World News Brief, Friday December 14

Japan accuses China of violating its airspace; South Korean elections begin; Indian state of Gujarat holding key elections; Taliban could govern parts of Afghanistan under new peace deal; concerns for Hugo Chavez's health deepen; and more

Top of the Agenda: East China Sea Air Intrusion Raises Security Concerns

Japan accused China of violating its airspace for the first time after a Chinese government plane (BBC) flew near the long-disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, prompting Japan to scramble fighter jets and launch a formal complaint (JapanTimes). China's foreign ministry spokesman responded by saying the plane's flight was "completely normal," reaffirming China's sovereignty over the islands. The intensified row comes months after Japan bought three of the uninhabited islands from a private Japanese owner, and while patrol ships from both countries have been shadowing each other in the regional standoff, Thursday's incident—the first in which aircraft was used—raises concerns that the tension could escalate into a clash (Reuters).


"While some analysts say China's new Communist party leadership will probably be keen to ease tensions, Japan's general election on Sunday is likely to result in a rightward shift and a tougher tone to foreign policy. And many Japanese nationalists are outraged by the now frequent challenging by Chinese state vessels of Tokyo's control of the waters around the disputed islands, which Tokyo calls the Senkaku and Beijing the Diaoyu," writes Mure Dickie for the Financial Times.

"Washington has served notice that while it does not take a position on the ultimate sovereignty of the [islands], it supports Japan's absolute right to administer them. And, critically, if China attacked Japan, Washington would fulfill its obligations to Tokyo under the Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security. This is a warning China should heed," writes an editorial for the Australian.

"The status quo among China, Japan, and Korea is now shifting in troubling and perhaps irreparable ways. The Obama administration's 'pivot' to Asia is a welcome development after decades of inordinate attention given to Europe and the Middle East. But the pivot has also strained U.S.-China relations as the new leadership in Beijing sees Obama's policies as an effort to contain China's rise," writes Victor Cha for Foreign Policy.



South Korean Elections Begin in Wake of Rocket Launch

Absentee voting for South Korea's presidential election kicked off Thursday (Yonhap), a day after North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket in spite of strong international warnings. The election, which ends Friday, will see national security take center stage as competing camps used the rocket issue to sway voters.

CFR's Scott Snyder assesses the impact of North Korea's rocket launch in this blog post.


Gujarat Votes

The western Indian state of Gujarat is holding key elections (HindustanTimes) that are seen as a referendum on the popularity of Narendra Modi, a prominent Hindu nationalist, who is seeking reelection and has been tipped as a potential future prime minister.

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban could govern parts of Afghanistan's south and east, with insurgents being drafted into the cabinet, under a new peace deal (McClatchy) that emerged on the eve of talks in Turkey.


Concerns for Hugo Chavez's health deepen

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