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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 8, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Reaffirms Security Commitment to South Korea

South Korean president Park Geun-hye held her first summit talk (Yonhap) with U.S. president Barack Obama in Washington on Tuesday, adopting a joint declaration that marks the sixtieth anniversary of their mutual defense treaty forged during the Korean War. Speaking at a joint White House press conference, Obama and Park issued a strong message of solidarity in calling on North Korea to give up its nuclear program (WaPo) in return for international aid and acceptance. Park will address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday.


"A combined U.S.-South Korea vision should urgently insist that North Korea must change, but the allies have not yet developed a detailed joint strategy for bringing about those changes. Diplomatic engagement with North Korea should be a part of the strategy, but diplomacy should not enable North Korea to buy time, lead to acceptance of a nuclear North Korea, or extend its disruptive influence in the region," writes Scott Snyder for CFR.

"[W]e can't expect China to do everything, and the Chinese also say they can't do everything. But I do believe there's room for them to undertake more with respect to some material aspects," says President Park Geun-hye in a Washington Post interview.

"Statements by the US and North Korea also largely avoid the question of whether sustained, official talks should be bilateral or multilateral. North Korea has long preferred to deal directly with its adversary. The Obama administration, on the other hand, seems wary of getting burned in another bilateral effort," writes Andrea Berger for the BBC.



Malaysia's Opposition Leader Plans Rally

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is planning a rally against alleged electoral fraud after the nation's Sunday's election (al-Jazeera), which saw Prime Minister Najib Razak and his National Front coalition retain its fifty-six-year hold on power.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses Malaysia's elections in this blog post.



Pakistan's Imran Khan Injured in Rally Fall

Pakistani politician and former cricket star Imran Khan sustained serious injuries (Dawn) Tuesday after falling during an election rally in Lahore. Meanwhile, at least three people died in more pre-election violence in the Bannu region of northwestern Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif's likely return as Pakistan's prime minister would create new challenges for the country's already fractious politics, writes CFR's Daniel Markey in this Expert Brief.

INDIA: India agreed to a Chinese demand to demolish bunkers near the Himalayan border (Reuters) as part of a deal to end a diplomatic standoff ahead of a visit by India's foreign minister to Beijing on May 9.



Russia, U.S. Agree to Syria Peace Conference

Russia and the United States agreed to hold a peace conference in a bid to find a solution to Syria's civil war (FT). The announcement came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

CFR's Elliott Abrams discusses Syria, Russia, and U.S. weakness in this blog post.

TURKEY: Around 1,500 PKK militants are to begin retreating (Hurriyet) from Turkish territories into northern Iraq today as part of the resolution between Ankara and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party.



Boko Haram Kills Dozens

Boko Haram militants launched series of attacks on police, army, and prison bases in Nigeria's northeastern town of Bama, killing at least fifty-five people (Vanguard). The militant Islamist insurgency has waged repeated attacks in an attempt to carve out an Islamic state in the country.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: A Pakistani UN peacekeeper (VOA) was killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo by "unidentified assailants" in the country's east, bordering Rwanda and Burundi.



Russian Deputy PM Resigns

Russian deputy prime minister Vladislav Surkov resigned on Wednesday (RT), a day after Prime Minister Putin chided his government for failing to carry out many of his 2012 economic decrees. Observers say the move underscores a power struggle at the Kremlin.

FRANCE: President Francois Hollande said he was planning a cabinet reshuffle (WSJ) as he seeks to regain his weak public standing and revive France's ailing economy.



Brazilian Wins WTO Bid

Roberto Azevedo won the bid to be the next chief of the World Trade Organization, defeating Mexican former trade minister Herminio Blanco. Observers say the appointment may help ease emerging markets' resistance to removing barriers as part of global trade talks (Bloomberg).

VENEZUELA: Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro promised Uruguayan counterpart Jose Mujica a "permanent" supply of oil (MercoPress) as he made his first stop on his visit to Mercosur member countries.



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