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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 25, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: South Korea Offers Talks With North on Kaesong

South Korea on Thursday extended an offer to hold talks with North Korea over restarting operations (Yonhap) at the jointly-run Kaesong Industrial Complex, which has been idle since early this month amid heightened tensions on the peninsula. Pyongyang had blocked South Korean access to the site and pulled out more than 50,000 workers it had stationed there (AP). Seoul said it made the offer after the North flatly denied a request on Wednesday for informal talks between South Korean representatives at Kaesong, and warned of "grave measures" if the North did not agree to the talks.


"The right message is the one Obama voiced on NBC: 'We're not going to reward this provocative behavior.' That should be Washington's unshakable policy, and the president should insist that his secretary of state not undermine it with talk of concessions or a return to negotiations," writes Jeff Jacoby for the Boston Globe.

"Despite everything, this crisis will almost certainly not peak with North Korea deciding to launch a full-scale war. Instead, the big risk is that a small incident could trigger an escalation that runs out of control," writes David Blair for The Telegraph.

"What Pyongyang wants from the United States is basically acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state and the end of the U.S. 'hostile policy' toward North Korea. With South Korea, we're still at an early stage with the new South Korean president, Park Geun-hye. We're still in the early stages of a period in which both sides are going to be testing each other to see what their prospects are for a more stable relationship than what existed with the previous president," says CFR's Scott Snyder.



ASEAN Tackles South China Sea Disputes

ASEAN leaders discussed how to resolve the ongoing South China Sea disputes at a biannual summit in Brunei, saying claimants should deal individually while working as a group with China on a long-anticipated code of conduct (KyodoNews).

This CFR Backgrounder delves into tensions in the South China Sea and ASEAN's role in resolving the dispute.



Philippines Disputes Killings

The Philippine military disputed a newspaper report that said its naval forces killed thirty-five gunmen to stop them from entering the Malaysian state of Sabah (AP). Since March, Malaysian troops have battled armed followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu, who claims Sabah.

INDIA: India's Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid will visit China (IndianExpress) in early May amid tensions near the de facto border in the Himalayas. China denies it violated Indian territory.



U.S. Seeks Mideast Peace Summit

The United States is reportedly planning a June summit (Haaretz) in Washington that would launch new Mideast peace talks between U.S. President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan's King Abdullah.

CFR's Robert Danin discusses King Abdullah's anticipated meeting with President Obama on Friday in this blog post.

IRAQ: More than 100 people died in two days of violence across Iraq after fighting broke out for a second day (al-Jazeera) between government troops and protestors in the country's north.



Brazilian Appointed to UN's Congo Mission

The UN appointed Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, a Brazilian general (BBC), to lead 20,000 peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The troops will include a new combat force charged with targeting rebels in the east of the country.

SOUTH AFRICA: Former archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African social rights activist, was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday with a persistent infection (SAPA).



EU Official Supports Relaxed Austerity

Italy's newly nominated prime minister, Enrico Letta, called for an easing of austerity policies (FT) as he began talks on Thursday to form a coalition with his center-right rivals led by Silvio Berlusconi. The appointment on Wednesday sent the Milan stock exchange rallying.

SWITZERLAND: The Swiss government is extending immigration quotas (WSJ) from all EU states from May for one year, in a move criticized by Brussels.



Bolivia, Chile Battle Sea Sovereignty

Bolivia sued neighboring Chile on Wednesday in the International Court of Justice in a long-standing claim (MercoPress) to recover land lost in a nineteenth century war and regain access to the sea. Chile quickly responded that the issue was not negotiable.

MEXICO: Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto faced fresh reports of vote-buying by his Institutional Revolutionary Party on Thursday in a charge that threatens reform plans (LAT).

CFR's Shannon O'Neil writes about Mexico's transformation in this blog post.



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