Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP PACOM News Update – April 2012

NOTE: This is an excerpt. Click here to see the news update in its entirety.

The PACOM update includes news coverage from Pakistan to the Pacific Islands. As with all LDESP news briefs, the information contained within the PACOM update is to increase situational awareness. The PACOM update focuses on issues concerning South Asia, South East Asia, North East Asia, China, Australia, and the Pacific Islands, including articles central to transpacific security and stability, as well as political and economic issues that may impact the region and U.S national interests in the region.

Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries, and featured topics do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

Southeast Asian leaders met 27 March for an annual summit set to be dominated by Myanmar’s historic reforms, North Korea’s planned rocket launch and strategic maritime disputes with China. Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened in the Cambodian capital two days after by-elections in Myanmar saw pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi win her first seat in parliament. Election monitors from Cambodia, which holds the ASEAN chair, have declared 25 March’s vote free and fair, and urged the West to lift sanctions imposed over the Myanmar military’s long record of rights abuses. ASEAN foreign ministers applauded the “orderly” conduct of the polls during talks in Phnom Penh on 26 March, setting the stage for a strong endorsement from the bloc’s leaders at the conclusion on 28 March of the two-day summit. ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said the vote should contribute to the “reintegration of Myanmar into the global community”. (…) Myanmar’s human rights abuses and iron-fisted suppression of political dissent have often hijacked ASEAN gatherings in the past, much to the embarrassment of more democratic member-states. (…) At the last ASEAN summit in November, Myanmar was rewarded for its efforts by being promised the bloc’s chairmanship in 2014. It is also eager to win greater foreign investment with the prospect of sanctions being lifted. ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — a grouping of nearly 600 million people from disparate economic and political systems. The bloc has often been dismissed as a talking shop but it has assumed new strategic importance in light of Washington’s foreign policy “pivot” to Asia and the economic rise of China in recent years. (Agence France-Presse)
The leaders of South Korea, the United States and China issued stark warnings on 27 March about the threat of nuclear terrorism during the final day of a nuclear summit that has so far been upstaged by North Korea’s long-range rocket launch plans. Nearly 60 leaders have gathered for the two-day conference meant to find ways to keep terrorists from detonating an atomic weapon in a major city. The leaders were to release a communique on 27 March about their efforts to lock down the world’s supply of nuclear material by 2014. Much of the drama, however, has centered on North Korea’s stated plans to launch a satellite on a long-range rocket around the 15 April celebration of the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. (…) Although North Korea wasn’t mentioned in opening summit comments on 27 March by China, the U.S. and South Korea, the launch was still a major point of discussion in leaders’ meetings on the sidelines. Lee and Italian Premier Mario Monti met on 27 March and urged North Korea to cancel its launch plans, Lee’s office said. Lee told Monti that North Korea would immediately receive aid from the South if it opens up like Vietnam and China have done, his office said. In his opening comments, Chinese President Hu Jintao called for leaders to “commit to eliminating nuclear proliferation and the roots of nuclear terrorism.” Obama urged leaders to secure nuclear material to prevent terrorists from killing hundreds of thousands of people. (The Christian Science Monitor)

North Korea on 11 April further burnished the credentials of Kim Jong Eun, awarding him several new titles and all but finalizing the ascension of the young and untested leader. Kim was named first secretary of the Workers’ Party, a newly created position, the country’s state-run media said. He was also made a standing member of the Politburo and elevated from vice chairman to chairman of the Central Military Commission, according to the Associated Press, citing Pyongyang’s state media. The moves came as the reclusive communist country held a rare Workers’ Party meeting to begin a pivotal week in which it plans to celebrate the birth of its founder and launch a rocket in defiance of the West. The North also named Kim’s father, the late leader Kim Jong Il, the “eternal” general secretary of the party, a reflection of “the unanimous will and desire of all the party members and other people,” state-controlled media reported. The new titles for the younger Kim accelerate a speedy and apparently stable power transfer; the first secretary position formally puts him atop the Workers’ Party, in a role comparable to that of his father. Kim, thought to be in his late 20s, inherited the leadership of the impoverished country after his father’s death in December. He has quickly assumed his father’s public profile — a contrast to the ascension of the Dear Leader himself, who stayed in the background for several years after the 1994 death of his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of the dictatorship. (The Washington Post)

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