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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 4, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Biden Meets Xi as Air Defense Row Continues

U.S. vice president Joe Biden told Chinese president Xi Jinping at a meeting in Beijing that relations between both countries should be based on trust, as tension in the region continues over China's new air defense zone over disputed islands with Japan (Reuters). Biden also met with Chinese citizens waiting to get visitor visas to the United States, and urged young students to challenge their government, teachers, and religious leaders (SCMP). Analysts say that China's establishment of control over airspace in the western Pacific is part of a larger effort to build the country into a maritime power (Bloomberg).


"Risking a conflict makes no sense for China. The mutual gains from rising trade and economic interdependence are orders of magnitude greater and, one would have thought, more persuasive than those from marginal territorial gains offshore. In the same way, no gain could justify the disaster of the first world war. Yet history, alas, also teaches us that frictions between status quo and revisionist powers may well lead to conflict, however ruinous the consequences," writes Martin Wolf in the Financial Times.

"Japan's air force and navy are too strong for China to attempt a similar grab of the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands anytime soon. But Hanoi, Manila, Taipei, and Tokyo all sense that, in the Scarborough Shoal, Beijing 'killed the chicken to scare the monkey,' as officials from those governments say. Most observers would agree that China has every intention of following the same strategy against Japan, just in slow motion. Although the smaller powers have remained quiet about the announcement of a new Chinese defense zone, most are privately urging Japan not to back down," writes Michael Green in Foreign Affairs.

"Biden needs to be reminded that Japan holds the key to peacefully solving the East China Sea dispute, because it is the Abe administration's recalcitrant denial of the existence of a dispute that has prevented Beijing and Tokyo from conducting meaningful communication and crisis control. From the very beginning, Beijing has demonstrated a consistent preference for shelving differences," China Daily writes in an editorial.


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Thai Protestors Embrace Controversial Leader

Former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban has taken the lead of street protests aimed at overthrowing Thailand's government. While he has won praise from some in the opposition movement, others say his past has included violence and corruption (France24).



Security Pact Delay Poses Risks for Afghanistan Support

A U.S. official warned that global support for Afghanistan will wane the longer President Hamid Karzai delays signing a security pact with the United States. Frustration has mounted in Washington and among NATO allies mounts over Karzai's refusal to sign the agreement (Reuters).

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

PAKISTAN: Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf, a political party, claimed success in staging protests that blocked a transit route out of Afghanistan via Pakistan and led to the suspension of U.S. military equipment shipments out of Afghanistan (Dawn).



U.S., Allies Reach Out to Syria's Islamist Rebels

The United States and its allies held direct talks with representatives of Syria's large Islamist rebel groups, a development that acknowledges the strength of religious fighters in the conflict and aims to create inroads with groups that are best equipped to confront al-Qaeda (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Syrian conflict and the global response to end the war.

LEBANON: Hassan al-Laqis, a senior commander with the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, was killed by gunmen in Beirut (WaPo). Iranian-backed Hezbollah blamed Israel for his death.

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of Hezbollah.



UN Mulls Measure to Send Forces to Central African Republic

France circulated a UN Security Council resolution that would authorize thousands of African troops, backed by hundreds of French soldiers, to restore order in the Central African Republic (NYT).

SOMALIA: Several African countries were ranked poorly in Transparency International's annual corruption index, with Somalia tying with Afghanistan and North Korea as the most corrupt nations according to the report (All Africa).



Vatican Refuses to Cooperate with UN Sex Abuse Probe

The Vatican refused to provide information requested by the United Nations on alleged sexual abuse of children by priests, nuns, or monks, and said the cases were the responsibility of the judicial systems of countries where the crimes were committed (BBC).

BELGIUM: Deutsche Bank, Societe Generale, Royal Bank of Scotland, and three other banks were fined $2.3 billion by the European Union for rigging interest rates linked to Libor (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Libor scandal.



Americans Wary Over U.S. Role in the World

A majority of Americans see the global influence of the United States in decline and agree that the U.S government should pay closer attention to domestic issues rather than expand its international presence, according to a Pew Research Center and CFR poll.

CFR's James Lindsay explains the poll's findings in this blog post.

PERU: After years of delay, Peru is conducting its biggest exhumation of victims of the 1980-2000 internal conflict with paramilitary group Shining Path, providing some answers to the families of the victims (AP).



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