Rebels and loyalists still in heavy fighting across Tripoli and in Qaddafi's hometown; US seeks to unfreeze Libyan assets (+ analysis); North Korea and Russia to build gas pipeline; Pentagon says Chinese military growth "potentially destabilising"; Japan intervenes in yen's rise; Nationwide strike in Chile and more
Top of the Agenda: Libyan Rebels Target Remaining Strongholds
Libyan rebels intensified their push to secure the last of Muammar al-Qaddafi's strongholds (WashPost) in the capital of Tripoli and around the country, including his hometown of Sirte. Despite backing by NATO warplanes, forces have continued to meet resistance by pro-Qaddafi troops. The National Transitional Council (NTC) said that the rebels are stalled at an oil refinery in Ras Lanuf, 131 miles west of Sirte. Some reports indicate that British and French operatives are also working with the rebels to secure the eastern front (AFP).
While rebel reinforcements have streamed into Tripoli, there is still heavy fighting in certain areas and concern that Qaddafi loyalists will continue to carry out attacks (al-Jazeera). Qaddafi's whereabouts are unknown, but the British defense minister said that NATO "is providing intelligence and reconnaissance assets to the NTC to help them track down Colonel Qaddafi and other remnants of the regime."
At the UN Security Council on Wednesday, the United States requested that $1.5 billion in Libyan assets be unfrozen for humanitarian needs (WSJ), largely to be administered by NTC. The United States has frozen some $37 billion in Libyan finances.
In the Financial Times, Anne-Marie Slaughter writes that the outcome in Libya proved skeptics wrong, showing that the West can make wise foreign policy choices and support revolutions that "fight for the values we espouse and proclaim."
Anthony Shadid writes in the New York Times that even though Libya's revolution is inspiring, the rebels' "leadership is fractured and opaque; the intensions and influence of Islamists in their ranks are uncertain; Qaddafi remains at large; and foreigners have been involved in the kind of intervention that has long been toxic to the Arab world."
Public disorder and instability in Libya could emerge after the Qaddafi regime falls. The United States should support a stabilization effort to prevent the potential consequences of regime failure, argues Johns Hopkins' Daniel Serwer in this CFR Contingency Planning Memo.
Libya, Syria, and Egypt headline the latest "Arab Awakening" developments. This CFR Issue Guide offers expert insight into the causes and consequences of the region's upheaval.
Pentagon's Report on China's Military Buildup
In its annual report on China's defense capabilities (NYT), the Pentagon said China "is steadily closing the technological gap with modern armed forces," and a top Defense official warned that China's military buildup is "potentially destabilizing" in the Pacific. The report drew protest from China (Xinhua), as it does each year.
The full text of the Pentagon's report is available here.
JAPAN: Japan is to provide up to $100 billion from its foreign exchange reserves to support overseas investments and exports in an unprecedented bid to stem the yen's rapid rise against the dollar (FT).
North Korea & Russia agree gas pipeline deal
Union leaders launch nationwide strike in Chile
Hunger striker Hazare rejects India PM's pleas