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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 22, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Abe Preps for First Washington Visit

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to meet U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington Friday on a visit (BBC) aimed at fortifying security alliance, although economic ties, tensions with Beijing over a territorial dispute, and North Korea's recent nuclear test are also expected to top the agenda. Abe is likely to announce Japan's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations (JapanTimes), while Obama will press Japan on easing barriers for U.S. automakers (Bloomberg).


"De-escalating [tensions with China] is of the essence, and both Tokyo and Washington are calling on Beijing to begin to develop some kind of maritime consultations that will decrease the likelihood of miscalculation by local forces. Japan has begun bilateral talks with China that were interrupted last summer, and the United States, too, has been publicly and privately urging both sides to sit down and discuss how best to discuss their differences," says CFR's Sheila Smith for PBS.

"[With] John Kerry replacing Clinton as secretary of state, Abe will first need to seek clarification on how U.S. policy toward China may shift. With Chuck Hagel's nomination as secretary of defense held up because of Republican opposition, Abe arrives in Washington at a time when Obama's foreign policy team is in transition--which could make it difficult to get a bold statement on China," write Eric Johnston and Mizuho Aoki for the Japan Times.

"Abe's right. The [Bank of Japan] needed, first, a higher inflation target and, second, a perceived determination to hit it, whatever it takes. Despite the apparent realignment of the central bank's policy with Abe's, this new approach won't be fully in place until the next BOJ governor supports it wholeheartedly—and acts on his words," writes Clive Crook for Bloomberg.



South Korea Chides Japan on Territory Claim

The South Korean government criticized Japan on Friday for holding an event that promoted Tokyo's territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islands of Dokdo (Yonhap). Tensions have mounted over Dokdo after Tokyo renewed its claims to the rocky islets in the East Sea.



Indian Bomb Could Be Terror Strike

An initial investigation into the twin blasts in Hyderabad, India, on Thursday points to the involvement of the Indian Mujahideen (TOI) in the terror strike that killed at least sixteen people at a local bus stop.

PAKISTAN: Pakistan asked Afghanistan on Thursday to hand over senior Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad (Dawn), who was captured by Afghan security forces on Monday.



Morsi Announces April Elections

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi announced that multi-stage parliamentary elections will be held on April 27 (DeutscheWelle). The election follows the adoption of an Islamist-backed constitution in December, which was criticized by the opposition for failing to protect key rights.

In the new "Ask CFR Experts" series, Steven Cook looks at how Washington should approach its aid to Egypt.

YEMEN: Police in Yemen shot dead three people (al-Jazeera) headed to a rally in Aden for southern independence, as the deeply divided country marked a year since the ousting of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh



Rockets, Suicide Bombing Rock Mali

Jihadist fighters in Mali fired rockets at military points in the northern city of Gao, where French-African forces have been attempting to drive out extremists (AP). Meanwhile, a suicide bomb near the Algerian border targeted the secular Tuareg rebel group and killed one of its fighters.

RWANDA: Rwanda is holding more than 280 troops accused of desertion on an island in Lake Kivu to undergo reeducation (BBC). The Rwandan army is run mainly by former commanders of the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel group, which came to power after the 1994 genocide.



EU Forecasts Grim Future

Europe's economic slowdown (FT) will continue to drain growth this year, with France and Germany expecting minimal improvement and the eurozone as a whole shrinking 0.3 percent this year, according to forecasts published on Friday by the European Commission.

CFR's Robert Kahn talks about the G7, the G20, and exchange rates in this blog post.

SPAIN: Prosecutors will likely name the daughter of Spanish King Juan Carlos as a suspect in a multimillion-euro fraud and money laundering case (Guardian).



Chavez's Breathing Issue Persists

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's breathing problems have persisted since his arrival a few days ago at a Caracas hospital, according to Venezuela's information minister, who said his condition "hasn't been favorable" (Bloomberg).

This CFR timeline maps out the Chavez era in Venezuela.

HAITI: The United Nations said on Thursday it would not pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation claimed by cholera victims in Haiti (Reuters), where the epidemic has killed thousands.



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