Top of the Agenda: Kerry Reiterates Support in South Korea
Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed North Korea's continuing threats (Reuters) of war as "unacceptable by any standard" after meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul, and said that Washington would never accept the possibility of Pyongyang becoming a nuclear power. Despite weeks of war cries from the North, there were no indications of military movement (AP) in North Korea as the country celebrateda string of national anniversaries this week. Meanwhile, a new assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded for the first time with "moderate confidence" that Pyongyang is capable (NYT) of making a nuclear weapon small enough to be delivered by a ballistic missile.
"North Korea watchers say the current escalation, particularly the recent threat of a ballistic-missile test, has as much or even more to do with internal affairs as its external concerns. Young and relatively untested, Kim is likely looking for ways to consolidate his own power and safeguard his family's legacy. Next week, he may try to do both," write Emily Rauhala for TIME.
"Neither America nor China wants a war. Both seem to regard Kim Jong-un as an unhinged teenager who needs to be back on his meds. But in the long run, America worries more about a nuclear-armed North Korea. China worries about the country's collapse," writes The Economist.
"Kerry will likely urge China to rein in Pyongyang, enforce sanctions against Iran, and cooperate on curtailing cyberterrorism. But for Washington to maximize the gains from Kerry's visit, it has to accord China's interests more respect," writes Shen Dingli for Foreign Policy.
China to Meet with ASEAN
ASEAN ministers will hold a special meeting (AFP) with China in a bid to make progress on a code of conduct for all nations involved in the South China Sea dispute. The agreement marks a significant move by Beijing, which has preferred to resolve conflicts in the region bilaterally.
This CFR Backgrounder highlights the disputes over territories in the South China Sea that have escalated tensions and threatened regional stability.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Taliban Kills Electoral Candidate in Pakistan
Taliban gunmen killed Fakhrul Islam (PakTribune), a candidate for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Pakistan's upcoming elections. Islam's death marks the second killing during Pakistan's election campaign, which saw the murder of Adnan Qualti, a Pakistan People's Party candidate, in April.
BANGLADESH: At least two people died in the latest clashes (al-Jazeera) between opposition protestorsand supporters of the ruling party in southeastern Bangladesh.
Syria Appeals to UN on al-Nusra Links
Syria urged the UN Security Council to classify the al-Nusra Front as an al-Qaeda-linked group after the jihadist group pledged allegiance (DeutscheWelle) to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda, on Wednesday. Meanwhile Syrian forces reportedly killed at least forty-five people in the country's south.
TURKEY: Turkish police exposed a plot (Haaretz) by an Al-Qaeda-linked cell to bomb American and Jewish targets in the country, including the U.S. embassy in Ankara and a synagogue in Istanbul.
Sudan's Bashir Visits South Sudan
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived in South Sudan on Friday for the first time (Reuters) since the country split in 2011 after decades of civil war, raising hopes that the two sides may be progressing toward peaceful coexistence. Both agreed in March to resume cross-border oil trade.
MOZAMBIQUE: Mozambique's government announced that it will meet representatives from the ex-rebel group Renamo (AllAfrica) on Friday following attacks between the former civil war foes last week that killed seven.
Draghi Warns Cyprus Against Firing Central Bank Governor
Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, urged Cyprus not to fire (FT) its central bankgovernorPanicos Demetriades over his handling of the country's financial crisis, emphasizing the independence of EU central banks. Demetriades is blamed for failing to avert the collapse of Laiki Bank, the island's second-largest lender.
CFR's Robert Rubin highlights three things to know about the Cyprus crisis in this video.
UK: UK Prime Minister David Cameron will discuss European reform with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on an unusual visit (Guardian) to Germany, where he and his family will stay at the chancellor's private residence.
Brazil to Visit Washington
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will make the first formal state visit (MercoPress) by a Brazilian leader to the United States in nearly two decades later this year, marking a potential upgrade in diplomatic ties and boost in trade relations. Bilateral trade totaled roughly $59 billion last year.
VENEZUELA: Venezuela's hasty presidential campaign ended Thursday night as interim president Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Henrique Capriles held their last rallies in a bid to win Sunday's vote (MiamiHerald).