Asia

Korean Peninsula

Improving missile defense (MD) capabilities presents its own distinct set of regional and alliance-based issues for the Republic of South Korea (ROK). While the U.S. has been keen to deploy more MD assets to the region, Beijing perceives U.S.-led ballistic missile defence efforts as aimed at its own rising influence and military power in the region. The ROK abhors the thought of being forced to pick sides in a U.S.-China rift, but Seoul’s greatest security concern is Pyongyang’s advancing missile and nuclear programs.

Afghanistan

In a DW interview, Graeme Smith, senior Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group, says any significant delay in the electoral calendar will it make it harder for the US and NATO to reach a deal to keep troops in the country after the end of the year. It remains unclear whether both the candidates will accept the final election results.

DW: What do the current preliminary results mean for the electoral process?

Graeme Smith: This means that Ghani’s team has successfully persuaded the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to release the preliminary results in a timely fashion. That was a key demand of the Ghani campaign, which wants the process to go ahead.

Korean Peninsula

An increasingly prevalent issue in Seoul-Washington bilateral relations is wartime operational control (OPCON) of the South Korean military. When President Obama travelled to Seoul in April, he and President Park agreed that they would review Seoul’s request to postpone OPCON transition now scheduled for December 2015. A decision is expected by October 2014 when the two sides hold their annual Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) in Washington, DC. OPCON transfer had been scheduled to occur in 2012, but the transition was delayed in 2010 in the wake of North Korea’s second nuclear test in May 2009 and the sinking of the ROK naval corvette Ch’ŏnan in March 2010.

Sri Lanka

The heavy militarisation of Sri Lanka’s northern province after the civil war’s bloody end in 2009 has been the subject of growing domestic and international concern. The large numbers of military personnel in the north, and the deep involvement of the military in the province’s governance, endanger the re-establishment of democratic institutions that is necessary to lasting peace.

Korean Peninsula

On 27 February, the (North) Korean People’s Army (KPA) Strategic Rocket Forces fired four ballistic missiles from mobile launchers into the Sea of Japan. The firings began at 17:42 local time from Kittaeryŏng, Kangwŏn Province, where similar test launches have occurred in the past. The missiles, most likely Scud variants (Hwasŏng-5/6), can strike most of the South Korean landmass. Two more missiles, probably “extended” Scud variants, also were flight-tested in the morning of 3 March; these can probably strike all of the South.

China Korean Peninsula

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent East Asia tour raised the prospect that the Six-Party Talks – in the deep freeze for over five years – could soon reconvene. After conversing with Chinese officials, Kerry spoke positively of their promise to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. Kerry announced in Beijing that “China could not have more forcefully reiterated its commitment” to the goal of denuclearising North Korea. In the background was hope that an inter-Korean thaw might be underway, with the two Koreas agreeing to hold the first reunion of separated family members in over three years.

Myanmar
A man walks out from a destroyed mosque that was burnt down in recent violence at Thapyuchai village, outside of Thandwe, in the Rakhine state, October 3, 2013. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

New Attacks on Muslim Villagers in Myanmar’s Rakhine State

Since 2012, Myanmar has seen outbreaks of inter-communal and anti-Muslim violence, first in Rakhine State, where there is a large population of Rohingya Muslims as well as other Muslim communities such as the Kaman. The violence then spread to other parts of the country. (See our reports Storm Clouds on the Horizon and The Dark Side of Transition: Violence Against Muslims in Myanmar, our June 2012 conflict alert, and our most recent blog posts here, here and here.) Reports are now emerging of deadly attacks on Muslim villagers in northern Rakhine State’s Maungdaw township, an area near the Bangladesh border where the great majority of the population is Rohingya. Crisis Group has spoken to a number of individuals and organisations who have visited the area and interviewed people who said they witnessed the events. These accounts paint an alarming and consistent picture. Around 49 people are believed to have been killed in two violent incidents between 9 and 13 January. The allegations suggest that some of these killings were carried out by the police, and that the victims included women and children.

China

China’s recent declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea has stimulated much debate and concern and interpretations have varied widely. The Chinese government has asserted that the ADIZ is in accordance with international practice and will contribute to regional peace and air security. But the announcement drew protests from Japan, the United States, South Korea, Australia and others. Within days, military aircraft from the United States, Japan and South Korea defied China’s assertion that all aircraft entering the ADIZ would have to submit flight plans, maintain radio contact and follow directions from the Chinese Defense Ministry or face “emergency defensive measures.”

Korean Peninsula
Dennis Rodman Press Conference, 9 September 2013. R-L: Crisis Group’s Dan Pinkston, Paddy Power, Dennis Rodman. CRISIS GROUP

Civil Society and Basketball Diplomacy in North Korea

North Korea poses a number of traditional and non-traditional security challenges. The international community is dissatisfied with Pyongyang, whether because of fears of spillover effects beyond North Korea’s borders, or by unease over human rights violations within them. North Korea’s policies on human rights, food security, economic security, military affairs, and the proliferation of missiles and weapons of mass destruction repeatedly and understandably bring harsh condemnation from outside.

Korean Peninsula
PHOTO: Uriminzokkiri

Time to Engage Pyongyang?

When tensions were rising on the Korean peninsula last March and April, some people recommended scaling back or cancelling U.S.-ROK combined military exercises and substituting diplomatic engagement for military deterrence. Some activists and scholars consistently advocate “engagement” as the solution for a multitude of North Korea problems and challenges, including denuclearisation and arms control, confidence-building, food insecurity, and economic development. However, engagement comes in different forms and must be selective to be effective – selective in terms of both methods and timing.

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  • 4 February 2014

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