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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 1, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Japan Eases Military Restrictions

The Japanese cabinet on Monday approved a doctrine that will allow Tokyo to aid allies under attack, reinterpreting decades-old pacifist provisions of the constitution. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe argued that the move will act as a deterrent that lessens the risk of war amid escalating regional rivalries, but the revision faces widespread opposition from the public, which protested in Tokyo and around Japan (Asahi Shimbun). The doctrine has drawn suspicion from China and South Korea, a U.S. ally that nevertheless views Japan with wariness (Korea Times). Meanwhile, Chinese vessels are taking part for the first time in Rim of the Pacific exercises off Hawaii, while the U.S. and Philippine navies are staging combat exercises near waters contested by China (WSJ).


"In seeking to change the nation's basic postwar defense posture, the prime minister has bypassed the process of amending the Constitution through a constitutionally prescribed procedure, which requires majority approval in a public referendum following Diet concurrence by two-thirds or more of the lawmakers in each chamber, and is trying to reinterpret the Constitution with a single decision of his Cabinet. The latest Kyodo News poll shows that 55.4 percent of the people polled oppose Japan's engaging in collective self-defense, and 57.7 percent oppose Abe's bid to achieve that by changing the government's interpretation of the Constitution," write the Japan Times in an editorial.

"Many commentators argue that the United States must enhance deterrence by making clearer and stronger commitments to its allies. But the United States will not solve its problems in East Asia by declaring itself in lockstep with its allies. For guidance, U.S. policymakers should instead look to a previous case that the United States managed successfully: West Berlin during the Cold War," writes Jennifer Lind in Foreign Affairs.

"What does seem clear is that China's traditional emphasis on economic growth is now increasingly accompanied by more nationalistic postures on political and security issues. That, in turn, is leading to an increase in tensions with China's neighbours and with the US. You can call that the 'return of geopolitics,' or you can call it the rise of a 'zero-sum world.' But whatever the terminology, it looks like a dangerous trend that is gathering momentum," writes Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times.



Hong Kong Demonstrators Rally for Democratic Reforms

Tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to Hong Kong's streets demanding greater democracy for the semiautonomous Chinese territory (SCMP). The annual march follows an unofficial referendum on making the city's choice of chief executive more democratic—which Beijing denounced as illegal—as well as the release of a white paper in which the central government asserted its authority (NYT).

CHINA: The military rallied behind President Xi Jinping's graft crackdown after a top military leader, General Xu Caihou, was forced out of the Communist Party and awaits a court martial (SCMP).

This Backgrounder explains how China's Communist Party perceives widespread corruption as a threat to its rule.



Pakistan Begins Assault on Militant Strongholds

Pakistan's tribal-belt ground offensive on Monday expanded to the North Waziristan town of Miram Shah, long home to Pakistani Taliban and foreign fighters (NYT). The military insisted that the operation is being carried out solely by Pakistani forces, denying links to U.S. drone strikes (Dawn).



Israel Vows Retribution After Teen Bodies Found

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed retribution against Hamas after the bodies of three teenagers abducted in the West Bank were found. Israeli forces demolished the homes of two Hamas-affiliated suspects in Hebron, and pummeled the Gaza Strip with thirty-four airstrikes overnight (NYT). A cabinet meeting closed Monday evening as ministers disagreed on Israel's response (Haaretz).

CFR's Robert M. Danin dissects the choices now facing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas.

IRAQ: The Iraqi parliament ended its first session since April elections without progress in choosing the country's new leadership after Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers left, depriving the body of a quorum (AP).

An unclear mission may lead the United States to incrementally deepening intervention on behalf of an unpopular government, cautions CFR's Micah Zenko.



Blast Follows Arrest of Alleged Nigerian Abductor

A car bomb exploded in a market in the northeastern city of Maiduguri on Tuesday morning, killing dozens, witnesses said (AP). The blast follows the arrest of businessman Babuji Ya'ari (Vanguard), whom the military described as a Boko Haram kingpin responsible for the April abduction of Chibok schoolgirls.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Many U.S. firms missed a June deadline to source the origins of industrial metals whose mining finances rebel groups (Reuters), but the law has driven some companies to change their practices, activists said.



Ukraine Launches Assault After Suspending Ceasefire

Ukrainian forces launched a full-scale military assault against armed separatists (Kyiv Post) in the country's east on Tuesday after President Petro Poroshenko suspended a ten-day ceasefire that failed to yield a peace deal (WaPo).

FRANCE: The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday upheld a French ban on the wearing of the full-face veil, the niqab, in public, ruling that the law is not discriminatory (France24).



France's Largest Bank Pleads Guilty on Sanctions Charges

BNP Paribas on Monday pleaded guilty on criminal charges that it conducted transactions on behalf of Sudan, Iran, and Cuba in violation of U.S. sanctions (FT), and was fined a record $8.97 billion. The United States is investigating other European banks for dealing with blacklisted countries (Bloomberg).

MEXICO: A firefight between the army and suspected drug traffickers on Monday left twenty-two people dead. The federal government has dispatched troops to the region to insulate the capital from violence elsewhere in the country (LAT).



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