Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Thursday endorsed stronger military ties with Mongolia (AFP), signing a "joint vision" statement with his Mongolian counterpart that called for expanded military cooperation through joint training and assistance. The visit marks Hagel's final stop on a ten-day Asia tour, preceded by a three-day swing through China that was marked by public sparring (SCMP) over Beijing's territorial disputes with its neighbors and its relations with North Korea. Hagel also attended an ASEAN meeting (WPR) in Hawaii and spent two days in Japan, appealing for a peaceful settlement of territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.
"For all the attention paid to military issues, the actual changes in U.S. military posture are only one element of the overall rebalance. These activities support the primary efforts, which focus on diplomacy, trade and economic development," writes CFR's Janine Davidson.
"Ironically, though, after spending much of his first year as secretary of Defense reassuring European and Middle Eastern leaders that a 'rebalance' toward Asia didn't mean neglect for other parts of the world, Hagel now finds himself reassuring Asians that the pivot is still on," writes Doyle McManus for the Los Angeles Times.
"The U.S. pivot to Asia, involving renewed diplomatic activity and military redeployment, could signal Washington's heightened role in the disputes, which, if not managed wisely, could turn part of Asia's maritime regions from thriving trade channels into arenas of conflict," explains CFR's InfoGuide on China's maritime disputes.
Taiwanese Protestors End Occupation of Parliament
Taiwanese student activists ended their three-week occupation of Taiwan's parliament (StraitsTimes), launched March 18 in protest of a contentious trade pact with China. The demonstration marks in the first such occupation of Taiwan's parliament in the island's history.
South and Central Asia
Cambodian Opposition Close to Deal
Cambodia's opposition National Rescue Party leader, Sam Rainsy, said Thursday that his party was close to a deal with the government that would end the party's boycott of Parliament (AP). The opposition has alleged that the ruling party rigged last July's general election.
INDIA: Suspected Maoist fighters ambushed a jeep carrying paramilitary soldiers, killing three and suspending polls (TOI) in some parts of Bihar state.
CFR's Alyssa Ayres outlines three things to know about India's elections in this video.
U.S. Denounces Netanyahu's Comments
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his cabinet to limit contact (al-Arabiya) with Palestinian counterparts, a move Washington denounced and labeled as "unfortunate." Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman at the State Department.
SYRIA: Two car bombs killed at least twenty-five people in the central city of Homs (al-Jazeera), a mostly Alawite neighborhood.
UN to Vote on Forces in CAR
The UN Security Council is set to vote Thursday on the option to send twelve thousand peacekeepers (CBC) to the Central African Republic, where sectarian violence has claimed thousands of lives. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted during a visit last weekend that French forces were "overwhelmed."
KENYA: U.S. ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec called on the country's police to uphold human rights (CapitalFM) in the ongoing crackdown on terrorism. Kenya is currently holding three thousand people suspected of terrorism at the Kasarani stadium in Nairobi.
Ukraine Offers Amnesty
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, offered amnesty for pro-Russian demonstrators (Telegraph) occupying official buildings in two eastern cities if they surrender their weapons. Kiev, which has accused Russia of stirring the unrest, says the protestors' actions could give Russia a pretext to invade.
GREECE: Greece surpassed expectations in its bond sale (FT), raising three billion euros after attracting more than twenty billion in orders for its highly anticipated return to the bond market.
Venezuela Invites Vatican to Peace Talks
Venezuela formally invited the Vatican's secretary of state to be a witness to talks (Guardian) with the country's opposition on ending two months of deadly antigovernment protests. President Nicolás Maduro sent a letter to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, a former envoy to Venezuela, asking him to mediate the dialogue.
LATIN AMERICA: A new report shows that China has gradually become Latin America's top financier (MercoPress), loaning $102 billion to the region between 2005 and 2013, mainly to Venezuela and Argentina.