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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 31, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Hagel Begins First Asia Trip

Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters  

Edgar Su/Courtesy Reuters

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began his first trip (WaPo) to Asia as defense chief, flying to Singapore for a security conference where he will meet with counterparts from Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam, among others. Cybersecurity and espionage will be a major talking point (LAT) during the conference, as China was named in a Pentagon report disclosed Monday as having stolen data on two dozen U.S. weapons systems. Hagel told reporters Friday that cyber threats posed a "quiet, stealthy, insidious" danger to the United States (Reuters), calling for "rules of the road" to avoid conflict on global computer networks. Hagel added that the issue was likely to come up in sideline meetings with Chinese delegates at the conference.


"Beijing is pushing its Internet power outside of China into the rest of the world. At home, it controls the flow of information on the Web domestically through censoring and filtering technologies as well as attempts to steer conversations or drown out opposition on social media sites by government-paid commentators, known in China as the 50 Cent Party for the going rate per posting," writes CFR's Adam Segal for Foreign Policy.

"China has bristled over the growing body of evidence that its military has been involved in cyberattacks on American corporations and some government agencies. Last month, the Obama administration demanded that the Chinese government stop the theft of data from American computer networks and help create global standards for cybersecurity," writes Jane Perlez for the New York Times.

"Deciding to name and shame China openly is a significant step in US cybersecurity policy and has international repercussions: It forces the two countries to address the issue publicly, and shines a spotlight on the cyberactivity of other countries, including the United States. This may increase pressure on governments and companies to act more forcefully against cyber-espionage attacks," write Emilian Papadopoulos and Eli Sugarman for the Christian Science Monitor.



Chinese Firm to Develop Third Financial District in London

Advanced Business Park, a Chinese developer, has signed a deal to convert a plot of land next to London's City Airport into the city's third financial district (SCMP), primarily aimed at Chinese firms. The business park will be worth an expected US$1.5 billion when completed.



Pakistani Taliban Pulls Out of Peace Talks

The Pakistani Taliban rescinded its offer of peace negotiations (al-Jazeera), after the group's second-in-command was killed in a U.S. drone strike this week. Analysts say the decision is a setback for the incoming government of Nawaz Sharif, who called for talks just days after his May 11 election.

BANGLADESH: U.S. labor unions are pushing the White House to revoke Bangladesh's special trade status (NYT) following several factory disasters, including the collapse of a garment factory in Savar that killed more than a thousand people.



Syrian Rebels Bolster Forces in Strategic Town

Dozens of Syrian rebel reinforcements (BBC) arrived in the western town of Qusayr to help fend off an assault by Assad regime and Hezbollah forces. Reports say the number of new fighters is well below the thousand suggested by the Syrian opposition leadership, but nonetheless contradict state media reports that the town is surrounded.

Given Iran and Russia's strong support of the Syrian government, there are indications that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad may be prevailing in the country's civil war, says expert Michael Young in this CFR interview.

TURKEY: Istanbul police dispersed anti-government demonstrators (Reuters) in the central part of the city with tear gas and fire hoses. Protests began on Monday after city developers uprooted trees, but has escalated into a larger demonstration against the Islamist-rooted government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.



Suspected Hezbollah Figures Arrested in Nigeria

Nigerian authorities say they have arrested three Lebanese men with suspected links to the militant group Hezbollah and seized a heavy weapons arms cache (al-Jazeera).

SOUTH AFRICA: U.S. tech firm Google has announced plans for its first major solar investment in Africa (Bloomberg)--a $12 million contribution to a plant in energy-starved South Africa.



France and Germany Push for Eurozone President

French President Fran├žois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Paris on Thursday to hammer out an agenda for the EU summit slated for late June. Both leaders agreed on the need for a full-time president (DeutscheWelle) of the seventeen-member eurozone with stronger powers to improve economic coordination within the troubled currency bloc.

EUROPEAN UNION: EU states and lawmakers reached an agreement on temporary border controls (BBC) and when they can be introduced in the EU's free-movement Schengen area.



Biden Urges Brazil to Open Economy More

U.S. vice president Joseph Biden, in Brazil on a three-day visit, praised the country for economic policies that have lifted millions out of poverty, but also challenged the country to "seize the opportunities" offered by easing trade barriers (MercoPress) with the United States.

UNITED STATES: Federal authorities are now investigating three letters apparently tainted with the poison ricin (CBSNews) and sent to President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.



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