The 67-year old Thein Sein took office as Burma’s president in March 2011, after the country’s first election in 20 years in November 2010. Since then, he has led a process of reform in Burma, ruled for decades by a military junta of which he always was a key member and leader. When he took office he surprised the international community when he released political prisoners, limited censorship, legalized trade unions, promoted peace with ethnic minority insurgents and pushed through legislation on land reform and foreign investment.
If US election opinion polls are anything to go by, Mitt Romney will not get a chance to rock the
boat of US-Chinese relations from November 2012 onwards. Most (moderate and well-informed)
analysts and commentators agree that this is good news given Romney’s announcements on how
he and his aides would be dealing with what they call a protectionist ‘currency manipulator’ trading
North Korea will continue to remain East Asia’s trouble-maker. Pyongyang’s active missile and nuclear programs leave the region’s main powers - China, Japan, South Korea and the ‘offshore balancer’ US - stay on alert, sometimes higher, sometimes lower. Pyongyang has no intention whatsoever to give up and dismantle its missile and nuclear programs as it would leave the country with no bargaining tools to employ for its political blackmail policies. China remains a staunch supporter of the current status quo, i.e.
The transition of power in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il portends both change and continuity. The heir to power, Kim Jong-un, no doubt relies on advice if not pressure from an inner circle of generals and other senior leaders. So far North Korean policy appears extremely tough, but perhaps that's an attempt to buttress his image amid concerns about his youth and inexperience.
Recent and ongoing shifts in Japan’s military security – both domestic and in relations with other countries – are once again stirring the debate about whether Japan’s security posture is set for radical change. Japan’s recent policies towards North Korea, Myanmar/Burma, Iran and Afghanistan as well as new security issues suggest, however, that change is continuative.
While China seeks stability in and around North Korea. Py-ongyang continues to upset regional stability with missile and nuclear testing. Thus, Bei-jing finds itself in the uncomfortable situation of nursing and feeding an ally who challenges the regional stability China wants.
There was a brief period earlier this year – 16 days to be more precise – when it looked like the death of Kim Jong Il and smooth transition to his successor, number three son Kim Jong Un, would make a breakthrough possible in the long-standing nuclear stalemate with North Korea; then Pyongyang reverted to form. Shortly after pledging to freeze all nuclear and missile tests, Pyongyang announced a satellite launch, thus pulling the rug out from under Washington (and itself) and business as usual (or unusual) returned to the Peninsula.
Japan is facing hard times. Domestic politics is stuck in a stalemate and is as ever replacing Prime Minister every 12-18 months. Economic growth remains sluggish, the country is burdened with public debt amounting to 200% of the country’s GDP while at the same being confronted with a possibly nuclear-armed North Korea and a militarily growing assertive China. ISPI Studies has invited five authors European, Japanese and American authors to make sense of the current state and trends of Japanese politics, economics and foreign policies.