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Daily Brief: Pentagon Accuses China of Unsafe Jet Interception in South China Sea

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May 19, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Pentagon Accuses China of Unsafe Jet Interception in South China Sea

Two jets from China carried out what the Pentagon called an "unsafe" interception of a U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft flying over the South China Sea (Reuters). The Pentagon said the incident took place during a routine patrol in international airspace. China's foreign ministry spokesman denied the accusation and said its aircraft maintained a "safe distance" during the interception (WSJ). The encounter comes shortly after a U.S. Navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the sea (NYT), where China has created artificial islands for port and military facilities and an airstrip. A column in China's state-run Xinhua news service said the acts "carried out in the name of either 'routine patrols' or 'freedom of navigation,' are nothing but blatant provocations against China's maritime security interests" (Xinhua).


"The military buildup in Asia is real. But it risks obscuring an inconvenient fact for U.S. foreign policy: the contest for leadership in Asia is being waged in primarily economic terms. And this contrast so vividly rendered last week in Washington — the world’s second most sophisticated military alliance system on the one hand (behind only NATO), and no meaningful counterpart when it comes to advancing the economic aspects of our common foreign policy objectives — is precisely why Beijing has taken to economic tactics as a first resort. Of course China’s military tactics are in full evidence, too. But Beijing’s largest victories in its maritime disputes have been silent triumphs — mostly in the form of self-censoring on the part of countries in Southeast Asia," writes CFR's Jennifer M. Harris for the Huffington Post.

"Fiery Cross Reef, now a 700-acre island where once just a couple of low-lying rocks were lapped by the tides, is the subject of an arbitration case filed by the Philippines at a United Nations tribunal in The Hague. A ruling is expected in the coming weeks, and there is wide expectation that the panel will decide that China’s construction in the last 18 months on Fiery Cross Reef and other islands in the Spratly archipelago contravenes international law. Before the ruling, China is making various military and diplomatic moves to show that it is standing firm on its claims to seven disputed islands in the Spratlys, about 500 miles from China and less than 150 miles from the Philippines," write Jane Perlez and Yufan Huang for the New York Times.

"It is common sense that all countries enjoy the right to self-preservation and self-defence under international law. It is therefore perfectly normal that China has some self-defence facilities on its stationed islands and reefs. Other countries have long maintained a large number of military facilities on the islands and reefs around us. We need necessary means and capabilities to defend ourselves, but this has nothing to do with militarisation," says Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in an interview with Al Jazeera. 


Philippines President-Elect Affirms Alliance With U.S. on South China Sea

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said in an interview that he told U.S. President Barack Obama he remains allied (Straits Times) with the United States amid ongoing disputes over maritime rights in the South China Sea, but will consider bilateral negotiations with Beijing if multilateral processes are unsuccessful. The leaders spoke on Tuesday when Obama called Duterte to congratulate him on his election win (Philippine Star).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick writes about expectations for Duterte's foreign policy in this article for the Diplomat.


State Election Results in India Show New BJP Support

Election results in five Indian states were announced on Thursday (TOI), showing new support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party outside its traditional power base in northern India as the party led in the northeastern state of Assam (Hindustan Times). The main opposition party Congress was expected to lose in all states (BBC).

CFR's Alyssa Ayres discusses how the United States and India can work together on shared interests in this interview.

AFGHANISTAN: The Afghan government signed a draft amnesty accord with the militant group Hezb-e-Islami, whose leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is on the U.S. designated terrorist list (Reuters). Meanwhile, eight Afghan policemen were killed by a colleague opening fire on them in Afghanistan's southern Zabul province (AP).


EgyptAir Flight From Paris to Cairo Confirmed to Have Crashed

France's President Francois Hollande said in a televised address that a missing EgyptAir flight en route to Cairo from Paris had crashed (Al Jazeera). Some fifty-six passengers and ten crew members were on the flight.  

LEBANON: The Lebanese central bank said it would apply a U.S. law, passed in December, that threatens anyone who finances the militant group Hezbollah with sanctions and account closures (Al Jazeera). Also in Lebanon a judge sentenced 106 men to death over attacks in the town of Arsal near the border with Syria two years ago (Middle East Eye)


Freed Chibok Hostage to Meet With Nigerian President

A young woman who was among the 276 schoolgirls abducted by militants from Boko Haram in 2014 was freed on Tuesday and expected to meet President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday (This Day). The hostage was recognized by a vigilante group in the Sambisa forest (BBC).  

MALI: Five UN peacekeepers from Chad were killed in Mali when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device and they came under fire from gunmen (Reuters).


Reprieve for Spain and Portugal Over EU Fiscal Rules

Portugal and Spain were given an extra year by the EU Commission to fix their budgets in line with EU rules (FT). The EU postponed a decision on whether to fine the two governments for missing fiscal targets, which would have been the first such fine on a eurozone country.  

AUSTRIA: Norbert Hofer of Austria's far-right Freedom Party will face the Green Party's Alexander Van der Bellen in the presidential runoff election Sunday (FT). Hofer's win would represent the first time a European country democratically elects a far-right head of state since the defeat of Nazism (NYT).


6.8-Magnitude Earthquake Off Ecuador Coast

One person was killed and dozens injured after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck off Ecuador's northern coast. An April 7.8-magnitude earthquake off Ecuador's northern coast left 661 people dead and more than 28,000 homeless (LAHT).   

BRAZIL: Petrobras, the world's most indebted oil company, raised $6.75 billion in bond sales (WSJ)


Survey: Majority of People Support Helping Refugees

A survey of 27,000 people in twenty-seven countries by the human rights organization Amnesty International found that 70 percent of respondents said that governments should do more to welcome refugees, and 80 percent would accept refugees in their vicinities (Guardian)


Report: One in Five People Living in the U.S. Was Born Elsewhere

The United States has more immigrants than any other country in the world, according to data from the United Nations analyzed by the Pew Research Center. As of 2015, about 47 million people living in the United States, or about 19 percent of the total population, were born in other countries.

Track and compare candidates’ positions on immigration and other foreign policy issues with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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