Top of the Agenda: China Charges Bo Xilai With Graft
Kim Kyung Hoon/Courtesy Reuters
China has charged disgraced politician Bo Xilai, the former Communist Party chief of Chongqing, with bribery, corruption, and abuse of power, paving the way for a trial (SCMP) that caps one of the country's most significant political scandals. Bo, once a rising star within the CCP, was expelled from the party last year after a scandal surrounding the murder of a British businessman for which his wife was jailed. Observers say the incident exposed deep rifts (Reuters) within the party between Bo's leftist backers nostalgic for the revolutionary era of Mao Zedong, and reformers who advocate faster political and economic reforms.
"Party leaders, whatever their views on constitutionalism and judicial independence, might easily disagree about the detailed issues that prosecution involves. Should Bo only be charged with bribery, abuse of power and embezzlement, as the 'internal report' indicates? What kind of 'public' trial should he have?" writes Jerome Cohen for the South China Morning Post.
"The publishing of the indictment means that the trial is now imminent and the country's new leaders have judged the timing to be right for such a politically sensitive trial, perhaps wanting to get it out of the way ahead of the big economic planning meeting in the autumn," writes John Sudworth for the BBC.
"The party apparently considered a confrontational public trial too risky, and powerful factions within it had been uneasy about punishing Bo too severely. Although trial outcomes in China are routinely determined in advance by the party, a damaging standoff had developed in Bo's case, according to party watchers," writes Simon Denyer for The Washington Post.
Shinzo Abe Begins Third ASEAN Trip
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his third trip (KyodoNews) to Southeast Asia since retaking office late last year, aiming to deepen ties with ASEAN nations on visits to Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
CFR's Sheila Smith discusses Abe's recent victory in Japan's Upper House elections in this blog post.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistan Parties Name Candidates
Pakistan's political parties chose their nominees (al-Jazeera) for the upcoming presidential election to take place on July 30. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League party nominated Mamnoon Hussain, a former governor of southern Sindh province, who is a favorite to win the poll.
AFGHANISTAN: The CIA has begun closing secret bases (WaPo) in Afghanistan, marking the beginning of its drawdown from the region. The agency will reduce its bases there from twelve to as few as six.
In this op-ed, CFR's Gayle Lemmon writes that the Obama administration should have a frank discussion about a long-term strategy for Afghanistan beyond the 2014 troop withdrawal.
Egypt General Calls for Demonstration
Egypt's top general asked Egyptians to demonstrate (WSJ) on Friday in support of the military's right to confront backers of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Washington consequently said it would suspend a planned delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt's military.
Jonathan A.C. Brown discusses the dim prospects for Egypt's Salafis in this interview.
Togo citizens are heading to polls (BBC) in long-delayed parliamentary elections that will likely foreshadow the results of the presidential elections next year. Experts say it could expose power weaknesses of the ruling Gnassingbe family, which been in control for more than four decades.
SUDAN: The African Union asked Sudan to extend a deadline (Reuters) that would have cut off oil flows to South Sudan in a bid to keep crucial oil exports going.
Snowden Not Yet Clear to Enter Russia
Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday that its migration agencies had issued a certificate (NYT) confirming former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's application for asylum and his permission to pass through Russian border control. However, Snowden's lawyer said the certificate had not been received.
GERMANY: Ahead of Germany's general election, the country's federal auditors accused the defense ministry on Wednesday of failing to impose cost control (FT) on a development program for unmanned drones.
Obama Nominates Caroline Kennedy as Ambassador to Japan
President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Caroline Kennedy (LAT), the daughter of former president John F. Kennedy, as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. The move comes as Japan is embroiled in a territorial conflict with China and is struggling to restore the nation's economy.
BRAZIL: Pope Francis, on a trip to Brazil, warned Latin America against legalizing narcotics (MercoPress). Guatemala's president has called for the legalization of drugs--a vision shared by ex-leaders in Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.