President Barack Obama heads to South Africa on Friday as part of a three-country tour of Africa (Reuters) that has been overshadowed by former South African leader Nelson Mandela's ailing condition. Mandela, who is ninety-four years old, remains critical but stable in a Pretoria hospital, where he has been treated for repeated lung infections. The trip comes after a visit to Senegal, where Obama met with President Macky Sall to discuss trade and investment opportunities (NYT) and urged African governments to advance gay rights (BBC). The White House hopes the Africa trip will compensate for what some view as neglect by the United States' first black president.
"A meeting between Mr. Mandela and Mr. Obama would have been rich with symbolism and symmetry for people on both continents: two men from different generations who made history as the first black presidents of nations with deep racial divides," writes Michael Shear for The New York Times.
"Obama has continued the Bush and Clinton programs during tough economic times. But his signature Africa policy thus far has been food security, through less prominent programs designed to address hunger with policy reforms and private investment in agriculture," writes Nedra Pickler for the Associated Press.
"Obama's trip comes a little over two months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Africa. China may not be a rival that the US wants to name-check, but there is no doubt that the specter of Beijing's flourishing influence in the region is a vital subtext to the presidential visit," writes Narayani Basu for the Asia Times.
China and South Korea Support Six-Party Talks
China and South Korea agreed to work together toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through Six-Party Talks (SCMP) after Chinese president Xi Jinping met with South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye. The talks have been stalled for more than four years.
CHINA: China called a recent clash in Xinjiang province a "terrorist attack," raising the death toll from twenty-seven to thirty-five (NYT). The region is rife with tensions between Muslim Uighurs and China's Han majority.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
U.S. Suspends Trade Privileges with Bangladesh
The United States suspended trade privileges with Bangladesh over concerns about hazardous working conditions and lack of labor rights. The foreign ministry in Dhaka criticized the move, saying it was harsh and the government had taken clear measures to improve safety (BBC).
CFR's Edward Alden discusses Bangladesh and the future of corporate social responsibility in this blog post.
PAKISTAN: A Pakistani official said that Islamabad remains engaged with the Taliban, urging them to restart the Doha peace talks after the opening of the group's office there threatened to derail peace efforts (Dawn) long sought by the United States.
Amin Tarzi talks about the diplomatic push for Afghan peace in this CFR interview.
Egypt Plans Protests
Supporters of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi are prepared to stage a demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, two days before planned rallies against him (al-Jazeera). In a speech on Thursday, Morsi acknowledged mistakes in his first year in office.
Liberian lawmakers opened an investigation Thursday into a missing $13 million donated by the European Union to battle maternal mortality. A legislative committee is pressing Finance Minister Amara Konneh to provide details on why the funds were diverted (FPA).
Merkel Cancels Zagreb Visit
German chancellor Angela Merkel cancelled a visit to Zagreb to mark Croatia's entry into the European Union, a move widely seen in the country as a high-level snub (FT). Officials from more than thirty European countries are expected in Zagreb on Sunday to celebrate the first enlargement of the EU in six years.
VATICAN: A senior Vatican cleric was arrested Friday on allegations that he aided wealthy friends in laundering money, bringing millions of euros into Italy illegally (Reuters).
U.S. Senate Approves Immigration Bill
The Senate approved legislation that would give millions of illegal immigrants the chance eventually gain U.S. citizenship (WashPost). The bill, which would double the U.S. Border Patrol presence along the southern border, will be sent to the Republican-controlled House, where it faces intense opposition.
ECUADOR: Ecuador waived preferential trade rights with Washington in further defiance of U.S. pressure over fugitive Edward Snowden's asylum request in the country (Guardian).