armed struggle led by the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) against French colonialism and U.S. intervention. When the war against France came to an end in 1954, Vietnam was partitioned, and North Vietnam became Southeast Asia’s first communist state, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. During the early years of the Democratic Republic, China was its chief provider of foreign assistance as well as its main model of development. For example, Vietnam carried out land reform in the mid-1950s and then reorganized the […]

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an important speech condemning government censorship, calling for greater Internet freedom and reiterating that freedom of expression was a vital U.S. value. But during the past two weeks, as issues of press censorship in China have become front-page news, the State Department has remained noticeably silent, even as that censorship has impacted the U.S. media. On Dec. 31, 2012, the New York Times announced that the Chinese government had failed to process the journalist visa of one of its Beijing correspondents, Chris Buckley, before his old visa expired. Without a valid […]

Yesterday, the president of Sri Lanka formally ordered the removal of the country’s chief justice from office, capping a controversial impeachment process against the chief justice. In an email interview, Erik Jensen, professor of the practice of law and senior research scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, explained the circumstances surrounding the constitutional crisis. WPR: What are the circumstances surrounding the impeachment of Sri Lanka’s chief justice? Erik Jensen: The critical events surrounding the impeachment rapidly evolved over the course of only four months: from the precipitating act — a Supreme Court ruling […]

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In a year marked by democratic setbacks, Myanmar emerged as an unlikely success story. After nearly half a century of military rule, rights to unionize and protest were restored; opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest; and censorship was eased. Remarkably, these reforms happened because of, rather than despite, longtime dictator Gen. Than Shwe, in particular his decision to hand power willingly over to President Thein Sein. Than Shwe’s voluntary retirement ensured a peaceful transition, but the circumstances of his departure present unique challenges for the quasi-civilian government that has succeeded the junta. The military maintains […]

A Pakistani soldier was killed earlier today near the Line of Control (LOC), the de facto border dividing the disputed Kashmir region between India and Pakistan. The incident follows the death of two Indian soldiers and another Pakistani soldier in the same area in the past week. Over the past five days, a series of cease-fire violations and deadly border clashes has led to rising tensions between India and Pakistan, threatening to reverse a recent trend of cooperation between these two countries, which have fought over Kashmir since their partition. “The incursion of troops across the LOC is an escalation,” […]

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