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  • Author: Kenneth I. Juster
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The conventional wisdom is that the foreign policy of Donald Trump’s Administration severely damaged relations with U.S. allies and partners. Commentators point to repeated criticism by the United States of friends in Europe and Asia, as well as the abrupt withdrawal from trade and other arrangements. But such critics overlook the U.S. relationship with India, which made significant advances and will be an area of substantial continuity in Joseph Biden’s Administration. The U.S.-India partnership has grown steadily since the turn of the century, with the past four years seeing major progress in diplomatic, defense, economic, energy and health cooperation. The strengthened bilateral relationship has become the backbone of an Indo-Pacific strategy designed to promote peace and prosperity in a dynamic and contested region. The longstanding U.S. commitment to the Indo-Pacific has underpinned the stability and remarkable economic rise of this region over the last 70 years. While the concept of the Indo-Pacific has been many years in the making, in the past four years the United States and India have turned it into a reality. For the United States, the Indo-Pacific agenda meant working with India to provide coordinated leadership in addressing the threat from an expansionist China, the need for more economic connectivity and other challenges in the region.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Hegemony
  • Political Geography: China, India, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Kurt W. Tong
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: The summer of 2019, with all its compelling political drama, will certainly be remembered as a pivotal moment in the history of Hong Kong. In the end, however, will 2019 will be remembered as a tragic turning point, heralding Hong Kong’s increasing instability and irrelevancy in the coming years? Or, optimistically, will future historians see this year as a moment when Hong Kong’s key stakeholders, inside and outside the city, were sufficiently reminded of the city’s special value and characteristics to do what is necessary to keep its “one country, two systems” dream alive? The answers to this set of questions will have important implications for the national interests of the United States in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Social Movement, Political stability, State Formation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, Hong Kong, United States of America
  • Author: H.E. Shinsuke J. Sugiyama
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: When I was appointed as Japan’s Ambassador to the United States in early 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other political leaders had very clear instructions to me: they told me to go outside of the Capital Beltway as often as possible to explore the many communities that make up the United States of America. Following this instruction, I have visited nearly 30 states so far. As a diplomat who has frequently interacted with the United States during my career, even I was surprised by the depth of my feelings during these visits. I am finding that this is truly the “United” States of America! In city after city, even as people express worries about the current state of the world, they also mention that the Japan-U.S. alliance and the ties between our people have become a stable constant in these unsettled times. I believe that this full maturation of the Japan-U.S. relationship into a global partnership will allow us to build a more peaceful and prosperous world together.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Partnerships, Strategic Planning
  • Political Geography: Japan, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Gonul Tol
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: For decades, Turkey’s conflict with its own Kurdish minority has hindered the country’s democratization. But neither Turkey’s democratization nor the Kurdish quest for political rights has occupied an important place in U.S. policy. Turkey’s democratic shortcomings have been ignored by U.S. administrations for the sake of greater geostrategic interests. In a similar fashion, Kurdish rights have been overlooked in the game of power politics. Today’s regional context, however, ties Turkish democracy and the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish question to the U.S. security interests in the region. The United States must therefore pay closer attention to both. There is no doubt that most freedoms under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been dramatically curtailed. Opposition leaders continue to face arrest and prosecution. Authorities use anti-terror laws broadly against those who are critical of the government. Thousands of people—including minors, journalists, foreign journalists, human rights activists, and social media users—who exercise their right to freedom of expression face criminal prosecutions on trumped-up terrorism charges. The mainstream media are largely controlled by the government and routinely carry identical headlines. Most concerning of all, however, is the ongoing conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A string of clashes in the mainly Kurdish region between the PKK and Turkish security forces has killed thousands since the ceasefire broke down in 2015—including 464 civilians, 1,166 Turkish security personnel, and 2,544 PKK militants—and displaced 350,000 people[1]. Both the PKK and the Turkish state played a role in the destruction of major segments of Kurdish cities. The political ramifications of the fighting have been equally disastrous. The Turkish state response has largely criminalized Kurdish political expression. Hundreds of Kurdish news outlets have been shut down. Thousands of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) activists and dozens of Kurdish co-mayors and HDP parliamentarians remain in prison. The Turkish government has removed elected mayors in Kurdish regions and installed government-appointed trustees in all but a few of the 102 HDP-controlled municipalities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Democracy, Strategic Interests
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Asia
  • Author: Jude Blanchette, Qiu Mingda
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: After two days of intense talks with United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and his delegation crossed the street to the White House on the afternoon of October 11th to meet with President Donald Trump for the first time since the negotiations collapsed in May. The visit marked the 13th round of the bilateral trade talks and concluded with an announcement from the Oval Office of a “phase one” agreement. According to President Trump, this included China’s commitment to purchase $40-50 billion of U.S. agricultural products and a pledge to strengthen its intellectual property protection regime domestically. Moreover, Beijing would make still-unknown adjustments to how it manages its currency, the renminbi. For its part, the United States delayed a scheduled tariff hike on $250 billion of Chinese goods from 25% to 30% on October 15th. In addition, the Treasury Department would potentially review its previous decision to designate China a currency manipulator. All in all, it seemed to mark a turning point in the bilateral tensions. According to a tweet from President Trump two days later, this was the beginning of a larger deal that would be spread over three phases and that would benefit American farmers and potentially put an end to the trade hostilities between the two nations. In short, he tweeted, “the relationship with China is very good.” Though he acknowledged that the actual terms of any deal are still being worked out, the President repeatedly expressed optimism that he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping could ink a deal by mid-November during their meeting at the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Santiago, Chile. Unfortunately, such confidence is misplaced. The decided lack of details on the scope, timing and mechanics of the phase one announcement is an indication of just how preliminary the agreement is. Second, Beijing remains unwilling to make more substantive concessions on core structural issues, ranging from its preferential treatment of its state-owned enterprises to a credible commitment that it will protect the intellectual property of foreign companies. Finally, even if phase one comes to fruition, this won’t do much to reduce the uncertainty that likely will define the U.S.-China relationship for years to come, as both countries begin to openly acknowledge that they are entering a period of prolonged strategic rivalry.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, International Trade and Finance, Trade Policy
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Terry Branstad
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: When I welcome visitors to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Beijing, they often comment on a black-and-white photo of my first meeting with Xi Jinping. In the picture, the members of the 1985 Chinese agriculture delegation to Iowa stand calmly behind my desk, peering into the camera, as Xi Jinping stands unobtru­sively to my right. Some visitors ask, “Ambassador Branstad, did you know this young man would become President of China?” Indeed, I did not—I treated him with the same Iowa hospitality with which I welcome all my guests. His importance as a rising leader of China, though, became increasingly apparent over the course of six gubernatorial visits I made to China during the subsequent 30 years. The same is true of U.S.-China relations. Today, I have the honor of representing the United States in the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, one that we absolutely have to get right. During President Donald Trump’s November 2017 state visit to China, the President identified three priority tasks for the two nations’ relationship. First, work with the Chinese govern­ment to address the North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Second, seek a more balanced and reciprocal trade and investment relationship. And third, partner with Chinese authorities to reduce the flow of illicit opioids from China to the United States. Each task presents its own unique challenges and opportunities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Richard N. Holwill
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un (KJU), the Supreme Leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), can be a success even if it fails to achieve President Trump’s announced goal: an end to the DPRK nuclear weapons program. This meeting starts by giving KJU one of his long-sought goals. It will, in effect, be more than a meeting. It will be a “summit” and will confer on KJU the status of the leader of a legitimate government. President Trump would be wise to redefine success. He should not fall into the trap of saying that success will be defined by a “denuclearization agreement.” While that should be a long-term goal, it will not happen at this meeting. Still, the summit will be successful if it produces a process that can lead to a substantial reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula. This is not to say that an agreement on denuclearization is off the table. Rather, it is to rec­ognize that these talks could present a framework for negotiation that would be very valuable, even if they will fall short of a nuclear disarmament accord. To understand the difficulty of reaching a nuclear arms agreement, we need only look at the way the two leaders speak about denuclearization. Each appears to define it differently. President Trump applies the term to nuclear weapons in the DPRK. KJU speaks of it as applying to the entire Korean Peninsula. He will argue that, if he must allow a mean­ingful verification regime, so must U.S. forces in South Korea.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Ross Wilson
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Turkey has recently come to look like a beat-up boy. At home, it seems to have regained the authoritarianism of its past. Abroad, its behavior looks rough edged and militaristic. It gets blamed for not doing enough, or the right things, on Syria, the problem of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Europe’s migrant crisis. Some have concluded that this country, its regional policies in tatters and under the assault of an autocratic president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, can no longer be regarded as an ally. Much of the criticism is on target, some less so. Real issues exist in Turkey and in the relationships that the United States and European countries have with it. At a tough time for the region, concerted and effective strategies to protect the interests the United States and its allies have in and with this key European and Middle Eastern country are more important than ever.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Authoritarianism, European Union
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe, Turkey, Middle East, Asia