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Daily Brief: China Announces Regular Patrols, Military Drills in South China Sea

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July 19, 2016

Daily News Brief

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China Announces Regular Patrols, Military Drills in South China Sea

China announced it began air patrols that would become a regular occurrence over disputed islands in the South China Sea. A spokesman said the People's Liberation Army Air Force sent H-6K bombers, fighter jets, and tankers to the South China Sea (Xinhua), a week after an international tribunal ruled that China had no legal basis to its vast maritime claims (NYT). China also announced it would carry out three days of military drills in waters near the South China Sea (Global Times). The announcements come as U.S. Adm. John M. Richardson is in Beijing to discuss the disputed territory and the tribunal's ruling. Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said he was approached by his Chinese counterpart about negotiating a response to the tribunal's decision (Phil Star) and that the two countries "might be headed for a confrontation" if the Philippines insisted on following the ruling.


"Beijing has staked its claims in several territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Broadly speaking, China’s 'nine dash line' (the shorthand reference to China’s self-drawn maritime map) envelops the bulk of these waters and overlaps the claims of Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan. There are further disputes in the East China Sea with Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. So why is the Philippines the only one to assert its claims under international law? The answer is simple: China is quite literally raising the costs of challenging Beijing," CFR's Jennifer M. Harris writes for the World Post.

"The South China Sea is a vital global artery that many depend on for their livelihoods. But it is home to disputes over land features and waters among multiple nations. Only under a reliable rules-based order can it remain open, free, safe, and prosperous. The tribunal's twenty-first-century vision of laws to bind strong and weak nations alike is a bulwark against Chinese efforts to pull this maritime region back into a nineteenth-century-style sphere of influence," Andrew S. Erickson says in this CFR interview.

"The international tribunal delivered a resounding verdict against Beijing, and in response, China might be less concerned with managing its reputation in the eyes of the world, and less troubled about being seen as an international lawbreaker," Katie Hunt and Tim Hume write for CNN. 


North Korea Fires Three Ballistic Missiles Into Sea

North Korea fired three ballistic missiles that flew between 310 and 370 miles before falling into the sea (Korea Times), according to U.S. and South Korean officials. The launch comes six days after South Korea announced where a joint U.S.-Korea anti-missile shield would be deployed (NYT).

This CFR Global Conflict tracker follows recent developments in the North Korea weapons crisis.


Bangladesh Court Charges Thirty-Eight Over 2013 Factory Collapse

A court in Bangladesh charged thirty-eight people with murder over the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in 2013 that killed 1,135 people (Reuters). If convicted the defendants could face the death penalty.

PAKISTAN: A special court in Pakistan ordered former President and Retired Gen. Pervez Musharraf's bank accounts frozen and property confiscated (Dawn). Musharraf is being tried for treason as well as charges related to his seizure of power in a 1999 coup and the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Musharraf 's defense said the former president is in poor health and abroad for treatment.


Report: Twenty-One Civilians Killed in U.S.-Led Air Strikes on Syrian Towns

Some fifteen civilians were killed in Manbij, controlled by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and six in the nearby village of Tokhar in air strikes by the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition (Al Jazeera), according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The monitoring group said 104 civilians have been killed since May 31 in coalition strikes on Manbij.

CFR's President Richard Haass writes about dissent among U.S. diplomats over the Obama administration's Syria policy in this Financial Times op-ed.  

IRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke (RFE/RL) with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone to praise him for restoring stability after a coup attempt.

Expert Kemal Kirisci says that the coup attempt in Turkey will likely bolster Erdogan's efforts to consolidate power in this CFR interview.


UN Chief: Global Gains Against HIV/AIDS 'Inadequate and Fragile'

Speaking at a global HIV/AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called for a "new era" (UN News Centre) of fast-track response, which seeks to increase the numbers of people who know their status and have access to treatment. Meanwhile, philanthropist Bill Gates, also speaking in South Africa, announced that his foundation would invest an additional $5 billion in Africa on health initiatives related to HIV and tuberculosis in the next five years (Africa News)


Erdogan: Death Penalty an Option for Coup Plotters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he did not rule out the death penalty as a punishment for those who plotted last week's coup attempt (Hurriyet). Instating the death penalty would imperil Turkish efforts to join the European Union, where capital punishment is banned (Al Jazeera). Turkey also formally requested the United States extradite Erodgan's onetime ally, the cleric Fetullah Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania, over charges of orchestrating the coup attempt (Anadolu).

CFR's Steven A. Cook writes about why this coup failed amongst Turkey's long history of successful coups in this op-ed.

UK: Lawmakers approved a renewal of the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons program in the first parliamentary vote (WSJ) since Theresa May became prime minister. May supported replacing the country's nuclear missile-armed submarines, saying it would be a "gross irresponsibility" to be unprepared against threats in the coming decades.


Four Terror-Linked Travelers Blocked From Brazil Ahead of Olympics

Four people linked to terrorism, whose identities were not publicized, were blocked from traveling to Brazil for the Summer Olympics in August, according to Brazilian security services, which said eleven thousand people have been denied permission to travel based on security grounds (Telegraph). Brazil also deported a French-Algerian physicist at a Rio university who had served a jail sentence in France for exchanging emails with an al-Qaeda affiliate (WSJ).

UNITED STATES: Public health experts are studying a case in which the Zika virus seems to have been transferred from a dying patient to a caretaker (BBC) in Utah. Zika is largely believed to be passed through mosquitoes or mother-to-child transmission in utero.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the spread of the Zika virus.

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