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March 10, 2017

Daily News Brief

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South Korea's President Removed

Violent protests following a high court ruling that upheld the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye left at least two people dead in Seoul on Friday. Park supporters clashed with police outside the courthouse (Korea Times), where the eight justices of the Constitutional Court voted unanimously (FT) to uphold a December impeachment vote by legislators. The decision followed an influence-peddling scandal involving charges Park helped an associate secure bribes (WSJ) from South Korean companies, including Samsung. Park is now the first democratically elected leader to be stripped of her office in South Korea, which will hold new presidential elections within sixty days. Five executives at Samsung (NYT) were indicted Thursday on bribery charges related to the scandal.


"Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president and the daughter of the Cold War military dictator Park Chung-hee, had been an icon of the conservative establishment that joined Washington in pressing for a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear provocations. Now, her downfall is expected to shift South Korean politics to the opposition, whose leaders want more engagement with North Korea and are wary of a major confrontation in the region. They say they will re-examine the country’s joint strategy on North Korea with the United States and defuse tensions with China, which has sounded alarms about the growing American military footprint in Asia," Choe Sang-Hun writes for the New York Times.

"Millions of anti-Park voters will be hoping that the scandal acts as a catalyst for sweeping domestic reforms to rein in the political influence of the chaebol, South Korea’s family-run conglomerates. The acting head of Samsung is already on trial in connection with donations the firm made to Choi’s foundations, but there are mounting calls for other tycoons to face legal action," Justin McCurry writes for the Guardian.

"Despite the rising uncertainty that South Korea has to deal with, in the face of both its own domestic political crisis and the election of Donald Trump, the North Korean threat is becoming ever more dangerous and is a common challenge for both the United States and South Korea. Both countries also have to deal with an increasingly complex regional environment in Northeast Asia. Given the costs and stakes involved, no American president can afford to step away from the Korean Peninsula, and South Korea’s next president will inherit the same problems and constraints that the Park administration has faced in its efforts to solve what she termed the 'Asian Paradox'," write CFR's Scott A. Snyder and Sungtae (Jacky) Park.

Listen to the 'President's Inbox'

Listen to the 'President's Inbox'

In the latest episode of the President's Inbox, CFR's Robert McMahon and former Undersecretary of the U.S. Navy Janine Davidson examine civil-military relations in the new administration.



UN: Crimes Against Humanity Committed in Myanmar

The UN human rights envoy for Myanmar said "crimes against humanity" are being committed by security forces (BBC) against Rohingya Muslim minorities in the country. A spokesman for the party of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi called the charges "exaggerated."


U.S. Halts Interviews of Afghan Visa Applicants

Senator Jeanne Shaheen confirmed reports that the U.S. embassy in Kabul stopped scheduling interviews for applicants for special immigrant visas, saying the move sends a message to allies that "that the United States has abandoned them" (The Hill). Interviews for special immigrant visas (RFE/RL), which are meant for people who have worked with the U.S. government, were halted due to a cap on the number available, according to a refugee advocacy group.

This CFR Backgrounder explains how U.S. vetting of refugees works.

SRI LANKA: Lawyers for refugees who sheltered U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden in Hong Kong in 2014 petitioned the Canadian government to grant them and their families asylum (Montreal Gazette). The asylum seekers, from Sri Lanka and the Philippines, said that Sri Lankan police have pursued them (BBC) in Hong Kong and they fear deportation.


Putin, Netanyahu Discuss Syria in Moscow

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that Israel rejects any solution to the Syrian conflict (Haaretz) that would leave "Iran or its satellites" in the country, adding that Israel believes Iran is attempting to establish a naval base in the country.

IRAN: The commander of air forces for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps announced Iran recently tested a medium-range ballistic missile (WSJ) that hit a floating target 155 miles away. An earlier missile test on January 29 prompted the administration of U.S. President Donald J. Trump to impose new sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies.


Nigeria's Buhari Returns From Medical Leave

President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria after a nearly two-month absence (DW) during which he underwent medical treatment in the United Kingdom. Aides have not disclosed the reason for treatment, but quoted Buhari as saying he is "feeling much better now."

CFR's John Campbell explains why Nigerians are concerned with Buhari’s health.

SOUTH SUDAN: Japan will withdraw three hundred fifty servicemen (Japan Times) from a UN peacekeeping contingent in South Sudan. The deployment had been a controversial move in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role abroad (Reuters).

This CFR event discussed lessons from South Sudan on peacekeeping operations.


UN Accuses Turkey of Abuses in Southeast

The United Nations accused Turkish forces of serious human rights violations between July 2015 and December 2016 in the country's southeast, where two thousand people have been killed and up to half a million, mostly Kurds (Reuters), have been displaced. The period follows the breakdown of a cease-fire (BBC) between the government and the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

EU: Former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk won a second term as European Council president (Guardian), prompting protest from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.


U.S. Attorney General Supports Expanding Guantanamo

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would advise President Trump to send newly captured terror suspects to the military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, saying he sees "no legal problem whatsoever" (NYT) in doing so.

GUATEMALA: Human rights officials in Guatemala said they believe the thirty-five girls killed in a fire at a shelter Wednesday may have been locked inside (NYT) after escaping from the residence and were recaptured by police.