The eye catching headlines are familiar.  “Water Wars” are imminent or already underway in the latest drought or dam-building hotspot. Such “wars” often extend to farmers battling over irrigation diversions, but at times countries are the players.  Senior leaders are often quoted suggesting transboundary water theft constitutes a casus belli. ...

North Korea informed the U.S. on July 10th that it would cut off the New York channel of communication to the U.S. Government.  If American policymakers lament their own lack of leverage against North Korea, this move demonstrates the limited options Pyongyang has with which to respond to the July ...

A week ago, Indian armed forces killed Burhan Wani, the infamous 21 year-old commander of the Kashmiri militant separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Burhan had joined Hizbul Mujahideen at the age of 15, helped resurrect the once dominant insurgent group from life-support, and gained influence through passionate anti-India speeches and ...

In April this year, eight former U.S. Defense Secretaries jointly signed a letter to Congress. That letter did not ask for a change in military spending or comment on a new weapons system, but instead, it urged Congress to consider a matter of trade. In particular, the signatories focused on ...

As Brexit-induced uncertainty continues to roil international markets, the U.S. Congress may soon deliver a second punch to the gut of the global economy. Congressional failure to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement this year would foreclose the only realistic option for meaningful global trade liberalization for years to come and ...

For America’s foreign policy establishment, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a grand “twofer.” It will improve U.S. national security by countering China’s growing economic, political, and military power in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, it will stimulate U.S. exports and thereby reduce the chronic U.S. trade deficit ...

Now that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has ruled in favor of the Philippines in its case against China over sovereignty in the South China Sea, Manila should immediately set the tone of what is to follow. In the days ahead, the country should continue to advocate that all states, ...

With a ruling imminent in the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines against China over claims in the South China Sea, officials around Asia are bracing for the results, while analysts are busy handicapping the potential fallout. As I wait for the verdict, I prefer to abide by Yogi Berra’s ...

As the deadline for the landmark international court ruling on the South China Sea territorial dispute draws near, a recent editorial in a Chinese state run newspaper proclaimed that China should prepare for “military confrontation” in the South China Sea. While the foreign ministry was quick to reiterate China’s commitment ...

Predictions are a tricky business, especially with something as complicated as the outcome of Manila’s arbitration case against Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea. A tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, will rule on the case on July 12. Given the complexity of the ...

U.S. President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that he will leave 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of his presidency, considerably slowing the drawdown he announced last fall.  There are currently 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, and the President had planned to reduce the number to 5,500 by late ...

Amid the continuing leitmotif of missile tests, nuclear weapons development, and unwavering anti-South Korean and anti-U.S. rhetoric, North Korea’s cyber activities have once again risen in the order of importance among security and political circles. The latest North Korean cyber-episode was the revelation made by South Korean authorities that North ...

North Korea’s army of 6,000 hackers have been implicated in a multimillion dollar bank heist, the theft of intelligence from finance and defense firms, and the infiltration of infrastructure networks—all in the first six months of 2016. This only adds to the numerous attacks against South Korea – one of ...

If confirmed, North Korea has perpetrated the first state-sponsored digital bank robbery in history.  It shows that North Korea is getting desperate and therefore that sanctions are working but at the same time that the international community must take additional steps to safeguard commerce and trade.  According to the digital ...

On May 9, the Filipino nation chose “Tunay na Pagbabago” or radical change. Rodrigo Duterte, the pugnacious Mayor of Davao City, was elected as the incoming president, who will steer the course of the country’s defense and security, national governance, and foreign relations for the next six years. His impending ...

On May 26th, leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) met on the Ise-Shima peninsula of Japan to hold their annual economic summit. For Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the event could not have come at a better time. Held in the wake of an historic visit by U.S. President ...

Shinzo Abe is one of the most successful prime ministers in Japanese history if we measure success by longevity alone. His first term in office lasted just one year (2006-2007), but he returned triumphantly in December 2012 and has been the brand face for Japan’s revitalization ever since. The trouble ...

Over the past two decades, Japan's economic growth has been sluggish. Per capita income fell from a level matching the top half of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in the early 1990s to 14 percent below in 2013 (Figure 1). The collapse of the massive asset price ...

Trade and South China Sea dominated the agenda at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Beijing last week. However, with much focus on the Asia pivot and U.S. military buildup in the Western Pacific, Washington may be missing an opportunity to reduce bilateral tensions and cooperate with China ...

As the 8th round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SED) drew to a close on Tuesday, Chinese fighter jets buzzed a U.S. reconnaissance plane in the South China Sea—highlighting that underneath the promises of greater bilateral cooperation, tensions continue to simmer between the world’s two strongest powers. While ...

Cybersecurity is one important area where both China and the U.S. agree cooperation is necessary, but on very different terms. The Cipher Brief spoke to Adam Segal, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to learn more about these differences and what it will take to create and ...

A People’s Liberation Army Type 59 tank weighs 36 tons, but on June 4th, 1989 a man stopped one in its tracks. This Saturday marks the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in China, and while the annual vigil in Hong Kong is likely to draw thousands, turn ...

Last Friday, Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit Hiroshima after the city was destroyed by an American atomic bomb on August 6 1945. Although the President did not apologize for the act, he did use the occasion to advocate nuclear nonproliferation, mourning the day when “a ...

Seventy-one years ago, on August 6, 1945, a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing an estimated 140 thousand people. The bombing came at the end of a long and bloody war in which 20 million people or more died in Asia. Soon thereafter, for the first ...

Against the backdrop of an increasingly assertive China and a highly-provocative North Korea, President Barack Obama attended the G-7 summit in Ise-Shima, followed by a personal trip to Hiroshima, where he was accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In what was sure to be his last official trip to ...

Tsai Ing-wen’s inaugural address and Beijing’s reaction to it have done nothing more than confirm the fact that has been evident for the past few months: cross-strait relations are entering a period of stalemate. The mainland’s position was reaffirmed in the post-inaugural statement of the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office. ...

Last week, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. announced they will hold their first-ever joint anti-missile exercise next month, signaling an effort by Korea and Japan to overcome decades of historical tension and work together. The joint exercise, set for June 28, will focus on information exchange and logistics as ...

A May 15 test of India’s anti-ballistic missile system fanned the flames of a nuclear standoff 45 years in the making. Pakistan voiced “serious concern” over the test that it believes could nullify its nuclear deterrent against its long standing enemy. Of the nine nuclear armed states, Pakistan and India ...

The adversarial history between India and Pakistan is compounded by each nation’s firm stance on the possession of nuclear weapons. As each country moves to expand its capabilities, it has become more important than ever before to bring both countries into agreement with international arms control norms. The Cipher Brief ...

South Asia is the region of the world at highest risk of suffering a nuclear crisis due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals. While the Middle East will remain a focal point for international nonproliferation efforts for the foreseeable future, the United ...

The Presidency of Tsai Ing-wen, which began on 20 May, promises even more “interesting” developments in relations across the Taiwan Strait. China’s communist government has always had a deep allergy to the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which Tsai represents, because it regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must ...

The United States has fully lifted its embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam in what analysts say should be seen as a more political than substantive move. The total removal of the decades-old ban came during President Barack Obama’s first trip to Hanoi and was widely hailed as ...

This morning, the White House confirmed the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike on Saturday in southwest Pakistan. Mansour had assumed the position of Taliban leader in July 2015, replacing the group’s founder, Mullah Omar. The fallout of his death ...

Amidst the fanfare of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’ promotion to Party Chairman was one of the few substantive announcements to emerge. The Cipher Brief spoke to former CIA linguist and leadership analyst Soo Kim to learn more about the significance of his new ...

Two weeks have passed since the close of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress and, for the moment, the country’s streak of provocations that kicked off 2016 have abated. On Friday, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released an official statement from the National Defense Commission calling for military talks ...

Following the conclusion of North Korea’s 7th Workers’ Party Congress, many questions remain regarding the future direction of economic and foreign policies. The Cipher Brief spoke to Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World to learn more. The Cipher Brief: So far, reports of the ...

In advance of today’s inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s first female president, The Cipher Brief interviewed Randy Schriver, founding partner at Armitage International LLC and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, to ask about the cross-strait implications of this change in leadership. As ...

All eyes are on Tsai Ing-wen today as she takes office as Taiwan’s first female president, but Beijing in particular will be watching closely to see how Tsai transforms her party’s independence-leaning rhetoric and her contrasting promise to preserve the status quo into policy towards China.  Tsai’s actions must balance ...

As Tsai Ing-wen officially takes office as Taiwan’s first female president, she will face the difficult task of balancing the competing interests of her political supporters in Taiwan and an increasingly antagonistic China. The Cipher Brief sat down with Bonnie S. Glaser, Director of the China Power Project and Senior ...

The United States this week eased some sanctions against Myanmar to support political reforms in the country and try to open up opportunities for American businesses and investors, although most of the broader restrictions remain in place. The U.S. removed seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks from its blacklist, ...

North Korea held its Seventh Workers’ Party Congress last week. The primary focus of the Congress was to consolidate Kim Jong-un’s domestic power base and clarify the policy direction for the country’s future development.  Based on the statements released from the Congress, North Korea continues to seek nuclear power status, ...

The 7th North Korean Workers’ Party (WPK) Congress --the first event of its kind in 36 years-- began and ended with the flair for the dramatic we have come to expect from the reclusive communist state. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un dialed up the party rhetoric and called on all workers ...

North Korea’s first Party Congress in three decades, a grand spectacle at which Kim Jong-un’s greatest achievement seems to have been giving himself the newly-created title of the chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), cannot have given the long-suffering citizens of North Korea much hope for a ...

Foul-mouthed strongman, Rodrigo Duterte, declared victory in the Philippines’s presidential election this week after one of his rivals, Grace Poe, conceded to his insurmountable lead.  In the Philippines, his tough-on-crime platform has earned him the nickname “Duterte Harry” – a reference to Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry.” But Americans know him ...

Fiery Cross Reef, a contested geographic feature in the South China Sea, is the latest site for the growing maritime tensions between China and the United States. Early on Tuesday, the U.S.S. William P. Lawrence, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, transited within 12 miles of the reef for what ...

China sent a major signal to the U.S. last week, when it turned away the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier and accompanying vessels from making a routine port call in Hong Kong – the first time in nearly a decade that China has refused entry to an American military ...

China’s President Xi Jinping has committed himself to the country’s development as a maritime power and to protecting its sovereignty. One can reasonably assume that China’s long-term objective in the South China Sea is the establishment of strategic pre-eminence. That ambition probably extends within the entirety of the so-called ‘”first ...

China’s neighbors are gravely concerned about what they see as a clear and determined strategy being implemented by Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and now Commander in Chief of the People’s Liberation Army.  They believe Xi is committed to leveraging China’s indisputable economic power to force ...

North Korea’s nuclear saber rattling is raising concerns about further proliferation in the region.  There is a risk that should they feel sufficiently threatened by developments in neighboring states, the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea), Japan, and/or Taiwan (the Republic of China) could take steps in the direction ...

The Cipher Brief: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have the technical ability to pursue nuclear weapons, but all three have refrained. What conditions would have to exist for these countries to consider nuclear programs? Tom Cynkin: Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have each considered the circumstances under which they would ...