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Daily Brief: North Korea Conducts Fifth Nuclear Test

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September 9, 2016

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

North Korea Conducts Fifth Nuclear Test

Pyongyang confirmed a successful nuclear warhead test (WSJ) on Friday—its fifth and largest test to date. The test marks North Korea's second of the year and drew widespread international condemnation, including from its neighbor and ally China. China said (Reuters) it would lodge a diplomatic protest, South Korean President Park Geun-hye accused (FT) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un of "maniacal recklessness," and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described North Korea's nuclear program as a "grave threat" (Japan Times). The underground blast coincided with the sixty-eighth anniversary (NYT) of the North Korean government's founding. 

ANALYSIS

"International sanctions imposed through the United Nations, as well as direct sanctions from the United States, South Korea and Japan, have been designed to cut off North Korea's ability to buy parts for its nuclear and missile programs, as well as stanch financial flows. But the steady rat-a-tat of missile tests suggests that North Korea has plenty of missile parts to play with," writes Anna Fifield for the Washington Post.

"Its flurry of demonstrations of military might this year may reflect a greater sense of urgency to prove it can make good on Kim Jong Un's vow to build ever better nukes while also keeping its economy afloat despite all of the pressure, isolation and international sanctions that policy generates. There are indications it is, in reality, making progress on both fronts," writes Eric Talmadge for the Associated Press.

"Two major deals to dismantle the nuclear weapons program—in 1994 and 2005—collapsed amid mutual accusations of duplicity between Pyongyang and Washington. Now, in China's view, it is too late to denuclearize North Korea. What Kim Jong-un wants is international recognition as a nuclear power. Eventually the US will have to give it to him," writes Andrew Nathan in the New York Review of Books.

PACIFIC RIM

Security Tops Agenda as Malaysian PM Visits Thailand

Cooperation (Bangkok Post) on border security, counterterrorism, and cracking down on human trafficking at sea will top the agenda in talks between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok on Friday.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Hostage Rescue Fails in Afghanistan

U.S. military forces attempted to rescue (NYT) two civilians being held by the Taliban last month, according to the Pentagon, but missed them by hours. The U.S. and Australian educators were kidnapped in Kabul in August. Separately, Pakistan extended (Express Tribune) the stay of Afghan refugees until March 2017; Pakistan hosts around three million Afghan refugees.

UZBEKISTAN: Parliament appointed (RFE/RL) long-time Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyaev to serve as interim president following the death of leader Islam Karimov. A presidential election is slated for December.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Kerry, Lavrov Meet on Syria in Geneva

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov are meeting in Geneva for cease-fire talks (WSJ) to end the conflict in Syria. Diplomatic efforts have thus far failed to clinch a deal. Separately, air strikes near Aleppo killed (BBC) a top commander of militant group known as Jabhat-al-Nusra, the former al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

This CFR Interactive explores the evolution and extent of the more than five-year conflict in Syria.

LIBYA: The final batch of Libyan chemical weapons (AFP) arrived in Germany on Thursday and will be prepared for destruction, according to the UN-backed Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

UN Monitors: South Sudan Acquires Weapons

South Sudanese government troops have purchased weapons (Reuters), including two fighter jets and small arms ammunition, while opposition forces have received no significant arms deliveries, according to a confidential UN report seen by Reuters. The conflict in South Sudan is fueled by political rivalry between President Salva Kiir and opposition leader and former Vice President Riek Machar.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker provides background and analysis into the tensions in South Sudan.

GABON: Opposition leader Jean Ping lodged a challenge (Al Jazeera) to presidential elections results with the country's constitutional court. Last week's results showed incumbent Ali Bongo winning by a narrow margin, prompting violent protests in the capital Libreville.

EUROPE

Turkey Suspends Thousands of Teachers

Turkish authorities suspended (CNN) more than eleven thousand teachers across the country over alleged ties to a "separatist terrorist organization," a designation that usually refers to the Kurdistan Worker's Party, also known as the PKK. Turkish air strikes targeted (Hurriyet) PKK positions earlier this week in a province along the Turkey-Syrian border, killing twelve militants.

EU: European Central Bank President Mario Draghi projected (AFP) that the eurozone economy is expected to grow by 1.7 percent in 2016. Growth forecasts for 2017 and 2018 were lowered to 1.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, amid "uncertainties" over Brexit.  

AMERICAS

U.S. Names First Cyber Security Chief

The White House appointed Retired Air Force Brigadier General Gregory Touhill as the first U.S. federal cyber security chief (Fortune). Touhill will be responsible for protecting government networks and infrastructure from cyber threats.

This CFR Global Governance Monitor explores the Internet policy challenges.

VENEZUELA: Venezuela's Margarita island will host (Bloomberg) the seventeenth summit of the Non-Aligned Movement September 13-18, a gathering of about one hundred and twenty developing countries. The summit will open as President Nicolas Maduro faces a domestic political crisis.

 
 
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