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Letter from the Editors
It would be fair to say that 2017’s most compelling reality show was the advent of Donald Trump’s presidency. It was a show replete with the oversized pronouncements, unpredictable tweets and disruptive “America First” rhetoric that characterized Trump’s unlikely campaign for the White House. Unlike in Europe, where political leaders aren’t reticent about expressing alarm when American leaders depart from their scripts, leaders in Asia remained watchful and largely discreet in their efforts to fathom the direction of US foreign policy. But there was much to be nervous about, from Trump’s initial mis-step on Taiwan to his hectoring of allies Japan and South Korea on trade issues. And, of course, there was his introduction of “Little Rocket Man” into the lexicon on North Korea. Trump’s first trip to Asia as president in November seems, for now, to have calmed nerves and clarified at least some issues regarding US priorities in the region — and cast light on his emerging “Indo-Pacific” strategy.
In our cover package, we feature a series of articles under the guest editorship of Stephan Haggard and Myung Hwan Yu on “Trump in Asia,” which had their origin in papers presented at a symposium Oct. 19-20 at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego. The symposium received generous support from the Asia Research Fund, the Pacific Century Institute and the university’s Lawrence and Sallye Krause Chair. The articles not only dissect Trump’s approach to the region, but gauge how China, Russia, South Korea and Japan have adapted. “With all the uncertainties Trump has introduced, we might expect a region on edge. But a surprising finding of the Asian contributors’ papers is how all four major Northeast Asian countries have adjusted to the Trump era,” Haggard and Yu note in their introduction.
In our Features section, we examine how the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that confronted the young US President John Kennedy provides lessons for the current North Korean nuclear and missile crisis; why engaging with North Korea, despite all of the obstacles, remains the only viable option for peace on the Korean Peninsula; China’s growing engagement with Central Asia and Eastern Europe and the ambivalent reactions it is triggering; why the prospects for better relations between Tokyo and Beijing face thorny limits, despite efforts on both sides to bridge their differences; how Taiwan is posing an increasingly complex dilemma for Chinese policymakers determined to see the island reunited with the Mainland; and why Asia needs to significantly enhance its governance framework for exchange rates to ensure stability and prosperity.
Our In Focus section looks at two key issues confronting China-US relations in the region — energy policy and climate change, and the ongoing maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas. In the case of the former, the US decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord represents a lost opportunity, because this was a notable example of China-US co-operation. On the latter issue, it is unlikely that the US under Trump will walk away from its long-standing position.
And, as always, we feature reviews of some of the most engaging books on Asia.
Walter C. Clemens, Jr
07 Feb 2018 - North Korea now deigns to take part in the Winter Olympics. Its rulers may again be ready to negotiate—not only with South Korea but also with the United States. Claiming that it now has the means to deter an American attack, Pyongyang exudes confidence that it can counter threats by the US and its South Korean ally. US Ambassador Nikki Haley complains that North Korea is “obses… Read full post
05 Dec 2017 - The recent electoral victory of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition has brought down the curtains -- at least for now -- on a period of political flux and uncertainty in the country’s political landscape. In the run-up to the elections held on Oct. 22, the Abe government had been plagued by a series of scandals and g… Read full post
20 Sep 2017 - The Malabar 2017 naval exercises were held in the Bay of Bengal during July 10-17 with participation from the Indian, US and Japanese navies to “increase interoperability amongst the three navies as well as to develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations.”1 Although the Malabar started out as bilateral exercises between India and the US back in 19… Read full post
06 Sep 2017 - Amid the growing anxiety generated by North Korea’s recent missile tests and its dramatic sixth nuclear test, the Trump administration is grappling with the challenge of finding a proportionate response. Somehow, it needs to simultaneously punish the North for its continuing provocations, slow down and ultimately reverse Kim Jong-un’s WMD modernization program, and ensure that t… Read full post
Robert E. McCoy
25 Aug 2017 - Much has been made of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s desire to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the special industrial zone set up in 2002 in North Korea where South Korean businesses could operate using workers from the North. As most readers will recall, Moon’s predecessor shut down the KIC in February 2016 in response to an earlier North Korean nuclear test … Read full post
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