World News Brief, Thursday December 13

North Korea launches rocket, angering international community; Xi Jingping calls for reform of Communist Party; US formally recognises Syrian opposition; Mali appoints interim prime minister; and more

Top of the Agenda: North Korean Rocket Rattles International Community

Despite international warnings, North Korea successfully launched a long-range rocket (Yonhap) in a move that South Korea, the United States, and Japan have condemned as a disguised test of long-range missile technology in violation of a 2009 UN resolution banning Pyongyang from ballistic missile tests. North Korea said a weather satellite had been placed in orbit, and the United States condemned the launch as "highly provocative" while Japan called for an emergency Security Council meeting (JapanTimes), although further tough sanctions could be difficult to obtain as China, the North's only major ally, is expected to oppose them.


"A North Korean satellite test may provide a basis for strengthened Japan-South Korea cooperation despite deepening differences over history and territorial issues. Further North Korean provocations may yet diminish strategic mistrust between the United States and China," writes CFR's Scott Snyder.

"[Because] the North Korean regime is inherently unstable and is suspected of already having a nuclear device, the West's options for responding to Pyongyang's provocative acts — the latest missile passed over the Japanese island of Okinawa before falling into the waters off the Philippines — remain limited. This is very worrying given that the North Koreans have a long history of sharing their nuclear and missile technology with Iran," writes Con Coughlin for the Telegraph.

"Crucially, too, this is the first time that North Korea's claims of success have been backed by key international observers. But the technical success of the launch is about the only thing that Pyongyang and Washington agree on. The US and its allies allege that North Korea's satellite launches are in fact cover for a long-range missile program, designed to develop weapons that could strike the US," writes Lucy Williamson for the BBC.



Xi Jinping Emphasizes Reform

Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping made a string of high-profile calls for further reform (SCMP) during a five-day tour of Guangdong province, returning to Beijing yesterday after his first inspection trip since becoming the party's new chief last month.

CFR's Yanzhong Huang talks about China's leadership transition in this blog post.


US formally recognises Syrian opposition

Mali appoints interim PM

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