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  • Author: Zena Grecni, Eric M. Derrington, Robbie Greene, Wendy Miles, Victoria Keener
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Hotter weather, stronger typhoons, coral reef death, and physical and mental health risks are among the major challenges detailed in a new report on climate change in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). Threatened resources include high-value coastal infrastructure and the millions of dollars that ocean ecosystems add to the CNMI economy annually, according to the report by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA), a consortium of several government, NGO, and research entities. Climate Change in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors is one in a series of new PIRCA reports aimed at assessing the state of knowledge about climate change indicators, impacts, and adaptive capacity of the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands and the Hawaiian archipelago. Authors from the CNMI Office of Planning and Development, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management, and the East-West Center—along with 50 technical contributors from local governments, NGOs, researchers, and community groups—collaboratively developed the CNMI PIRCA report. Climate change is expected to disrupt many aspects of life in the CNMI. Those who are already vulnerable—including children, the elderly, low-income families, and individuals with disabilities—are at greater risk from extreme weather and climate events. Climate Change in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors provides guidance for decision-makers seeking to better understand the implications of climate variability and change for CNMI and its communities. This assessment also identifies the additional information and research needed to support responses that enhance resilience and help CNMI to withstand the changes to come.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Government, Economy
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific, Northern Mariana Islands
  • Author: Victoria Keener, Zena Grecni, Kelley Anderson Tagarino, Christopher Shuler, Wendy Miles
  • Publication Date: 06-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Human health risks, stronger cyclones, coral reef death, and coastal flooding are among the major challenges detailed in a new report on climate change in American Sāmoa. Threatened resources include high-value coastal infrastructure and the millions of dollars that ocean ecosystems add to American Sāmoa's economy annually, according to the report by the Pacific Islands Regional Climate Assessment (PIRCA), a consortium of several government, NGO, and research entities. Climate Change in American Sāmoa: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors is one in a series of new PIRCA reports aimed at assessing the state of knowledge about climate change indicators, impacts, and adaptive capacity of the US-Affiliated Pacific Islands and the Hawaiian archipelago. Authors from the University of Hawai‘i and the East-West Center—along with 25 technical contributors from local governments, NGOs, researchers, and community groups—collaboratively developed the American Sāmoa report. Climate change is expected to disrupt many aspects of life in American Sāmoa. Those who are already vulnerable—including children, the elderly, low-income families, and individuals with disabilities—are at greater risk from extreme weather and climate events. Climate Change in American Sāmoa: Indicators and Considerations for Key Sectors provides guidance for decision-makers seeking to better understand the implications of climate variability and change for American Sāmoa and its communities. This assessment also identifies the additional information and research needed to support responses that enhance resilience and help American Sāmoa to withstand the changes to come.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Natural Resources, Infrastructure, Economy
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific, American Samoa
  • Author: Hannah Foreman
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Timor-Leste is a small democratic country in an increasingly strategic region. Since gaining independence in 2002, Timor-Leste has made remarkable progress as Asia’s youngest democracy, but it has a long way to go in improving its economic and political situation. ASEAN membership for the Timorese is viewed as a way to reconcile economic, security, and geopolitical interests, while carving out a regional identity. Timor-Leste’s push for ASEAN membership started in 2011 and intensified during the latter half of 2019 when Foreign Minister Dionisio Babo Soares visited all ten ASEAN capitals in the summer followed by ASEAN fact finding missions in Dili in the fall. While Timor-Leste’s response to COVID-19 is impressive, the economic toll continues to be severe. Therefore, ASEAN membership is a comparatively lower priority this year, but is still under consideration by members, based on Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s speech during the recent ASEAN Summit.
  • Topic: Security, Economics, Democracy, Geopolitics, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Timor-Leste, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Paul Nadeau
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Japan will welcome the Biden administration with relief in the wake of what was perceived as Trump’s bombast, threats, and unpredictability – but it will be mixed with apprehension (fair or not) that Biden’s presidency will follow the Obama administration’s perceived weakness, or even accommodation, toward China. It’s a crude simplification, but Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s relationship with U.S. political parties is roughly that they share preferences but not perceptions with Democrats, and share perceptions but not preferences with Republicans. In practical terms, this means that Japanese decision makers favor alliances and multilateral approaches over unilateralism and brinksmanship, but are more suspicious of China’s intentions and behavior than they believe Democrats to be. Put more indelicately, the LDP prefers working with Republicans rather than Democrats. This is combined with a traditional perception that Democrats undervalue Japan as a partner. Taken as a whole, this means that the incoming administration may have to do more to convince Japan that its priorities are being taken seriously – but will find in Japan an essential partner for advancing U.S. goals in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Bilateral Relations, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Tom Le
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The Biden administration’s focus on allies and partners and the inability of democratic U.S. allies Japan and South Korea to move beyond historical pitfalls of apologies and treaties provides President Biden’s team the perfect opportunity to show leadership by taking on a mediator role. By taking an active role, the United States can demonstrate that it is not a passive observer to would-be revisionists in the region, shore up its alliances, and signal to the world that the United States is still the leader in the promotion of human rights. Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945 was brutal. The Japanese military coerced between 10,000 and 200,000 women into sexual slavery and many more Koreans were forced to work in the Japanese war machine, the very one that annexed Korea in 1910. Following the abrupt end of Japanese colonization after World War II, brought about by the only direct use of nuclear bombs on a human population in history, Japan quickly signed treaties and paid reparations to former colonies, recovered its economy, and successfully rehabilitated its image with much of the world. However, it was not until 1965 that Japan-South Korea relations were “normalized.” The new Japan-South Korea relationship included abandoning reconciliation with North Korea altogether, and Tokyo providing grants to an authoritarian South Korean leader who was later assassinated and remains a divisive figure in contemporary Korean domestic politics.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Human Rights, History, Alliance, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, South Korea, United States of America
  • Author: Rei Kataoka Coleman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Although Japan does not recognize dual citizenship, the United States and Japan would both benefit from such an arrangement. A combination of on-the-ground realities of dual citizens in Japan, the emerging needs and capabilities of the Japanese state (namely digitalization of public services and taxation), and the interests of U.S.-based corporations operating in Japan should inspire the United States to encourage dual citizenship initiatives by the Japanese government. The driving forces of globalization and the benefits of exploring new avenues of U.S.-Japan relations combine with domestic developments in Japan to make dual citizenship a “common sense” goal for both countries, at both the institutional and person-to-person level of international diplomacy and mutual understanding. Just as foreign professionals proved indispensable to modernization in Japan’s Meiji Period (1868 - 1912), bi-national Americans currently on the ground in multinational corporations and other entities in Japan are playing a part in economic and cultural synergy, while contributing to a more well-informed U.S. stance on a number of important bilateral issues. Giving these agents of positive change the benefits of dual citizenship will make their lives in Japan easier and more fulfilling, while inviting more Americans with talent and knowledge to the grand project of mutual cooperation.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Business , Dual Citizenship
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Hillary C. Dauer
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The ongoing political impasse between Japan’s central government in Tokyo and the Okinawa prefectural government over U.S. military basing threatens the long-term stability of the U.S.-Japan Alliance. In spite of the friction between the central government and the prefecture, and the much decried “burden” of U.S. bases on Okinawa there is relatively little deep-seeded resentment among the Okinawan people toward the U.S. military presence or the U.S.-Japan Alliance as a whole, especially among those born after the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in 1972. Surveys also show that Okinawans desire more dialogue with U.S. service members based in Okinawa. But a fraught Okinawan history with mainland Japan and economic marginalization have so far undermined the strong potential for good-faith dialogue that could break the impasse. The relocation of U.S. military bases is essential to the U.S. and Japanese governments’ security policy vis-à-vis emerging threats in the region. Both governments realized in the 1990s that Okinawa could not remain a key power projection node in the Western Pacific if the bases remained a flashpoint of political controversy due to their proximity to densely populated communities. This potentially volatile situation was brought under intense scrutiny with the 1995 rape committed by three U.S. service members against an Okinawan junior high school student and the resulting agreement to close the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma. Moreover, the construction of the Futenma Replacement Facility also factors into subsequent U.S. Pacific maritime realignment strategy. Further delays could leave Japan less secure and impair U.S. attempts to counter growing Chinese assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.
  • Topic: Politics, Bilateral Relations, Military Affairs, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Kensuke Yanagida
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: Both the United States and Japan consider India as an important strategic partner in their respective Indo-Pacific concepts. However, India still faces many domestic challenges as a developing country. India also has traditionally been reluctant when it comes to trade liberalization. U.S. bilateral trade negotiations with India, and Japan`s effort in promoting an East Asia regional trade agreement that includes India share objectives and interests and hence can be coordinated. On November 15, 2020, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed by 15 countries with the glaring exception of India. RCEP is a regional free trade agreement (FTA) whose negotiations were initiated by ASEAN and six partner countries, namely Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India in 2012. The signing of RCEP finally came after eight years of negotiations, but India decided to pull out from the pact at the final stage of negotiations. The Japanese and U.S. Indo-Pacific concepts aim to achieve regional peace, stability, and prosperity through ensuring a rules-based international order, and to enhance cooperation among like-minded countries in both economic and security spheres. RCEP can be positioned as an important economic partnership initiative that embodies the Indo-Pacific concepts of rules-based, free and fair trade and investment governance, and contributing to the economic prosperity of the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Treaties and Agreements, Bilateral Relations, Trade
  • Political Geography: Japan, India, Asia, North America, United States of America, Indo-Pacific
  • Author: Mina Pollman
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: The world is aging. Some countries are not only aging, but their populations are shrinking as immigration fails to make up for rapidly falling birth rates. Many U.S. allies and security partners are among those beset by these trends. This raises questions about how decreasing fertility and increasing life expectancies will shape the future world order, and specifically the sustainability of U.S. alliances such as with Japan, whose aging and population decline will make it more difficult for the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) to compete for the best Japanese talent as the Japanese labor pool shrinks ever smaller, and Japanese tax dollars with which to hire military personnel grow ever scarcer. Unless SDF recruitment trends change dramatically, Japan’s ability to participate in both technology-intensive and manpower-heavy alliance missions will decline over time. The fulfillment of manpower-intensive missions requires, of course, manpower, while even the fulfillment of technology-intensive missions will be affected by the JSDF’s inability to recruit technologically proficient talent. Ensuring the JSDF meets quantity and quality targets is imperative, but will require more government spending. But an aging and shrinking population will reduce the size of the working age population that pay taxes and increases the size of the retired population that depends on the state’s benefits for the elderly. While this will affect the JSDF’s ability to fulfill both technology-intensive and manpower-heavy missions with the United States in the future, the alliance will remain relevant to U.S. security in the Indo-Pacific because of the value of U.S. bases in Japan which forms the core of the alliance.
  • Topic: Demographics, Immigration, Alliance, Aging
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Richard Pruett
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: While the U.S. presidential election was garnering much of the world's attention, another acrimonious election was roiling the Pacific, causing the entire Micronesian bloc of nations to exit the region's leading policy-making body, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). This is an opportune time to re-think the PIF and possibly realign Pacific regional architecture in preparation for future challenges. The Republic of Palau left the Forum on February 5, followed three days later by the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Nauru, and Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI). That all five countries chose to leave the PIF was an act of remarkable Micronesian solidarity. The immediate reason for their departure was the February 4 election of a non-Micronesian as the PIF's new secretary-general. Until now, leadership had cycled among the three major racial and cultural groups in the Pacific – i.e., Melanesian, Micronesian, and Polynesian. The Micronesian countries felt snubbed when the leadership was passed over them to a Polynesian, instead. In fact, a Micronesian has held the leadership of the PIF only once in its 50-year history. The Forum’s 2009-2014 suspension of Fiji fractured regional institutions along Melanesian lines. This latest failure to achieve consensus — the “Pacific Way” — has led to its complete rupture, North-South, along the Micronesia cultural fault line.
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, Leadership, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Asia-Pacific, United States of America, Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia