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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 22, 2014

Top of the Agenda

North Korea Frees U.S. Citizen

U.S. citizen Jeffrey Fowle was released from a North Korean prison (Yonhap) on Tuesday after being held for over six months on charges of promoting Christianity. Two other Americans are still detained for allegedly committing anti-state crimes. The move comes amid speculations surrounding Kim Jong-un's almost forty-day absence, debate at the UN (AP) on North Korea's human rights violations, and exchanges of fire with South Korea along the border and in disputed waters. Nevertheless, North Korea is making a diplomatic push, including last week's high-level inter-Korean dialogue, the first of its kind in three years.


"Our position has been very consistent and well-known. We totally rejected the resolution on human rights against my country offered by—sponsored by the European Union and Japan at the U.N. Human Rights Council and the United Nations General Assembly every year. We totally and categorically reject the contents of the report. None of such violations exist in my country, and in no way can they exist," said North Korean envoy to the UN Jang Il Hun at a CFR Meeting.

"North Korea subsequently released its own report in response, saying that it had 'the world's most advantageous human rights system.' Although the report was widely criticised as deceitful, the bar for North Korean transparency is so low that the fact that it is even engaging on the issue was considered progress," writes Anna Fifield in the Washington Post.

"North Korea has been far less forthcoming about its intentions. It remains to be seen whether it seeks to engage the rest of the world in a constructive and sustained manner, or whether DPRK officials and diplomats are merely putting a good face forward to divert international attention from their country's reputation as a nuclear weapons-monger and human-rights violator," writes Katharine H.S. Moon in Project Syndicate.


What Threats and Conflicts Will Emerge or Escalate in 2015?

CFR's annual Preventive Priorities Survey aims to assist policymakers in anticipating and planning for international crises that threaten U.S. national interests. What threats and conflicts will emerge or escalate in 2015? Tell us what you think.


China Installs Research Buoys in Disputed Waters

Beijing installed seventeen sets of research buoys (SCMP) in the South China Sea on Tuesday, in a move expected to add to tensions with its neighbors. Meanwhile, China's vice premier met with his Japanese counterpart (Kyodo News) on the sidelines of an APEC meeting in an attempt to ease tensions between the two countries.

This CFR InfoGuide provides background and analysis on China's maritime disputes.



Modi Introduces Measures to Make Doing Business in India Easier

New Delhi introduced a series of new measures on Tuesday to speed the process of registering a business (Times of India) from twenty-seven days to one. India ranks 134th on the World Bank's Doing Business index.

PAKISTAN: Tahir-ul Qadri of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek party announced the end his party's almost two-month sit-in (Dawn) in Islamabad. Imran Khan, leader of the PTI opposition party, vowed to continue protests until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif resigned.



Rival Libyan Prime Minister Meets Foreign Visitor

Libya's Islamist militia leader and self-declared Libyan Prime Minister Omar al-Hasi met with a Turkish envoy (Al Arabiya) on Tuesday in Hasi's first publicly known diplomatic visit. The internationally recognized Libyan government ordered its army to advance to Tripoli and called for a civil disobedience campaign against the armed militants.

Libya may descend into civil war despite a recent flurry of international diplomacy, says journalist Mary Fitzgerald in this CFR Interview.

SYRIA: The air force destroyed two of three ISIS fighter jets (AP) on Tuesday, according to an unconfirmed report from Syrian officials. Syrian military officials also claim to be providing support to Kurds (AFP) in the fight for the town of Kobani.



WHO to Hold Talks on Ebola

The World Health Organization's emergency committee will meet (BBC) to discuss screening procedures and travel regulations. Officials in Sierra Leone imposed a curfew after two people were shot dead in riots over a suspected Ebola case.

West Africa's high rate of urbanization has helped facilitate the rapid spread of Ebola, writes CFR's John Campbell.

TANZANIA: The attorney general announced the country will hold a referendum on a new constitution (Reuters) on April 30, 2015. Opposition parties reject the draft constitution, claiming the ruling party ignored calls for political reform.



No Russia-Ukraine Energy Deal

Russian and Ukrainian officials failed to negotiate (EU Observer) an energy deal on Tuesday as Russia expressed concern about Ukraine's finances, and Ukraine cited a lack of trust. South and eastern European states depend on Russian gas to keep factories running and homes warm during long winter months. Meanwhile, Russia banned all fruit and vegetable (WSJ) imports from Ukraine on Monday.

This CFR Backgrounder chronicles the emergence of the Ukraine crisis.

EU: The European Parliament voted by a large majority in support (BBC) of the new EU Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker.



U.S. Travel Limitations to Contain Ebola

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Monday that all travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea—the West African nations worst hit by Ebola—must enter the United States (Al Jazeera) from one of the country's five major airports in New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington DC, or Atlanta.

CUBA: Ninety-one Cuban healthcare workers (LAHT) left for West Africa to help fight the Ebola epidemic. There will soon be 255 Cuban medical personnel in West Africa, making it the largest single sender of trained personnel to the region.



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