Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series examining the record of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Part I reviews her domestic policy. Part II will examine her foreign policy. Though often dismissed as the puppet of her exiled brother, Yingluck Shinawatra has survived several critical challenges since becoming Thailand’s first female prime minister in a landslide victory in July 2011 elections. Yet despite initial hopes for reform, the past year and a half have demonstrated that the Yingluck government’s ultimate goal is to maintain its grip on power, and that the successes of Yingluck and her Pheu […]

The Thai government announced today that it has agreed to conduct peace talks with one of the groups involved in Thailand’s southern insurgency, following a highly ambitious but unsuccessful raid by insurgents in the country’s south earlier this month. Jeff Moore, an expert on Thailand’s insurgencies, explained the context of the attack and the government’s previous efforts at talks in an email interview from Thailand conducted before the talks were announced. WPR: What has been the recent course of Thailand’s southern insurgency? Jeff Moore: Most recently we’ve seen a beehive of activity. Insurgents have steadily recovered from major government counterinsurgency […]

Mexico relies more than most other countries on free trade agreements to fuel economic development. In the 1990s, the North American Free Trade Agreement helped solidify Mexico’s return to democracy, and, given that international trade accounts for more than 60 percent of Mexico’s economy, no Mexican president can do without a clear strategy for fostering better access to foreign markets. But while President Enrique Pena Nieto claims that the economy is the highest priority on his agenda, his administration has yet to spell out how Mexico will trade with the world. Pena Nieto has inherited a plan to expand Mexico’s […]

China recently announced plans to invest $635 billion in water infrastructure over the next 10 years, prompting criticism about the effect of China’s water policy on its downstream neighbors. Scott Moore, a doctoral research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government researching sustainable energy development in China, explained the context and possible consequences of the plan in an email interview. WPR: What is the context of China’s recent announcement of plans to dramatically expand its hydropower capacity over the next few years? Scott Moore: Three factors frame China’s recent plans to expand its hydropower capacity. The first and most important […]

One of the issues newly inaugurated South Korean President Park Geun-hye will need to address is the demands from a growing faction of her own party for either the United States to return tactical nuclear weapons to the South or for Seoul to develop its own nuclear arsenal. In light of the apparently successful Feb. 12 North Korean nuclear test, this faction believes that Seoul needs a similar nuclear capability to deter potential North Korean military threats. Extended deterrence of the kind the U.S. currently provides South Korea requires that the guarantor has the capacity to defend the country threatened […]

Park Geun-hye’s term as South Korean president begins at a time of serious tension on the Korean Peninsula, with North Korea defying international pressure and going ahead with a nuclear test earlier this month. During her campaign, Park had said that as president she would work to mend ties with Pyongyang, which had deteriorated under the government of now-former President Lee Myung-bak, and develop a mutually beneficial partnership that would pave the way for eventual reunification. But along with complications caused by North Korea’s third nuclear test and a general climate of discord, the composition of Park’s government will make […]

For the past 60 years, there has been convergence between the strategic logic of America’s strategy of forward deployment in key regions of the world and the economic imperative of securing the nation’s prosperity. Despite the constant protests on college campuses about “banana republics” and “no blood for oil,” there was, in fact, generally a strong correlation between the places where the American military was engaged and those areas that were seen as vital to the economic health of the country. Opposition from naturally isolationist tendencies of the American body politic was overcome, in part, by the argument that prosperity […]

For the past four years, China has consistently shielded North Korea from efforts to impose further international sanctions and to heighten Pyongyang’s diplomatic isolation in response to Pyongyang’s repeated provocations on the Korean Peninsula. That support, however, did not stop North Korea from conducting its third nuclear test earlier this month in direct defiance of Beijing’s appeals, with news of the test interrupting the new Chinese leadership’s observance of China’s most important holiday on Feb. 12. Debate about the diminishing value of Beijing’s support for and alliance with North Korea was already occurring among Chinese policymakers, academics and citizens. In […]

Zin Mar Aung, a former political prisoner in Myanmar who is now a candidate for the country’s 2015 parliamentary elections and an activist for women’s rights, was in Washington on Tuesday to raise awareness about the continuing underrepresentation of women in the decision-making bodies of Myanmar’s government. “It is ironic that the face of the Burma democracy movement has been a woman’s face when women in fact have not been allowed to be as central as they need to be in all levels of government,” said Susan Williams, a professor and director of the Center for Constitutional Democracy at the […]

Earlier this month, the Japanese Defense Ministry said two Russian fighter jets had violated its airspace, roughly a month after Japan announced a similar violation by China. In an email interview, Richard Bitzinger, an expert in Asia-Pacific military modernization at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, discussed the state of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Forces and Japan’s response to regional tensions. WPR: What is the current state of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF)? Richard Bitzinger: Historically, the JASDF has been the most powerful air force in East Asia, and, for the most part, it still maintains a strong reputation. It comprises […]

At a press briefing Monday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded to North Korea’s Feb. 12 nuclear test by calling for all parties to avoid taking action that could worsen the situation on the Korean Peninsula. While China expressed its opposition to the test, Beijing also stated its desire to see an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks seeking a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and called for the Security Council to adopt measures that would seek “realization of denuclearization, nonproliferation, and peace and stability on the peninsula.” Meanwhile, Chinese news commentary blamed U.S. intransigence as much as DPRK recklessness for the […]

In Bangladesh, daily protests over war crimes tribunals are turning deadly. Thirteen people have died as thousands have demonstrated against what is perceived as a culture of impunity for war crimes allegedly committed during Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence from Pakistan. Demonstrations have intensified since they began 10 days ago, after Abdul Quader Mollah, a leader of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, was convicted of war crimes and sentenced to life in prison. Many protesters see the life sentence as too lenient and are demanding the death penalty for Mollah. Meanwhile, as the government continues to prosecute defendants accused of committing […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on East Asian energy cooperation. Part I examined cooperation in energy conservation and natural gas markets. Part II examines cooperation in nuclear energy. Despite heightened political tensions among Japan, China and South Korea over territorial disputes in the East China Sea, Asian economic cooperation remains critical to the global economy as it struggles to return to widespread growth. Energy cooperation among these three Asian powers offers an opportunity for much-needed constructive engagement, and nowhere is this more urgent than in the area of nuclear energy. Before the Fukushima nuclear accident […]

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on East Asian energy cooperation. Part I examines cooperation in energy conservation and natural gas markets. Part II will examine cooperation in nuclear energy. Over the past few months, Japan’s relations with China and South Korea have deteriorated rapidly over territorial disputes. This is particularly true for relations between Japan and China, which are often described as having “cold politics and a hot economy,” with the implication that political tensions will not damage economic ties. But now, reactions to the territorial disputes are beginning to spill into the economic realm, […]

On Jan. 30, the Philippine government announced plans to buy 12 South Korean fighter jets — its first new fighter jet purchase since retiring the last of its U.S.-designed F-5 fleet in 2005. Chung-in Moon, a political science professor at South Korea’s Yonsei University, described the state of the Korean aerospace industry and what the purchase means in an email interview. WPR: What is the current state of South Korea’s aerospace sector?Chung-in Moon: The South Korean aerospace industry underwent a major restructuring in 1999 following the Asian financial crisis. Daewoo Heavy Machinery, Samsung Aviation (now Samsung Techwin) and Hyundai Aerospace […]

On India’s Navy Day in December, Indian Chief of Naval Staff D.K. Joshi declared that the Indian navy was prepared to operate in the South China Sea if called upon to do so. The government subsequently downplayed Joshi’s remarks, but the fact remains that the South China Sea has emerged as a vital sea corridor for India, with more than half the country’s trade currently passing through it. The security of the South China Sea will grow even more important to New Delhi in the years to come as India looks to link itself to East Asian supply chains and […]

Pakistan’s decision to allow a Chinese company to take over operations of the Gwadar port in Baluchistan has raised anxiety levels in South Asia. Since Jan. 31, when reports first emerged of the Pakistani Cabinet’s decision to transfer operational control of the port to China Overseas Port Holdings, India has been worried about the strategic consequences of what is being described as the establishment of a de facto Chinese outpost in the Indian Ocean. Many in India see the move as another bead in China’s “string of pearls” strategy of investing in port and infrastructure deals throughout South and Southeast […]

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