Dennis Rodman’s latest attempt at “Basketball Diplomacy” has officials in the U.S. government and the National Basketball Association (NBA) calling for the cancellation of an exhibition match scheduled to coincide with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s 31st birthday.

Will Japan assert its own vision for East Asia, or will it continue simply to react to China? That will be the biggest question in 2014 for Tokyo as tensions with Beijing continue to mount. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to beef up military spending and enhance its longer-term security is a game-changer for the region, and while there is a chance the move will strengthen bilateral relations between Japan and the United States, it is unclear how this will impact Tokyo’s relations with Beijing.

With the rise of al-Qaeda, increasingly repressive regimes, and weak, even collapsing states, the Arab Spring is looking more and more like a nightmare for U.S. security interests. Perhaps, then, it makes some sense that the Obama administration would increase security assistance to the Middle East, from 69 percent of the total budget request for 2014 to 80 percent. However, this also entails a significant reduction in democracy assistance to the region, which will drop from $459.2 million to $298.3 million. Congress might further deepen these cuts.

January 6, 2014

Are China’s leaders destined to ask each other, “Who lost Hong Kong?” It’s a question worth pondering after a holiday week that offered a stark reminder of just how restless -- if not unhappy -- a sizable percentage of the former colony’s residents are under Chinese rule, 17 years after the end of British sovereignty. Of course, nobody seriously entertains the idea of a political schism between Hong Kong and China.

Diplomats from China and Japan are invoking the evil Lord Voldemort from the bestselling "Harry Potter" series in their feud over the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo. China says the shrine, which Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited recently, glorifies Japan's militaristic past.

The U.S. may continue to support the Iraqi fight against Al Qaeda insurgents, but not with manpower, John Kerry said Sunday. After Islamist militants linked to Al Qaeda took control of the two major cities in the Sunni Muslim-dominated province of Anbar, the Secretary of State told reporters in Jerusalem that while the Shi'ite-led government would have America's support, there was no question of American troops returning to Iraq.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a free trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico that has created a $19 trillion market with 460 million consumers. It isn’t merely the size of NAFTA that makes it remarkable but also the fact that it was the first U.S. trade agreement that included both developed and developing countries.

January 1, 2014

The European Union has probably never experienced anything like it before: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government pretended to negotiate an association agreement, only to back out at the last minute. EU leaders felt duped; in Moscow, however, the mood was celebratory.