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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 20, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: South Korea's President-Elect Cites Security

The day after her election as South Korea's first woman president, Park Geun-hye pledged to make national security a top priority (Yonhap). Park said North Korea's successful rocket launch underscored the "grave" security reality on the divided Korean Peninsula. As part of her campaign, Park had promised to redistribute wealth, reform big conglomerates and seek greater engagement with North Korea.


"The Saenuri Party has historically been firmly behind the chaebol [conglomerates], so Ms Park's tack to the centre had alarmed the party's core supporters. But the strategy first proved successful in elections for the National Assembly last April, and then again today. Her instincts will now be to tack back to the right," writes the Economist.

"Ms Park might have good intentions to improve equality at home, and do something towards reducing the influence of the chaebol. But it is still the chaebol and the state of the global economy on which South Korea depends that will determine the country's path," writes the Financial Times.

"Opinion polls suggest that Ms Park's support in this election came from those in their 50s and 60s. Ironic, say Ms Park's critics, that it is precisely the generation who suffered under her father's repressive rule who seem most firmly in favour of electing her. And there is little doubt that her legacy has cost her votes, as well as boosted them," writes Lucy Williamson for the BBC.



China Needs Reforms, Think Tank Says

A senior economist at China's State Council think tank said on Thursday that the country needs pro-growth policies and faster reforms (Reuters) to boost domestic demand in the face of global economic uncertainty in the upcoming year. China is on course to achieve 7.7 percent growth in 2012.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Chinese Communist Party and some of its reformists.



Pakistan Passes Controversial Bill

Pakistan's National Assembly passed a controversial bill on Thursday that authorizes the state to intercept private communications in order to capture terrorists (Dawn), throwing privacy rights into question.

This CFR Backgrounder delves into Pakistan's new generation of terrorists.

INDIA: Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat and a prime minister candidate, is set to take his Bharatiya Janata Party to a comfortable victory (WSJ) in state elections Thursday.



Top Egyptian Election Official Resigns

Secretary General of the Election Committee Zaghloul el-Balshi, one of the top officials in charge of overseeing Egypt's vote on its contentious draft constitution, has resigned (al-Jazeera), citing health problems, although critics believe the exit was prompted by widespread complaints of voting irregularities.

YEMEN: Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said Wednesday he would restructure the army (Alarabiya) and defense ministry in a purge of relatives and cronies of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.



New Central African Republic Rebel Group Forms

A new rebel alliance, which launched an attack on the town of Bria yesterday, has formed in the north of the Central African Republic (CameroonTribune), comprising dissidents of three rebel groups in the country's north and northeastern regions.

GHANA: The Libertad, an Argentine navy ship detained in Ghana since October over a debt dispute (BBC), has now left the country after a United Nations court last week ordered its release.



France Recognizes Algerian Suffering

French President Fran├žois Hollande acknowledged the suffering France had inflicted on its former colony, stopping short of issuing the apology that many Algerians have demanded (France24). The president spoke to Algerian lawmakers during a landmark visit to the country, which France ruled for 132 years.

RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin defended a ban on Americans adopting Russian children (RT), which has been proposed by the Russian parliament as part of a package of measures in retaliation to the U.S. Magnitsky Act.

CFR's Stephen Sestanovich discusses the fallout from the U.S. Magnitsky Act in this interview.



Brazil to Revive Arms Development

Brazil is planning a multimillion-dollar program to modernize its defense technologies with the goal of developing rockets and missiles for both domestic military use and exports (MercoPress). The country had profited under military rule from the mid-1960s to mid-1980s from precision rocket exports, many to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and Arab states in the Persian Gulf.

UNITED STATES: Four State Department managers resigned Wednesday (WaPo) after a scathing report from independent investigators held the department accountable for "grossly inadequate" security during the September 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.



Obama Says He Will Veto Boehner's Latest Fiscal Cliff Plan

In a press conference Wednesday, President Obama said he would veto House Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" (Reuters) to extend certain tax cuts without a comprehensive fiscal cliff deal. Republicans are also considering adding a package of spending cuts to the bill, reports Politico.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), the incoming ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, insisted Wednesday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testify before Congress in relation to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi before her successor is confirmed, reports NBC. Clinton had been scheduled to testify this week but did not due to illness.



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