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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 20, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: North Korea in Third Day of Missile Firings

KCNA/Courtesy Reuters  

KCNA/Courtesy Reuters

North Korea fired two short-range missiles (Reuters) today after firing four others over the weekend in response to what the government calls "mounting war pressures" from the United States and South Korea. China has asked North Korea to release a Chinese fishing boat with a sixteen-man crew (BBC) seized May 5 in what China says were Chinese waters. North Koreans have asked for a $100,000 ransom for the ship and crew.


"The missile launch by North Korea is something that no other countries want to see, and China's reaction will be predictable. The government will likely condemn any action threatening the peace and stability in the peninsula." Professor Wang Fan , director of the Institute of International Relations of China Foreign Affairs University, tells the South China Morning Post.

"The United States and South Korea should reach out to China based on the understanding that there is a time limit for North Korea to come back to negotiations and that denuclearization must be a main agenda for any new dialogue, recognizing that China is vested in the status quo. Only by trying to bring China along will it be possible to prove that peaceful options for transforming North Korea have been exhausted," writes CFR's Scott A. Snyder.

"Pyongyang wants to be acknowledged as a member of the adults-only nuclear club. It bridles at any attempt to restrict its sovereign desire to test its missile program. And it takes exception to both economic sanctions and joint U.S.-ROK military maneuvers near its borders. The response to all this was decidedly intemperate. But it was neither irrational nor inexplicable," writes John Feffer for the Huffington Post.



Myanmar's President Meeting With Obama in Washington

President Obama will meet in Washington today with Myanmar's president, Thein Sein, marking the first visit to the United States from a Myanmar head of state (WaPo) since 1966.

Myanmar is on the brink of implosion, with growing interreligious and interethnic violence, writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick.



Imran Khan's Party Wins Revote in Karachi

Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf party won a revote in a wealthy district of Karachi (Reuters) a day after gunmen killed PTI party leader Zara Shahid Hussain. Khan blamed the shooting on the Muttahida Quami Movement's party leader, London-based Altaf Hussain.

AFGHANISTAN: Thirteen people were killed as a suicide bomb exploded outside a provincial council headquarters (AP) in northern Baghlan province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.



Syria Troops Advance on Rebel-Held Town

Syrian troops backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters advanced on the town of rebel-held Qusayr (NYT), near the Lebanese border, in what could be a significant setback for opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

IRAQ: Eight car bombs in mainly Shia districts of Baghdad (al-Jazeera) killed twenty people, and eleven others were killed by attacks in the southern city of Basra as tensions mount between minority Sunnis and the Shia Muslims now in power.



Nigeria Offers Amnesty to Insurgents

Nigeria, which has launched an extensive military operation against Islamist militant Boko Haram insurgency in the country's northeast, said it would offer amnesty to insurgents (Reuters) who surrender.

A state of emergency in Nigeria's northeast signals that Islamist violence and the government's brutal response have rendered the region ungovernable, says CFR's John Campbell.

TUNISIA: Some eleven thousand police officers and soldiers blocked an annual conference in Kairouan of the radical Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah (AP), which has been implicated in attacks around the country and is considered by the government a threat "to security and public order."



British Business Leaders Warn on Eurozone Exit

Nineteen prominent business leaders signed a letter to Britain's Independent newspaper warning that an exit from the European Union would cost Britain 92 billion pounds annually.

The eurozone is being buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

UK: Ahead of an expected push at next month's G8 summit in Northern Ireland to clamp down on tax evasion, British Prime Minister David Cameron has written to British tax havens (Guardian) calling for them to "get our own houses in order."



Two Unions Oppose Immigration Reform Bill

Two labor unions representing twenty thousand employees responsible for immigration-related enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security are joining forces to oppose an immigration reform bill (NYT) in the Senate.

CFR's Edward Alden and Shannon K. O'Neil discuss border security and U.S. immigration policy in this media conference call.

COLOMBIA: While Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos has said a deal with left-wing FARC rebels could be reached within months, FARC's lead negotiator, Ivan Marquez, said a lasting peace would take time (ColombiaReports) and rejected suggestions that the pace of negotiations has been slow.



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