U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s planned visit to Beijing next week is unlikely to see breakthroughs in the tense U.S.-China relations. However, his visit — the first to China by a U.S. secretary of state since Mike Pompeo’s in 2018 — provides an important opportunity for him to take up a range of issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi. There is no doubt that the bilateral relationship is severely strained, but Blinken’s visit is an important follow up to the meeting between President Joe Biden and General Secretary Xi Jinping on the sidelines of November’s G-20 in Bali and a sign that both sides see the need to stabilize ties.
Two years ago today, Myanmar’s military snuffed out the country’s democratic government in a coup and set about restoring the grim dictatorship that dominated the Southeast Asian nation for 50 years. But the generals’ initial moves — jailing civilian leaders, shutting the free press, issuing heavy-handed decrees — were the only things that went according to plan. To date, the coup has instead triggered myriad unintended effects. None are more urgent and consequential than the instability and crime that the generals’ power grab triggered across Southeast Asia, and none more directly implicate U.S. interests in the region.
Few issues between Japan and South Korea draw as much attention and political resources while producing such ephemeral results as historical reconciliation. In two years, the countries will reach milestones for major agreements, such as the 10th anniversary of the 2015 “comfort women” agreement and the 60th anniversary of the Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea. Between these two landmark deals are several official Japanese apologies, government speeches acknowledging Japan’s colonial past, visits by Japanese dignitaries to Korean memorial sites, a public-private reparations program, government-level “friendship” initiatives and civil society efforts to grapple with so-called history issues.
Southern Asia — India, Pakistan and China — is the only place on earth where three nuclear-armed states have recently engaged in violent confrontations along their contested borders. As a USIP senior study group report concluded last year, the problem of nuclear stability in Southern Asia is getting harder to manage because of geopolitical changes, such as rising India-China border tensions, as well as evolving military technologies, including growing nuclear arsenals and more capable delivery systems. Unfortunately, in the time since that senior study group completed its work, little has happened to revise its worrisome conclusion or to prevent the most likely triggering causes of a nuclearized crisis in Southern Asia. To the contrary, there are some good reasons to fear that the situation in Southern Asia has even deteriorated over the past year.
The United States and India have a common cause in their tensions with China, as well as a “natural partnership” on technology investments, says USIP’s Sameer Lalwani. But India remains noncommittal when it comes to Russia’s war on Ukraine: “They’ve concluded that they need Russia to stick around.”
While the relationship between South Korea and Japan is fraught with a number of historical and territorial disputes, the current cycle of tensions focuses our attention on lawsuits related to the colonial era. Most notably, bilateral ties soured after 2018, when two landmark rulings from the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean plaintiffs for their wartime forced labor.
Recent decrees by the Taliban barring Afghan women from attending university or working in NGOs are severely damaging the country both socially and economically, especially coming atop a ban on girls’ secondary education last year. The marginalization of half the population also highlights the “humanitarian dilemma” that aid donors and international agencies face: Afghanistan is highly dependent on humanitarian assistance, not only for saving lives and easing deprivation but also to stabilize its economy. The quandary for international donors is what to do when alleviating suffering benefits the Afghan economy and thereby the Taliban regime, even when that regime is harming its own people?
Ayesha Tanzeem, the director of Voice of America’s South and Central Asia Division, explains how Afghanistan’s media landscape has changed in the last year and a half, how media organizations are fighting back and what the international community can do to help protect media freedom in Afghanistan.
Pakistan continues to face multiple sources of internal and external conflict. Extremism and intolerance of diversity and dissent have grown, fuelled by a narrow vision of Pakistan’s national identity, and are threatening the country’s prospects for social cohesion and stability.
There is a tension between limiting North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and pursuing the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. To emphasize the former — through arms control and risk-reduction measures — can seem at times like a repudiation of the latter. Conversely, a focus on disarmament — still the core of U.S. policy — can seem outright fanciful given North Korea’s stunning technological advances. In North Korea, the United States faces a nuclear-armed state whose capabilities continue to expand despite international opposition and extensive economic sanctions. Disarmament simply isn’t in the cards right now.