World News Brief, Tuesday November 20

Obama in Cambodia after historic Burma visit; tensions over South China Sea territorial dispute escalate at ASEAN summit; South Korea to clarify stance on Middle East issues after being elected to UN Security Council; more civilians die in Gaza; Colombia and Cuba hold landmark peace talks; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama in Cambodia After Historic Burma Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama made a historic trip to Myanmar on Monday (NYT), marking the first visit to the Southeast Asian nation by a serving U.S. president. While he hailed the progress of reforms sweeping the country and extended a "hand of friendship," Obama also urged Myanmar's people to acccept Muslim Rohingyas (BBC) after a spate of recent violence erupted between Buddhists and Muslims. Obama on Monday also became the first U.S. president to set foot in Cambodia (AP), a country formerly ruled by the Khmer Rouge, although the White House made clear that the trip was solely to for the purpose of attending the East Asia Summit and should not be seen as an endorsement of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government, which has led the country since the 1980s.


"Another goal – an unstated one – is to claw back some of the influence China has been able to exert over Burma during the years of isolation and sanctions. That is something even old-school Burmese military men will approve of. Their country has a historically uneasy relationship with its giant northern neighbour, and the high dependence on Chinese investment and military technology has been a source of discomfort," writes Jonathan Head for the BBC.

"The president should specifically urge the government to amend a 1982 law that makes citizenship unattainable for Rohingya Muslims unless they can present proof tracing their roots in the country back to the early 19th century. He should also call on the government to help humanitarian aid pass unhindered to poverty-stricken and displaced Rohingya as well as other victims of the fighting," writes a Los Angeles Times editorial.

"The journey's real significance for the region is that it comes less than two weeks after he was re-elected; that is all the proof Asians need that Mr. Obama takes them seriously. And for the confrontation-averse Southeast Asians, the balancing influence of America is welcome as tensions with overbearing China rise," writes Lewis Simons for the New York Times.



Tensions Flare at ASEAN Summit

Tensions over the South China Sea territorial dispute escalated at the ASEAN summit Monday as the Philippines publicly disagreed with Cambodia over the issue (Reuters), and Japan said that a row could directly influence stability in Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda challenged efforts by summit host Cambodia to limit discussions on the territories, where China's claims overlap those of four Southeast Asian countries and of Taiwan.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick discusses ASEAN's future and Asian integration in this report.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said that his government would clarify its stance on Middle East issues (Yonhap) after being elected a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.



More civilians die in Gaza

Colombia and Cuba hold landmark peace talks



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