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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 27, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Bombers Defy China's New Air Zone

Note: There will be no Daily Brief on Thursday, November 28, and Friday, November 29, due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The Daily Brief will resume on Monday, December 2.

Two unarmed U.S. B-52 bombers flew over disputed islands in the East China Sea, ignoring a new airspace defense zone that China declared on Saturday with warnings that it would take "defensive emergency measures" if the zone was breached (Reuters). China's defense ministry said it monitored the flights without mentioning any intentions to retaliate (BBC). The flare-up of tensions between China and Japan, as well as anger from Seoul's over Japan's colonial past, is piling on problems for the Obama administration as it seeks to forge deeper ties with Beijing and make East Asia more stable (AP).


"The U.S. also can't stand by and allow unwise words and acts by allies to fuel crises like this one in the first place. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan definitely gets this year's Lee Teng-hui award for intemperate statements. Like it or not, Japan and China may lack the historical maturity to resolve this crisis on their own. Now there's something that would be worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, Mr. President," writes James Gibney for Bloomberg.

"Beijing's brinksmanship is reminiscent of its frequent harassment of U.S. naval vessels in international waters and the buzzing by Chinese fighters of U.S. EP-3 surveillance planes that caused a collision in 2001. Beijing is trying to make its exclusive economic zone into a no-go area for foreign military ships and aircraft. This is a serious violation of international law that must be resisted if U.S. security guarantees and President Obama's 'pivot' to Asia are going to have any credibility," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

"If Beijing is so convinced that international law is on its side it should seek to take the dispute to international arbitration. Tokyo probably would not agree but—equally convinced of its claim—just might if it could be assured that Beijing would abide by the result," the Financial Times writes in an editorial.


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Thai Protests Expand Beyond Bangkok

Protests aiming to topple Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra continued for a third day, with demonstrations fanning out across Bangkok to government offices and into provincial centers outside the capital (WSJ). Protestors have occupied the finance ministry since Monday.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post why Thailand's government may collapse.



Karzai Takes Heat in Afghanistan Over U.S. Security Pact

President Hamid Karzai's refusal to accept a security deal with the United States, against the recommendation of a gathering of Afghan leaders, has prompted sharp criticism from his allies who worry that Karzai's brinksmanship has gone too far (NYT).

This Council Special Report assesses Afghanistan's prospects after the U.S. military drawdown.

PAKISTAN: Lieutenant-General Raheel Sharif, an infantry officer considered a moderate, was named army chief and will lead the military as Pakistan fights a Taliban insurgency and cooperates with the United States to stabilize Afghanistan (Dawn).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the terrorism threat in Pakistan.



Iran Deal Strains U.S. Efforts in Israel, Syria

Middle Eastern allies of the United States are viewing the Obama administration's agreement with Iran is as part of a three-pronged diplomatic push, including peace talks between Israel and Palestine and a resolution of Syria's civil war, which may ultimately reduce U.S. commitments to the region, leaving a resurgent Iran in its wake (Bloomberg).

EGYPT: Egypt's prosecutor general ordered twenty-four activists to be held for four days for protesting against a new demonstrations law, as tensions between the military-backed government and democracy advocate mount (AP).



Former Allies of Nigeria's President Join the Opposition

Seven state governors and an ex-presidential candidate who formed a splinter group from Nigeria's governing People's Democratic Party have joined the opposition All Progressive Congress, dealing a blow for the election prospects of President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP in 2015 (BBC).

KENYA: The International Criminal Court reversed a ruling that allowed Kenya's president to attend only parts of his trial in The Hague, which is scheduled to begin in February (Independent).



Germans Agree on Grand Coalition Government

Germany two largest parties, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, agreed to form a "grand coalition" government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel after reaching compromises on dual-citizenship laws, minimum wage, and pension reforms (Deutsche Welle).

GEORGIA: Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said his country will seek an accord to strengthen ties with Europe, bucking Russian pressure on former Soviet states that led to Ukraine's decision to suspend striking a similar deal with the European Union (Reuters).



Microsoft Ramps Up Encryption to Skirt NSA Spying

Microsoft is considering new encryption initiatives for its Internet traffic amid fears that the National Security Agency has compromised its global communications links (WaPo). Reports emerged in October that the NSA was intercepting traffic inside the private networks of Google and Yahoo.

HONDURAS: Juan Orlando Hernández, leader of the ruling National party, has an irreversible lead in the Honduran presidential election, but his opponent has challenged the results (Guardian).



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