The highlight in US-Korea relations was President Barack Obama’s visit to Seoul in April. The visit came at an uncertain time in Korea: South Korea was in the troughs of a national tragedy with a ferry sinking, North Korea threatened a “new form of nuclear test,” and regional tensions remained high amidst territorial and historical disputes.
The US raised its profile in Southeast Asia with a series of high-profile visits and events in early 2014. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Indonesia, delivering a speech on climate change, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosted a US-ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Hawaii.
The complexity of the US-China relationship was in sharp relief in the first four months of 2014. Differences over maritime disputes along China’s eastern periphery were at the top of the agenda. Russia’s seizure of Crimea introduced a new point of contention. Despite much diplomatic activity, little progress was made on seeking denuclearization of North Korea.
The Abe government focused on the economy, energy strategy, and defense policy reform but the timeline for implementing these pillars of Abe’s agenda was uncertain. A flurry of bilateral diplomacy paved the way for several initiatives including a trilateral summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye and President Obama in The Hague.
In early January South Korean President Park Geun-hye said relations with China had reached an historic high point, but North Korean belligerence posed a challenge to implementation of the China-ROK Joint Statement. Despite increased tensions on the peninsula, China and the ROK have continued to build on their cooperative strategic partnership.
China on May 1 moved its giant indigenous oil rig, Hai Yang Shi You (HYSY) 981, southward in the South China Sea (SCS). The new location, only 120 miles from Vietnam’s shore, is well within Vietnam’s continental shelf and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). To support and protect this oil drilling structure, China dispatched over 80 vessels, a number that continues to rise.
Rare Earth Elements (REE) are increasingly a critical strategic resource in Asia. These 17 elements are used in the production of most high-tech products from advanced military technology to mobile phones. China currently holds claim to over 90 percent of the world’s production.
East Asia was stunned last week when the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) moved its most advanced drilling rig to a gas and oil block 120nm from the coast of Vietnam. Reportedly protected by dozens of Chinese coast guard ships and – according to some reports – navy ships, the move caught Hanoi off guard.
With well over 2 million tags on Twitter and Facebook, the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign has catapulted the kidnapping of 276 girls from their school in Chibok, Nigeria, by Boko Haram onto the world stage.
Amidst recent debate about Indonesia’s policy in the South China Sea, late last month Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Gen. Moeldoko published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal addressing this issue head on.