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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 23, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Obama Navigates Asia-Pacific Security Challenges

U.S. president Barack Obama assured Japan of the United States' position that disputed East China Sea islands under Japanese control, called the Senkaku Islands in Japan and Diaoyu Islands in China, are covered by the defense treaty between Washington and Tokyo. The remarks came ahead of Obama's arrival in Japan on Wednesday, the first stop on an Asia tour that comes amid regional security tensions with China (BBC) and a military push by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe (WSJ). Meanwhile, naval chiefs from twenty Pacific Rim countries including China, the United States, Japan, and the Philippines approved the first-ever code of conduct for unplanned naval encounters in a bid to avert emergencies amid escalating territorial tensions in the region (WSJ), while a new analysis of satellite imagery dampened expectations of an upcoming North Korean nuclear test (Reuters).


"[Japan and the United States] need to agree upon what constitutes unfortunate but acceptable levels of ordinary harassment around the islands (e.g., occasional intrusions by Chinese vessels, aircraft or drones; incidents involving ships switching on their engagement radars). The allies need to distinguish this from behavior in which China aims to meaningfully change the facts on the ground, such as by stationing military forces on the islands, building and claiming structures there or attempting to deny Japanese access. The allies also need to have some private and frank conversations about likely responses to such Chinese actions," writes Jennifer Lind for the Asahi Shimbun.

"Besides the question of personal chemistry between Obama and Abe, the 'discordance' surfacing within the alliance risks sending the wrong message to the Chinese, who are watching for any sign of weakness in U.S.-Japan relations which might help them contest Japan's sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Tokyo's priority will therefore be a joint declaration by the two leaders in reaffirming the healthy state of the alliance. Obama will no doubt grant this assurance, although it will be carefully worded to avoid the U.S. being automatically dragged into an open conflict between Japan and China over the disputed territory," writes Yo-Jung Chen in the Diplomat.

"Rebalancing is indeed desirable, including reconfirmation of American security commitments. Yet that alone will only increase the likelihood of an arms race and the risks of military clashes. All around the periphery of China nations should follow the Philippine example of seeking to test China's claims and their own before an impartial international tribunal, and the U.S. should be openly encouraging them to do so, despite its own mixed record in dealing with international law," writes CFR's Jerome Cohen in ChinaFile.


Pacific Rim

Labor Strikes Spread at Chinese Factories

A strike at a Chinese factory over better pay and benefits has spread, gaining up to thirty thousand participants, according to the New York-based NGO China Labor Watch. The strike comes as rising wages have led manufacturers to move some operations to lower-cost countries like Vietnam (Guardian).


South and Central Asia

Pakistan Army Demands TV Stationís Suspension

Pakistan's Ministry of Defense is asking the government to shut down Geo TV, the country's largest television news station, after it broadcast accusations that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is responsible for an assassination attempt on one of its anchors (NYT). A panel was convened Wednesday to hear the petition (Dawn).

INDIA: Opposition front-runner Narendra Modi disavowed anti-Muslim comments made by partisans of his Hindu nationalist umbrella group that he said distracted from a platform of development and good governance (Times of India).


Middle East

Palestinian Factions Meet for Reconciliation Talks

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas will meet in Gaza on Wednesday for reconciliation talks that would instate a unity government after a seven-year schism (al-Jazeera). Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said reconciliation would jeopardize peace talks with his government (Haaretz).

EGYPT: The United States will partially resume military aid to Egypt, beginning with the sale of ten Apache helicopters, after U.S. secretary of state John Kerry certified that Egypt is upholding its strategic commitments (Bloomberg).

A looming economic crisis may exacerbate political instability in Egypt, writes CFR's Steven Cook.



South Sudan Massacre Draws International Attention

China, South Sudan's largest energy investor, called for a renewed peace effort following a United Nations report of a civilian massacre in the oil hub Bentiu. Rebel forces denied responsibility for the killings, while the White House called the violence an "abomination" (Reuters).

NIGER: Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram may have sought assistance for its campaigns in Nigeria from neighboring Niger Republic (Daily Trust).



Politicianís Death Spurs Potential Escalation in Ukraine

Acting president Oleksandr Turchynov ordered a resumption of military operations against pro-Russian separatists after two men, one a local politician, were found dead in eastern Ukraine with indications they had been tortured (BBC). The move came as U.S. vice president Joe Biden was in Kiev seeking to de-escalate the crisis, and threatens the Geneva accord reached last week.

NATO: Six hundred U.S. troops will arrive in Poland and Baltic states bordering Russia for exercises to reassure NATO allies, the Pentagon announced (WSJ).

CFR President Richard N. Haass writes in a new essay for The American Interest that the Obama administration must prove to U.S. allies that it is competent to lead.



Brazil Hosts Conference on Future of Internet Governance

A two-day conference spearheaded by Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff opened in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, convening governmental officials, academics, and others aiming to reach principles for moving Internet governance from U.S. authority to a "global multi-stakeholder community" (BBC).

CFR's Stewart Patrick and Claire Schachter preview the summit.

UNITED STATES: The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in public higher education (NYT).



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