East Asia Is Invisible

Americans don’t care about East Asia. That’s a strong statement. So, let me make a few qualifications. First, Americans love Chinese, Japanese, and (increasingly) Korean food. They like to visit East Asia. They will, on occasion, watch a Hong Kong action film or the latest from Park Chan-Wook. But when it comes to the pressing issues of the day, most Americans simply don’t follow what’s...
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Japan and South Korea: A New Beginning?

Japan and South Korea have very close alliances with the United States. They also have had diplomatic relations with each other for 50 years, not to mention considerable trade back and forth during that time. At a popular level, many Japanese are wild about Korean bulgogi and soap operas while many Koreans love Japanese sushi and anime. That doesn’t mean, however, that the two countries are...
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Can a Green Asia Lead the World?

China is worried about climate change. The largest emitter of carbon in the world, producing nearly twice as much as the number two United States, is looking at a future of flooded coastal cities, creeping deserts in the north, and water shortages throughout the country. On the eve of the huge climate change meeting in Paris last week that brought together leaders of 150 countries, along with...
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Burma: Democracy with an Asterisk

Voters went to the polls last Sunday in Burma to elect a new parliament. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) — Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s party — scored an impressive victory. According to the early returns, the NLD is on track to win over 80 percent of the vote and capture a sizeable majority in parliament. And yet the election carries with it an asterisk...
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The Lacquer Box

My wife and I lived in Tokyo for three years. At the end of our time there, we threw a going away party for ourselves. “No gifts,” we told all our friends. Instead, they could bring something for the potluck meal. Oh, and they had to take something away with them. We were giving away everything we didn’t want to bring back to the States: some pots and pans, a table, a bag of...
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Asia: On the Rocks

Island disputes are a big thing in Asia. Japan and China both claim the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Japan and South Korea tussle over Dokdo/Takeshima. Japan and Russia still haven’t definitively sorted out who owns the Kuriles/Northern Territories. You’d think that these existing island disputes are a sufficient headache. But no: Countries in the region are making the maritime equivalent of...
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