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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 27, 2012

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: World Leaders Vow to Confront Nuclear Threats

Fifty-three world leaders pledged to jointly combat the global nuclear terrorism threat at the end of a two-day nuclear summit in Seoul, South Korea. The leaders vowed to pursue nuclear disarmament and combat nuclear proliferation, while supporting "peaceful uses of nuclear energy" (al-Jazeera). Concerns over a planned North Korean rocket launch for next month dominated the summit, prompting international condemnation. U.S. President Barack Obama, who called for a "world without nuclear weapons," met with Russian and Chinese leaders to discuss Iran's nuclear program, which the West contends is for manufacturing weapons.


"Since his Prague speech on nuclear disarmament in 2009, [Obama] has shifted attitudes both in the United States and internationally, changing the context in which these issues are debated. He moved things further on in South Korea by stating more forthrightly than he has in the past that the United States has more nuclear weapons than it needs," says this Guardian editorial.

"On the one hand, states such as Iran and North Korea must not develop nuclear arsenals. On the other hand, the established nuclear powers--such as the U.S., Russia and China--must make deep cuts in stockpiles. Only by making such cuts can they retain the moral right to demand that others refrain from building nuclear bombs," says this Financial Times editorial.

"Some of the warnings about nuclear terrorism in the wake of 9/11 were overdone; a lot of the claims that we would face a fifty-fifty chance of an attack were rhetorical flourishes at best, and there are a lot of reasons to believe that pulling off a nuclear attack is more difficult and less attractive than a lot of people thought. But that doesn't mean that it isn't a real risk," says CFR's Michael A. Levi in this CFR Interview.



North Korea Confirms Satellite Launch

North Korea confirmed Tuesday it will move ahead with a planned satellite launch for next month, despite a U.S. threat to revoke food aid (NYT). North Korea insisted its satellite launch would be for "peaceful purposes," while calling U.S. President Barack Obama "confrontational."

This CFR Crisis Guide provides an interactive overview of the dispute between North and South Korea.



Pakistan's Gilani Meets With Obama

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and U.S. President Barack Obama met on the sidelines of the Seoul nuclear summit, the highest-level meeting between the two countries since U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year. Obama called for a "balanced approach" to U.S.-Pakistani relations (CNN).

AFGHANISTAN: U.S. support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped (CBS) significantly, with only 23 percent of Americans in support of the U.S. strategy there, a CBS News-New York Times poll shows.

This CFR Timeline examines the events that precipitated the U.S. war in Afghanistan as well as the history of the war.



Annan Courts China Over Syria Peace Plan

The joint UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, is in China to garner support for his peace plan to end ongoing violence in Syria. The visit came as Syrian security forces continued to shell the central city of Homs (al-Jazeera), which emerged as an opposition stronghold over the past year.

Middle East expert Joshua Landis discusses the fault lines in the Syria uprising in this CFR Interview.

ISRAEL: The government suspended ties with the UN Human Rights Council (BBC) after it launched an investigation over Israeli settlements in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank.



Sudan Suspends Summit With South

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir cancelled an upcoming summit with his South Sudanese counterpart, Salva Kiir, following deadly clashes between ground troops along the countries' shared border. Sudan reportedly launched air strikes targeting the South's oil fields today (AFP).

MALI: The U.S. suspended military aid to Mali (M&G) yesterday, days after mutinous soldiers launched a coup that forced President Amadou Touré from power. Touré was considered a stalwart U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.



Merkel Supports Limited Boost to Bailout Funds

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would support increasing the capacity of the eurozone's bailout mechanism (WSJ) to around €700 billion, or $929 billion, short of the combined €1 trillion fund supported by the European Commission.

The eurozone is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

FRANCE: Former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was forced to resign in the wake of a sex scandal in New York last year, was put under formal investigation for his alleged involvement with a prostitution ring in Lille (Telegraph).



Obama Addresses Missile Defense Impasse With Russia

U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday that the United States and Russia would not be able to resolve an impasse over a planned U.S missile defense system (NYT) in Europe during the U.S. presidential election season. The announcement came a day after Obama asked outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to give him "space" over the issue.

CUBA: Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Santiago (AP) yesterday, where he was greeted by Cuban President Raul Castro in the first papal visit to the country since 1998. Benedict, who travels to Havana today, said he supported the "legitimate desires of all Cubans."

Under President Raul Castro, Cuba has begun economic and political reforms while bolstering ties with the Vatican, explains CFR's Julia E. Sweig in this CFR Interview.


Campaign 2012

U.S. Voters Still Support Nuclear Power

Amid a barrage of election-year talk about domestic energy resources and one year after the failure of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, a majority of U.S. voters continue to favor nuclear energy, according to a Gallup poll. At a university in South Korea Monday, President Barack Obama touted the resurgence of the U.S. nuclear energy industry as part of his plan to develop alternative energy sources.

As the U. S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Affordable Health Care Act this week, voters are split on their opinion of the law, according to a Pew Research poll. GOP candidate Mitt Romney criticized the law for what he says is part of a pattern of over-regulation (WashPo) by the federal government that hurts business and jobs.

Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.



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