Kim Jong-il’s Death Draws Major Reactions in Asia

The death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il this week provoked a variety of reactions across the globe. Kim Jong-un, the late Kim’s third son, will succeed his father. In this post, we examine reactions to Kim’s death from Asia and what it means for North Korea’s future.

JAPAN

Given Japan’s proximity and interest in the Korean peninsula, reactions were markedly heightened. Many speculated on what the post-Kim era might mean for Japanese interests in the region.

Kim’s death triggered a flurry of responses from Japanese government officials, who emphasized their hope for continued stability while monitoring developments on the Korean peninsula:

A group of academics mulled over North Korea’s future and its relations with the rest of the world in aroundtable interview with the Asahi Shimbun.

  • Noting Pyongyang’s close ties with Beijing, Masao Okonogi, professor emeritus at Keio University, predicted that China’s leaders will support the Kim Jong-un regime, fearing the consequences of a North Korea plunged into turmoil. Okonogi also predicted that North Korea’s foreign policy will remain unchanged for the time being. Read more of this post

The US “Pivots” Back to Asia. How are the Region’s Major Powers Reacting?

In our previous blog post, we examined Asian reactions to the economic aspects of America’s “pivot” back to Asia strategy. Today’s post looks at what China, India, and Japan are saying about the geopolitical implications of US plans to strengthen its presence in Asia.

CHINA

Official commentary specifically on this topic was expressed by the Foreign Ministry spokesperson during a regular press briefing: “In handling Asia-Pacific affairs, one should comply with the basic trend of peace, development and cooperation upheld by regional countries, and respect the diversity and complexity of the region.”

Similarly, the press has stressed China’s commitment to peaceful development and coexistence with neighbors. Commentaries characterize US intentions as reflecting a “Cold War mentality” aiming to encircle China, then explain why such plans are likely to fail:

  • China may also retaliate economically at neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, for cooperating militarily with the US. The Philippines is “walking a very fine line,” warned a Global Timeseditorial that recommended economic “punishment” such as postponing the implementation of investment agreements and decreasing imports from the Philippines. In the meantime, “China should enhance cooperation with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, allowing them to benefit more from the Philippine vacuum.”

For reactions by Chinese netizens, the Dutch nonprofit foundation Global Voices has a report here.

 

INDIA

Across the board, commentary in India is welcoming of America’s plan to strengthen its presence in Asia, and sees this renewed attention on the region as a chance for India to assert its strategic role. Read more of this post

Asian Powers Comment on U.S. Plans for Asia-Pacific Economic Integration

The United States is “pivoting” toward Asia. This strategy was formally publicized last month with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s essay on “America’s Pacific Century.” This week, President Barack Obama has been visiting Asia to push for a Trans-Pacific trading bloc and stronger military ties with US allies. How are major Asian powers reacting to America’s strategy to “re-engage” the Asia Pacific region? Today’s post  highlights Chinese, Russian and Japanese views on the economic aspects of this strategy.

CHINA
Chinese officials have so far made only brief comments on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), all of which express China’s support for regional economic integration but stressing its preference for existing mechanisms. Assistant Commerce Minister Yu Jianhua said any trade mechanism should be “open and inclusive,” while Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said economic integration should proceed in a “step-by-step manner.”

Commentary in the press characterized the TPP as a part of a wider strategy to contain China:

 Academic opinions leaned toward a “wait-and-see” attitude:

  • Wang Yuzhu of the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, “Economic regionalism is China’s most pragmatic choice, because the international architecture is changing rapidly. China has to recalibrate its relations with the rest of the world.”
  • According to Lu Jianren, deputy director of the APEC Study Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “How the TPP negotiations will progress is still a matter of great uncertainty. What can be certain is it will be strategically detrimental to the old ASEAN Plus Three coalition, which has long been lagging behind in forming a free-trade zone that can allow a level of economic unity in the region.”

RUSSIA

As Russia gears up to host the 2012 APEC summit in Vladivostock, commentary on U.S. re-engagement in Asia was introspective, questioning Russia’s own unique orientation as both a European and Asian state.  Read more of this post

The Okinawa Question and the US-Japan Alliance: Factoring in Japanese Domestic Politics and Debates

By Amy Hsieh

Since Yoshihiko Noda took office as Prime Minister of Japan two months ago, there appears to be some possibility that the United States and Japan will be able to make progress on the stalled issue of relocating the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station in Okinawa prefecture. However, even cautious optimism should be tempered by the reality of domestic politics in Japan and a thorough consideration of Japan’s overall strategic thinking.

Noda has made specific gestures expressing an intent to honor the U.S.-Japan agreement to relocate the Futenma base from densely populated Ginowan to the Henoko district of Nago City in northeastern Okinawa, where a new on-shore facility would be built. To win political support from Okinawans, he announced in late September that his government would remove the conditions currently attached to development subsidies to the prefecture. In October, he told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the government would submit an environmental impact assessment report to Okinawa prefecture by the end of this year, which would formally start a legal process whereby the Okinawa government is required to respond within 90 days. From Washington’s perspective, these moves may indicate some long-awaited momentum on the Futenma issue.

Opposition and skepticism in Japanese domestic politics 

However, the official message coming from Tokyo stands in stark contrast to the local opposition in Okinawa, which has grown stronger and more vocal over the years. Just days after Panetta’s visit, Okinawa Governor Hirokazu Nakaima told Noda that the Futenma relocation within the prefecture was “virtually impossible.”[1] In a recent speech delivered at The George Washington University, Nakaima stressed the intolerable impact of Futenma on the daily lives of Okinawans, and compared it to having a military base in the middle of New York City on 36th Street. Added to this is the sense of unfairness of having to bear the lion’s share of U.S. military presence in Japan: Okinawa comprises only 0.6% of Japan’s national land mass, but hosts 74% of American facilities in Japan.

While there is nothing new about local opposition to U.S. military basing in Okinawa, observers note that it has dramatically strengthened in the past few years that the Democratic Party of Japan has been in government. Read more of this post

Ten years after 9/11: What are key Asian states saying?

This past weekend, the U.S. commemorated the ten year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Across the globe, other countries also took a moment to reflect on this day.  In this post, we examine views from Russia, India, China and Japan.

RUSSIA

InRussia, commentators asserted thatU.S.unilateralism in the “war on terror” has interfered in the internal affairs of sovereign countries. At the same time, they concede that the Kremlin also lost an opportunity to deepen U.S.-Russian relations in the 9/11 aftermath.

  • The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that although the 9/11 attacks were “provocative and cruel,” they also led to broad international cooperation that has helped to bring global counter-terrorism cooperation to a higher level. The Foreign Ministry emphasized thatRussia supports an international coalition of nations, as opposed to some form of unilateralism, as the best mechanism for battling against the specter of terrorism.

Multiple commentaries described the 9/11 tragedy and subsequent global fight against terrorism as a missed opportunity for the Kremlin to boost ties with the West:

  • The Moscow Times, which tends to express opinion that the Rising Powers Initiative characterizes as Pro-Western Liberal, favoring modernization and integration with the West, noted that although U.S.-Russian cooperation got off to a strong start after 9/11, it quickly fizzled. “Moscow was counting on getting something in return fromWashington…butWashington simply tookMoscow’s assistance for granted, interpreting it as a response that any civilized country would have taken to support a partner hit by a major terrorist attack.”
  • RIA Novosti military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov remarked, “If there’s anything that the ten years of the ‘war on terror’ have demonstrated, it’s that the world leader is incredibly isolated. America is stubbornly and methodically trying to impose its own designs on a desperately recalcitrant world.” As the state news agency, RIA Novosti’s views are close to the current government position and reflect what the Rising Powers Initiative has identified as the Great Power Balancers viewpoint—those that seek great power status in relations with U.S. and China.

INDIA

In India, 9/11 was an occasion to reflect on the country’s own problems with terrorism, in the context ofAmerica’s war on terror over the past ten years.     Read more of this post

Asian Views on the Next IMF Chief

Following the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF’s June 30 deadline for choosing a new managing director is rapidly approaching. The only two candidates are France’s Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, and Mexico’s Central Bank governor, Agustín Carsten. In this post, we examine the domestic viewpoints of China, India, Japan and Russia on the upcoming selection.

CHINA

In China, commentators vigorously called for an open and competitive process for the new IMF head’s selection, with greater representation amongst emerging markets and developing members.

• Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu stated that the chief of the IMF should be chosen through “democratic consultation with a merit-based and transparent selection process.” Jiang said China has noticed that some countries have named their candidates, but she did not talk about China’s preference toward the candidates.

• Editorials discredited the age-old convention of a European IMF managing director and an American World Bank president:

  •  The notion that a European IMF chief would be best suited to deal with the European crisis because he/she would understand the region better is a double-standard, argues Xinhua. “When East Asian countries suffered a debt crisis from 1997 to 1999 and the IMF’s main clients became Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea, no one argued that the IMF should be led by an Asian because he/she could understand the region’s problems more deeply.”
  • Europe should pass the IMF baton to Asia,” runs a China Daily headline. The IMF “should no longer function in a way that gives one continent such potent power over its functioning,” since such tactics are “zero-sum” and harmful to the entire world. “The rest of the world needs to tell the EU that its members will have to swallow the same bitter pills that people in Asia, Africa and South America have been subjected to for so long, rather than be accommodated and mollycoddled while the rest of the world is denied of its rights.”

• The China Daily noted that the recent joint statement made by the BRICS countries’ IMF executive directors is a much-needed example of coordination among emerging markets. “To properly reflect the growing role of developing countries, which are still under-represented in this [the IMF] and many other major international institutions, the BRICS countries should be more confident in asserting their common position, even if that may annoy others.”

• The Global Times argued that an increased Chinese presence at the senior management level will “reinforce the attention of the IMF to the emerging economies as well as improve the economic and trading relationship between developing and developed countries.”

INDIA

India appears resigned to the idea of Europe continuing its hold on the managing-director position, but has joined other emerging countries in criticizing the selection process.

• The Economic Times noted that as a rising superpower, “India is in a far better position to understand the compulsions of borrowers and ground realities of countries under fiscal stress.”

The Hindu reports that French candidate Christine Lagarde received no assurance from the Indian leadership during a June 7 visit seeking support for her candidacy. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee confirmed this, adding that “the selection of the managing director…should be on the basis of merit, competence, and (be made) in a transparent manner.” Following Mexican candidate Agustín Carsten’s visit a few days later, Mukherjee stated that he is in touch with his counterparts and that they will announce their decision at “an appropriate time.” Read more of this post

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