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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 24, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: China Sentences Police Chief in Bo Xilai Scandal to Prison

A Chinese court convicted Wang Lijun, a former police chief, of defection, abuse of power, taking bribes, and twisting the law to his own advantage, while sentencing him to fifteen years in prison (NYT), according to China's state news agency Xinhua. Wang unleashed a political scandal when he fled to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu last February, claiming that the wife of Communist Party leader Bo Xilai had murdered British businessman Neil Heywood. Bo's wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of murder last month and sentenced to death with a two-year suspension. Meanwhile, Bo, who was removed from his post in March, has yet to be tried.

Analysis

"Wang's revelations have roiled China during a sensitive period of political transition. The country's top leaders--President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao--are expected to begin the process of stepping down later this fall. Before the scandal erupted some analysts said Bo was a likely candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee, the country's top decision-making body, when it is reconfigured at the upcoming 18th Party Congress," writes TIME's Austin Ramzy.

"Observers believe the Wang Lijun verdict now paves the way for a final decision on Bo Xilai's future, which may at least temporarily put an end to infighting on the issue--and allow the party's once-in-a-decade leadership handover to proceed this autumn as planned. So far the party has yet to even announce the date for the staging of its five-yearly congress, at which Vice President Xi Jinping is expected to succeed Hu Jintao as Communist Party secretary general," writes Duncan Hewitt for Newsweek.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Japan Sends Diplomat to China Over Islands Dispute

Japan is sending Vice Foreign Minister Chikao Kawai to China for talks (BBC) amid an escalating row over disputed islands in the East China Sea, following China's recent deployment of marine surveillance ships near the Japanese-controlled islands.

Escalating friction between Japan and China in the East China Sea is becoming more difficult to contain, fed by political opportunism in both countries, says CFR's Sheila Smith in this CFR Expert Brief.

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Kazakhstan PM Resigns

Kazakhstan's prime minister, Karim Massimov, resigned his post today after leading the post-Soviet nation for five years (al-Jazeera), in an apparent attempt by President Nursultan Nazarbayev to consolidate power.

PAKISTAN: The United States yesterday criticized an announcement by Pakistan's railways minister as "inflammatory and inappropriate" (AFP) for offering a $100,000 bounty for killing the U.S. creator of an anti-Muslim film that has unleashed violent protests around the world.

 

MIDDLE EAST

Libya Orders Breakup of Militias

Libya's interim government yesterday called for the disbandment of militias that do not fall under its authority (NYT), following public anger over an attack earlier this month on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens dead.

Anti-U.S. protests continue to spread across the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. This CFR Issue Guide provides expert analysis on the causes and implications of the crisis.

SYRIA: Government forces today bombed opposition strongholds (BBC) in the city of Aleppo, ahead of an expected briefing by UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi to the Security Council over his meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

 

AFRICA

Sudan, South Sudan Leaders Meet

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir met yesterday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa for negotiations over the countries' disputed shared border and stalled oil production (M&G). Talks are expected to continue today.

SOMALIA: The Islamist al-Shabaab militant group threatened today to kill all of the members of Somalia's recently elected parliament, following the murder of an MP in Mogadishu (AFP) over the weekend.

 

EUROPE

Eurozone to Leverage Bailout Fund

Eurozone governments are planning to apply leverage instruments to the approximately $650 billion European Stability Mechanism that would allow the permanent bailout fund to muster $2.5 trillion in resources, according to German magazine Der Spiegel.

FRANCE: Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Greece should be allowed more time to implement the austerity measures required by its international creditors, saying a Greek exit from the eurozone would signal the "beginning of the end of the European project" (FT).

 

AMERICAS

Canada, Britain to Share Embassies

Canada and the United Kingdom plan to establish joint diplomatic missions (Guardian) in places where one of the countries does not maintain an embassy, the British foreign office confirmed. British Foreign Secretary William Hague is set to meet with Canadian counterpart John Baird in Ottawa today.

VENEZUELA: Opposition leader Henrique Capriles this weekend said President Hugo Chavez's campaign pledges failed to address practical issues such as power cuts, unemployment, and crime (al-Jazeera). Capriles is set to face Chavez in the October 7 presidential election.

In this CFR Contingency Planning Memorandum, Patrick D. Duddy argues that the United States should prepare for the possibility of political unrest surrounding Venezuela's 2012 presidential election.

 

CAMPAIGN 2012

Candidates Discuss Foreign Policy on 60 Minutes

The candidates criticized each other on foreign policy (LAT) in separate interviews on 60 Minutes last night, with GOP nominee Mitt Romney accusing President Obama of being weak on defense and Obama saying "that if Romney 'is suggesting that we should start another war--he should say so.'"

In an election where the main focus has been on the U.S. economy, President Obama will spend only twenty-four hours (AFP) in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly this week and will head back to the campaign trail instead of meeting individually with world leaders.

 

 

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