Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

In defence of ADMM+

A sailor aboard USS Stethem secures a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft during multinational helicopter deck landing practice during the at-sea phase of the ADMM+ Maritime Security and Counterterrorism Field Training Exercise 2016. (Photo: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Fulton).

Author: See Seng Tan, RSIS

Regional security cooperation in the Asia Pacific has historically been a frustrated enterprise. The surprise exception has been cooperation in regional defence. The formation in 2010 of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) marked a departure from the way that ASEAN and its dialogue partners previously approached security cooperation.

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Will anybody win in Malaysia’s election?

A boy holds a Barisan Nasional flag during nomination day in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia on 28 April 2018. (Photos: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Editorial Board, East Asia Forum

There’s not much doubt about the outcome of Malaysia’s 14th general election (known in Malaysia as GE14). Most analysts agree that the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government, led by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, is likely be returned on 9 May, continuing its run as the world’s longest-serving elected government.

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Malaysia’s electoral fantasy belies worrying reality

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak waits to submit his nomination papers in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, 28 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

Author: Clive Kessler, UNSW

Malaysia’s fourteenth general elections (GE14) have finally been called. For almost a decade Prime Minister Najib Razak has ruled on recurrent hints of a snap, surprise election; this is the second time he has let the Parliament run close to its full five-year course. On 7 April, Najib dissolved the Parliament, leaving it to the Election Commission to proclaim 28 April as the nomination deadline for candidates and 9 May as the day of the vote.  Read more…

The two Korea’s tryst with destiny

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, South Korea, 27 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Korea Summit Press Pool).

Author: Sourabh Gupta, ICAS

Ever since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s firm but conciliatory New Year’s Day address, including his expression of pride in his Southern counterparts’ hosting of the Winter Olympics, developments on the Korean Peninsula have raced ahead at a breakneck pace. Read more…

This Malaysian election is different

Malaysian Prime Minister and Barisan Nasional President Najib Razak gestures as he speaks during the launch of the Barisan Nasional’s manifesto for the upcoming general elections, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 7 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Bridget Welsh, John Cabot University

Malaysia’s government has dissolved the Parliament to make way for the 14th General Election (GE14). The country will go to the polls on 9 May. From afar, this election seems like a repeat of the last election in 2013, when a polarised electorate was divided over the governance of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Prime Minister Najib Razak. Read more…

Japan’s intelligence disclosure threatens security exposure

Japan's Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso speaks to the media at the Finance Ministry in Tokyo, Japan, 12 March 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Toru Hanai).

Author: Masato Kamikubo, Ritsumeikan University

In 2016, Japan’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) sold a piece of government-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen at an exceptionally low price. In March 2018, the Asahi Shimbun scooped the news that 14 documents sanctioning the sale of the land were illicitly rewritten within the MOF. Read more…

Time for a sea change in India–China relations?

Members of the Indian Navy on board the vessel INS Kadmatt and INS Satpura arrive for a four-day goodwill visit which aims to strengthen ties between India and the Philippines, at the Pier 15 in Port Are, metro Manila, Philippines, 3 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Romeo Ranoco).

Author: Ulises Granados, ITAM

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has advanced its ‘Act East’ policy, an upgraded version of the 1990s ‘Look East’ policy. This new approach encompasses a more robust political and security engagement with Asia. Read more…

Will regional integration bring political liberalisation in Central Asia?

Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Tajikistan's President Emomali Rahmon, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, Chairman of the Executive Committee - CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev, Moldova's President Igor Dodon, Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Sapar Isakov, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko, Armenia's President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev attend a session of the Council of Heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Sochi, Russia, 11 October 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov).

Author: Edward Lemon, Columbia University

One of the world’s least integrated regions — post-Soviet Central Asia — is becoming more interconnected. On 15 March, the heads of four of the five Central Asian states met in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. Little in the way of tangible results came from the meeting. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow opted to visit Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates instead of attending the summit. But the meeting is a sign that regional cooperation is on the rise in Central Asia. Read more…

Can Russia and South Korea coerce cooperation on the Peninsula?

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in attend a session of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, 7 September 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin).

Author: Anthony V Rinna, Sino-NK

Strengthening trilateral economic ties between North Korea, Russia and South Korea has been one of the earliest foreign policy goals of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government. Four months after Seoul’s initial outreach to Moscow to discuss strengthening commercial relations with Russia and North Korea, Moon unveiled his ‘New Northern policy’. The policy includes increased mutual economic exchange between Russia and South Korea, with the hopes of slowly integrating the North into the fold as well. Read more…

Trump–Abe meeting delivers mixed results

US President Donald Trump hosts a bilateral meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida US, 17 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).

Author: Tsuneo Akaha, MIIS

In a surprising diplomatic offensive in early March, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un conveyed his willingness to meet US President Donald Trump via a high-level South Korean delegation to the White House. Trump, surprisingly but not uncharacteristically, told the South Korean visitors that he was willing to meet with Kim. The question for observers has now become whether or not such a summit is desirable. Read more…

Playing palm oil politics ahead of Malaysia’s elections

Supporters of Malaysia's ruling party National Front waves the party flags during the launch of its manifesto for the upcoming general elections in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 7 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Lai Seng Sin).

Author: Yu Leng Khor, Singapore

On 16 January 2018, a rare protest by Malay and indigenous oil palm farmers in downtown Kuala Lumpur caught news headlines. Two thousand Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) settlers and smallholders (armed with 103,078 signatures collected from FELDA settlers) protested the European Union Parliament’s efforts to fast track the exclusion of palm-based biofuels in its Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II) policy revision. Read more…

Abe and Trump’s friendship without benefits

US President Donald Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands as they hold a joint press conference at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US, 18 April 2018 (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).

Author: Yuki Tatsumi, Stimson Centre

On 17–18 April 2018, US President Donald Trump met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The pair’s personal rapport was emphasised throughout Abe’s visit to the United States. Trump and Abe addressed each other with their first names and emphasised the closeness of their personal relationship whenever they appeared before the media. But the optics aside, it was the first time Abe met with Trump to discuss potentially contentious policy issues. Read more…

China’s intimidation in the South China Sea poses an economic threat to Vietnam

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 in the South China Sea, 13 June 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Nguyen Minh).

Author: Bill Hayton, Chatham House

Vietnam has lost another sea battle: a US$200 million oil and gas development project — known as the ‘Red Emperor’ development — off Vietnam’s southeast coast has been suspended, possibly cancelled. Hanoi’s hopes of a hydrocarbon boost to its stretched government budget have been dashed. And the culprit is Vietnam’s ‘good neighbour, good comrade and good friend’ to the north. Read more…

Aspiration over actualisation in Singapore’s approach to ASEAN

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership meeting held on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Danang, Vietnam on 10 November 2017. (Photo: Reuters/Na-Son Nguyen).

Author: Ja Ian Chong, NUS

Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 50th Anniversary Lecture for the Yusof Ishak Institute of Southeast Asian Studies on 13 March 2018 was notable for its open acknowledgement of some of the difficulties facing ASEAN, which Singapore is chairing this year. Importantly, Lee recognised that ASEAN is, above all, a political grouping, and that some of its most pressing challenges are fundamentally political. Read more…

Contrasting constitutional reform in the Philippines and South Korea

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaking at the change of command ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Philippines on 18 April 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Dondi Tawatao).

Author: Michael Henry Yusingco, Melbourne

From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, both the Philippines and South Korea were ruled by brutal authoritarian regimes. Filipinos ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos through people power in February 1986, which coincidentally was the watershed event that inspired South Koreans to remove their own despotic leader, Chun Doo-hwan. Read more…