World News Brief, Thursday November 19

Impatient South Korea to pressure Obama on free trade and nukes; Guantanamo prison closure postponed; EU tells Russia of human rights concerns; Iraq elections in doubt after veto; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama Transitions from China to South Korea

US President Barack Obama arrived in South Korea Wednesday for talks focused on influencing North Korea to agree to discuss (Yonhap) nuclear disarmament and on US-South Korea bilateral trade. South Korean officials said the North Korean nuclear issue would be the most important on the agenda. Ahead of Obama's visit, North Korea's largest newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, commented that North Korea would "strike for the improvement of the inter-Korean relations in the future" after a skirmish between North and South Korean naval vessels last week.

So far, a preliminary trade deal between the United States and South Korea has been bogged down (WashPost) by US criticism that it does not open the South Korean market enough to US products such as cars. The deal, struck two years ago under President George W. Bush, has yet to be approved by legislatures in either country.

The Straits Times reports that South Korea is showing "signs of impatience" at US efforts to renegotiate parts of the free trade agreement. A spokesman for South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said earlier this month, "We hope President Obama will express a more aggressive position on the FTA and are working towards that end."


In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Chung Min Lee says President Obama needs to cultivate South Korea's ties with Japan and address the situation on the Korean peninsula, in order to shape Asia's rise.

In Foreign Affairs, Andrei Lankov says by exposing North Koreans to the truth about their impoverishment and about the prosperity of their South Korean cousins, the United States can encourage North Koreans to change the regime in Pyongyang.


A CFR Crisis Guide examines the dispute between North and South Korea.


PACIFIC RIM: Obama's China Visit

The Asia Times reports that President Obama avoided the subject of China's military buildup and deployment of new missiles during his visit to China, which could stoke concerns among US allies in Asia.



Iraq's vice president vetoes election law.
Obama says Guantanamo to close sometime next year.
EU and Russia seek improved ties.

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