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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 5, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Biden Talks Air Zone, North Korea With Xi

U.S. vice president Joe Biden said China's new air defense identification zone over the East China Sea caused "significant" unease in the region, and stated Washington's objection to the zone in talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Wednesday, which lasted roughly five hours (Reuters). Biden, who arrived in South Korea on Thursday, also discussed North Korea with Xi and ways to create conditions for "fruitful" talks about Pyongyang's nuclear program. The appeal of the diplomatic process has been enhanced after the interim deal with Iran was reached last month in Geneva (BBC).


"Like it or not, China has set up a new 'rule of game' in the East China Sea. China will no longer allow others to unilaterally establish international rules, especially those concerning its neighbors and itself. China will not blindly obey to the rules not agreed upon by China as it now has the desire and capability to guarantee the regional security. This is a fact other countries should learn to accept. As a member of the international community, China should not be excluded from the formulation of international rules," writes Ma Jun, a research fellow at the PLA Academy of Military Science.

"Beijing would like to isolate Japan in Asia, scaring off other nations with warnings about its second world war revisionism. But such a move would end up engineering strong regional support for Japan. Even South Korea, the one country that shares Beijing's reservations of the Japanese government, has been outraged by the Chinese air zone," writes Geoff Dyer in the Financial Times.

"Japan erred last year when it bought the islands from a private landowner—nationalizing them—despite strong warnings from both China and America. Likewise, the Obama administration was wrong to say explicitly that it would back Japan in any war over the islands. Really? We're ready to fight over uninhabited rocks when we don't even take a position on their ownership? If Washington's intention was to get Beijing to back off, this was counterproductive. The move just inflamed Chinese opinion," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.


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Thailand Instability Saps Confidence in the Economy

Thailand's economy has attracted foreign investors despite decades of large protests and coups, but the latest effort to topple the sitting government has soured the outlook on the economy as neighboring markets such as Myanmar, the Philippines, and Indonesia are currently politically stable and growing (Bloomberg).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains why Thailand's democracy is fragile in this BloombergBusinessweek article.



India Continues to Oppose WTO Deal

India refused to back down from its opposition to a proposed global trade deal at World Trade Organization talks in Bali, making it increasingly unlikely that the WTO can reach a multilateral agreement twelve years after the Doha Round (WSJ).

CFR's new progress report and scorecard on U.S. trade and investment policy focuses on shifts in global trade and foreign direct investment in the United States.

PAKISTAN: A Pakistani who works for the CIA explains why he is helping the Americans, his views on civilians killed in drone strikes, and his fear of the Taliban in this interview with Der Spiegel.



Dozens Killed in Yemen Bombing

At least twenty people have been killed and dozens were wounded after a car bomb hit the heavily guarded Defense Ministry in Sana, Yemen's capital, and attackers on foot opened fire on the complex. No group has claimed responsibility, but analysts say the attack shows the hallmarks of al-Qaeda (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

SYRIA: Poor security on roads linking Syria's cities to the coast are complicating plans to remove dangerous chemical agents from the country (AP), according to the head of the mission tasked with the operation.

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



Several Dead in Gun Battles in Central African Republic

Several people were killed in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, as heavy and small arms gunfire rang out in the city just hours before France said it would deploy 1,200 troops to restore order in CAR and support an expected force of 3,600 from African countries (al-Jazeera).

ERITREA: A new report said that thousands of Eritreans have been abducted since 2009 and taken to Egypt's Sinai to suffer torture and ransom demands, with Eritrean and Sudanese security officers helping the kidnap gangs (All Africa).



Former Ukraine Presidents Back Pro-EU Protests

Leonid Kravchuk, Leonid Kuchma, and Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's three former presidents, said they support the peaceful actions of Ukrainians who are protesting against the decision to suspend talks with the EU, and condemn the "excessive" force used by police (RFE/RL).

UNITED KINGDOM: Britain wants to alter rules governing the free movement of people across the EU, ahead of plans to lift movement controls on Romanians and Bulgarians. Britain's Home Secretary said free access to labor markets shouldn't lead to "mass migration" (BBC).



NSA Tracks Million of Cellphone Locations Worldwide

The U.S. National Security Agency is gathering nearly five billion records a day on the locations of millions of cellphones around the world, a program that allows the agency to track movements and map relationships between people on a previously unimaginable scale (WaPo).

ECUADOR: After defaulting on a $3.2 billion debt in 2008, Ecuador has come to rely heavily on Chinese financing, giving Beijing the right to claim as much as 90 percent of Ecuador's oil shipments, a near monopoly on the exports of an OPEC nation (Reuters).



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