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April 28, 2015

Daily News Brief

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United States, Japan Unveil New Security Guidelines

The United States and Japan announced (WSJ) new guidelines for defense cooperation on Monday, paving the way for Japan's military to play a more active role in security in the Asia-Pacific. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama hold talks (AFP) on Tuesday that are expected to boost the bilateral security alliance and tackle tough negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. On Wednesday, Abe will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. China and South Korea are expected to closely watch (Guardian) Abe's week-long visit to the United States amid heightened historical tensions and regional maritime disputes. 


"The United States already has strong security ties with Japan, but they can and should be stronger still. With the stability of the Asia-Pacific region increasingly under threat, Japan must stand strong with the United States by its side. Tokyo’s decision to adopt collective self-defense is a good-faith effort to do more to support the U.S.-Japan alliance and other responsible stakeholders in the Asia-Pacific region," write Congressmen J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) and K. Michael Conaway (R-TX) in the Diplomat.

"[Abe's] determination to confront Japan’s challenges head-on that has won him the plaudits that will be bestowed upon him in Washington this week. But the hardest work still lies ahead. Whether Japan declines, re-emerges as a great power, or ends up somewhere in between will depend not on the words and deeds of its leaders but on the willingness of the Japanese people to face their country’s problems," writes Tobias Harris in Foreign Policy.

"If the United States and Japan lock arms, we can resist China’s bullying and reassert leadership in the Asia-Pacific. In the long term, a successful TPP would be a sign of renewed vigor in our alliance—in which all our allies could take comfort. And in the near term, the clearest sign of a successful state visit would be a firm commitment from Abe to eliminate the farm and auto barriers," writes Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in the Washington Post


Korean Ferry Captain Sentenced to Life in Prison

An appeals court in South Korea sentenced (Yonhap) the captain of the sunken Sewol ferry to life in prison for murder on Tuesday. The ferry sank last year, killing 304 passengers, most of whom were high school students. 


Nepal Quake Death Toll Could Reach 10,000

Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said the death toll (Mint) of Saturday's earthquake and its aftershocks could rise to ten thousand, ordering intensified relief efforts and calling for foreign assistance deliveries, including tents and medicine. The current death toll (AP) stands at nearly 4,400 people, and the UN says that 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance.

While Nepal's earthquake was anticipated for years, weak government delayed infrastructure improvements and exposed tragic vulnerabilities, writes CFR's Alyssa Ayres in this blog post.

AFGHANISTAN: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged (Hindu) support for an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" process for peace and stability in the embattled country during President Ashraf Ghani's state visit in Delhi on Tuesday. Meanwhile, reinforcement troops were sent (TOLO) to support Afghan National Army forces who have been trapped at a military base in Kunduz province after being surrounded by the Taliban. Heavy fighting between Afghan government forces and Taliban militants continues for a fourth day.

This CFR InfoGuide tracks the Taliban's reemergence in Afghanistan. 


Yemeni Government Declares Disaster Zones

Exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi declared (AP) three disaster zones in Yemen, including the southern port city of Aden, amid continued fighting between government forces and Shia Houthi rebels. The government reported that one thousand civilians have died in fighting over the past month, nearly double the UN figures released last week. Human rights minister Ezzedine al-Asbahi said that nine million Yemenis are in need of aid (Al Arabiya) and claimed that Houthis are blocking relief efforts.

ISRAEL: A UN board of inquiry report (Haaretz) said that Israel was responsible for damage to seven UN facilities in Gaza in the summer of 2014 that killed 44 Palestinians and injured another 227 people. 


Fresh Protests in Burundi Over Presidential Bid for Third Term

Hundreds of people continued (Al Jazeera) to protest in and around Burundi's capital of Bujumbura in opposition to the president's bid to run for a third term in office. At least six people have been killed and another seven injured in clashes with police. Elections are slated for June 26.

NIGERIA: Twenty-one people are dead (AFP) after suspected Boko Haram gunmen attacked a village in northeastern Yobe state. Separately, hundreds of bodies, allegedly victims of a Boko Haram attack, were discovered in the village of Damasak near the Niger border.

This CFR Backgrounder provides an overview of the Boko Haram insurgency.  


Tsipras Says He Expects May Deal

In an interview Monday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he expects (FT) to reach an interim deal with international creditors by May 9. He also said that if an additional bailout agreement is not met he will hold a referendum. On Monday, Tsipras replaced (Guardian) Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis with Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos as the lead for talks with its creditors.

UKRAINE: EU leaders urged (Irish Times) Ukraine to implement widespread reforms and anti-corruption measures, but rejected President Petro Poroshenko's request to send an armed EU peacekeeping mission to eastern Ukraine at the first EU-Ukraine summit on Monday. Poroshenko pledged that Ukraine would be ready to apply for EU membership in 2020.


Riots Erupt in Baltimore

The governor of Maryland declared (NYT) a state of emergency in Baltimore and called in the National Guard, and the Baltimore mayor imposed an overnight curfew set to take effect on Tuesday. Protests following the funeral of a young man who died from injuries sustained while in police custody turned violent as some demonstrators threw rocks, looted businesses, and set cars on fire. At least fifteen police officers were injured.

BRAZIL: Fatal landslides hit (BBC) northeastern Brazil on Monday following heavy rains. Fourteen people were killed and another ten were injured.