Off the Radar News Roundup

– China’s defense minister gets face time with Kim Jong-Il on the third day of his visit to North Korea.

– A high-ranking Chinese military envoy was in Moscow for discussions with Russia’s defense minister.

A high-ranking Chinese political envoy was in Quito to discuss deepening ties with Ecuador. Among the deals signed was a credit line for Ecuador to purchase Chinese military aircraft. That’s pretty remarkable, given the extent to which Ecuador’s military has historically been U.S.-trained, equipped and oriented. (Little-known fact: There’s a small but visible Chinese expat population spread throughout Ecuador. Second little-known fact: Ecuadoran-style Chinese food is really, really bad.)

– For the record, Beijing is still opposed to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. On a related note, Nov. 20 marked the 24th year that Generalissimo Francisco Franco was still dead.

Balochistan’s nationalist parties rejected Islamabad’s aid package, unveiled yesterday, saying they want to control the province’s resources and coastline. They characterized the package as “peanuts” and “mega projects.”

– Russia has announced the latest list of “strategic” state-owned companies and holdings to be privatized. The fire sale is expected to raise at least $1.9 billion. For more on Russia’s state capitalism model, see Ian Bremmer and Alexander Kliment’s WPR feature article (sub. req.)

Qatar and Thailand signed a MoU to strengthen ties.

More details emerge on the meeting between Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Israeli Trade Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was in Ankara on a diplomatic mission to improve strained relations.

– Support for Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon slipped to merely “highly popular.” His approval rating dropped 4 percent, to 58.2 percent.

– Elections in Côte d’Ivoire have been postponed again.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

The unofficial U.S. ambassador to Taiwan said that Chinese Preseident Hu Jintao was more interested in “scoring points” on the Tibet issue than on Taiwan in his talks last week with President Barack Obama.

China and South Korea will be expediting negotiations for a free trade agreement. It’s pretty surprising that the EU already beat the U.S. to a FTA with South Korea. But if China does, too, that would be incredible. A number of obstacles remain, though, including U.S. opposition.

Islamabad unveiled a package of political and economic reforms aimed at tamping down separatism in Balochistan. This is the equivalent of watering a dry field while you do a controlled burn in the neighboring one.

Jordan’s king dissolved parliament, amid suspicions he’ll use the hiatus to pass emergency laws, including electoral reforms aimed at weakening the opposition.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani declared his desire to merge the two factions of Peshmerga into a unified Kurdish army.

The first high-level Israeli official to visit Turkey since the Gaza War had “open and constructive” talks. But Turkey’s president hinted that any significant lowering of tensions will depend on a shift in Israeli policy toward Palestinians.

The rapprochement between Ecuador and Colombia is continuing to progress, with both sides exchanging trade representatives. Full normalization still awaits resolution of the “sensitive issues” regarding the jungle border areas used by FARC rebels as safe havens.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

According to the People’s Daily, “Chinese experts” say China is not taking sides in the Kashmir dispute. The comments come in response to a Kashmiri separatist leader applauding the U.S.-Chinese joint declaration’s reference to promoting India-Pakistan reconciliation. I suspect President Barack Obama will also walk this back at the first opportunity during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit.

– Meanwhile, in a CNN interview in advance of his visit to Washington,Singh ruled out redrawing Kashmir’s borders, drawing a protest from Islamabad.

China’s defense minister traveled to North Korea in the latest of a series of high-level defense meetings between the two countries. It’s hard not to get the feeling that there are some ripple effects from Obama’s Asia tour going on here.

– With the F-22 still subject to an export ban, Japan has set its sights on the F-35. The calculus here, as for Australia, is matching up with China’s rapidly dvancing air capabilities.

Romania went to the polls yesterday in first-round presidential voting that is unlikely to determine a winner. A second-round run-off would take place Dec. 6, if necessary.

– In the wake of Israeli President Shimon Peres’ tour of South American, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Brazil to meet with President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Note that the parallels between Iran and Brazil’s nuclear programs make it very difficult for Lula to avoid endorsing Iran’s right to enrichment, adding legitimacy to the Iranian position.

– Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas followed in Peres’ footsteps in Argentina.

The latest meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Minsk Group process to resolve the Nagorno-Kharabakh conflict produced “important progress.” Turkey has tied any finalization of its Armenia rapprochement to the success of these negotiations.

Turkey’s energy minister insisted that scrapping the flawed tender for a planned nuclear energy reactor does not represent abandoning Turkey’s pursuit of nuclear energy.

– In his state of the nation address earlier this month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a goverment minister position for the North Caucasus. The proposal is essentially an acknowledgement that Russia is powerless to change the nature of the clannish governing systems within the republics.

Another Russia-Ukraine gas deal narrowly averts another impending Russia-Ukraine gas crisis. I think the Friedman units here are in weeks, not months.

– Meanwhile, Medvedev’s criticism of United Russia seems to illustrate the ways in which modernizing the functioning of the Russian state before securing (establishing?) his hold on power is a very complicated task.

Negotiations continue on the makeup of Madagascar’s power-sharing government.

Venezuela rules out direct talks with Colombia to lower tensions between the two countries, but would welcome discussions in the context of a Unasur mediation.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

China’s foreign minister visits Japan for the first time since the DPJ took power.

China and Vietnam agree to boost economic ties.

China and Burma agree to establish railroad and banking links to facilitate resource flow.

Remarks by President Barack Obama in Korea reflect how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have transformed U.S. forces stationed there — like the Army reserves back home — into an operational, as opposed to a strategic, reserve.

– The leader of the Hurriyat, a Kashmir political coalition advocating for self-determination, declared his support for the U.S.-China joint declaration regarding India-Pakistan relations, and said that China has a stake in the resolution of the Kashmir conflict. Again, whoever in the State Department okayed the declaration’s language was a bit tone-deaf to Indian concerns.

Maoist revolutionaries are still blowing things up in India. I found it a bit odd that there were three Maoist candidates in thefirst round of France’s last presidential election. So needless to say, Maoist bombers in 2009 is a hard concept to fathom.

– Turkey’s new domestic Kurdish initiative has the added advantage of cementing much-improved relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ankara is not worried by new EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy’s past opposition to Turkey’s EU accession.

Turkey officially scraps its flawed tender for a nuclear energy reactor. Apparently the Middle East nuclear arms race will be a bit more difficult than foreseen.

Israel’s trade minister will travel to Turkey for the first such visit since the Gaza war last January.

– Sparked by U.S. concerns, South Africa is investigating charges of South African mercenaries training forces of Guinea’s ruling junta.

Restrictions on opposition parties and ongoing human rights abuses mark the run-up to Ethiopia’s 2010 elections.

A new draft law in Kenya would explicitly define the powers of the president and prime minister under the power-sharing agreement arrived following the country’s last disputed elections.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev fired a Putin-era Kremlin appointee, the first such move of his presidency.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China plays both sides of the DMZ, hosting the speaker of the ROK Parliament and a high-level DPRK military envoy at the same time.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, explaining, “The reason simply is I’ve decided that I wouldn’t get a lot out ofthat particular meeting.I’ve seen him in the past, I may see him in thefuture.” If there’s a foreign policy equivalent of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, defending human rights would figure on the high end. That’s why the Dalai Lama will have an easier time getting meetings during times of prosperity than in times of hardship.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou said he’s in no rush to reach a final political settlement with China, citing the removal of Chinese missiles aimed at Taiwan as one condiiton for final talks.

Ukraine is dipping into IMF loan money to fend of a repeat of last winter’s “gas wars.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu does not trust Turkey in the way that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did. The interesting thing here is the way identifying the problem as Netanyahu, and not Israel, in some ways downgrades it to a personal issue, as opposed to an affair of state. Erdogan also judged a French mediation role as unlikely to pass muster in Damascus.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– After meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao calls the G-2 appelation premature, saying everyone should remain “sober-minded” about it.

– After going online in August 2009, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s Web site was cyberattacked 2.3 million times in the first month. Payback? (Much more of interest in a People’s Daily interview with the site’s editor.)

China and Vietnam signed an agreement definitively demarcating their 800-mile land border, a process that took 10 years. They agreed to continue negotiations regarding their maritime boundary disputes. It’s important to remember when considering China’s rise that in addition to domestic separatist movements and the unresolved cross-Strait situation, China has a host of disputed land and maritime borders with serious strategic implications.

China’s vice premier was in Damascus to sign trade and aid deals. Access to markets is about the only leverage the U.S. has in Syria.

Japan’s DPJ seems to be steadily walking back from its confrontational stance on the Futenma base closure agreement.

New Delhi issued a statement in response to the U.S.-China joint declaration’s pledge to “support the improvement and growth ofrelations between India and Pakistan,” saying it considered the matter a bilateral dispute that did not call for a third-party role. India is very, very sensitive about this sort of language. Including it in the Obama-Hu statement seems like yet another U.S. diplomatic protocol gaffe. Who’s in charge of the language here?

Pakistan is set to unveil the home-built JF-17 fighter jet, jointly developed with China. Islamabad has already decided to buy the next-gen fighters from China outright.

Georgia considers re-opening its only legal border crossing with Russia to trade.

Medvedev restates last year’s targets for Russian military. Kind of like restating New Year’s resolutions.

– A UAE delegation will visit Ukraine in two weeks to scout farm-leasing deals. Soon we will all be growing wheat for oil sheiks?

Mozambican opposition claims massive fraud in recent landslide election victory for incumbent president.

Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva expressed disappointment over U.S.-China climate change declaration.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

China and Brazil reach a five-point consensus to strengthen military personnel exchanges, and technology cooperaiton. (Despite the emerging South-emerging East angle, France still makes a better fit for defense partnerships with Brazil.)

– Free press vs. free pass: A high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official goes on a state visit to Sudan, and the People’s Daily doesn’t mention the problematic nature of that bilateral relationship once.

Taiwan and China finally signed that MoU on financial regulation. Financial observers exepect a major inflow of Chinese capital to Taiwan when it takes effect two months from now.

– In addition to the difficulties presented by renegotiating an already concluded agreement, the Hatoyama government is facing resistance from local officials to the alternatives it has suggested for where to relocate the Futenma base.

A North Korean media outlet issued conciliatory statements regarding peace on the Korean peninsula in anticipation of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Seoul.

– If you thought Nabucco was the gas pipeline project least likely to see the light of day, you haven’t met the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline yet.

Azerbaijan signs agreements for alternative gas export routes, in signal to Turkey. No mention of it here, but Baku was not very happy with the Turkey-Armenia agreement, either.

Tymoshenko’s foreign policy platform would turn Ukraine squarely toward Europe.

– In Paris, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani sign agreements that lay the groundwork for further French investment in Iraq.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China announces yet another military cooperation upgrade, this time with Thailand.

This article about the followup to the Obama-Hatoyama meeting includes a good rundown of what the U.S.-Japan dispute over the Futenma air base closure is all about.

I mentioned the various competing plans for Asian regional integration earlier today. Here are the broad outlines of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama’s version.

– In the runup to the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai attack, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi issues a call for renewing the Composite Dialogue with India.

Turkey moves forward with its Kurdish initiative, despite opposition’s objections.

– Israeli President Shimon Peres is touring South American capitals. Latest stop, Argentina, where the national organization of Jewish Argentines said a primary reason for the visit was to offset Iranian influence in the reigon. But given that Peres’ tour comes days ahead of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ own visit, I wonder if it isn’t to offset growing South American support of the Palestinian cause.

– Is what ousted Honduran President Mel Zelaya says news anymore?

Researched by Kari Lipschutz

Off the Radar News Roundup

– Interesting, given the climate of anxiety in Washington over China’s military intentions, that in the week before President Barack Obama’s first state visit to the PRC, Beijing announces plans for closer military cooperation with Togo and Khazakhstan, to say nothing of Macedonia yesterday.

– Fresh off a successful counterinsurgency campaign, a general quits his command amid rumors of a future in politics. Yet another reason Gen. David Petraeus will be keeping an eye on Sri Lanka.

– When all you’ve got is nukes . . . In a leaked internal review, Russia’s military gets low grades on combat readiness.

– The North Caucasus is not Somalia. But it’s getting there.

IAEA chief Mohamed El-Baradei officially briefed Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on a proposal to ship Iran’s enriched uranium to Turkey as a last-ditch effort to save the multilateral enrichment plan agreed to in Geneva.

– The Turkish government offers more details on its Kurdish initiative, sparking more objections from the opposition.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– Good thing Greece blocked Macedonia’s NATO bid in 2008. Now the Macedonian army chief of staff is in Beijing looking to improve military cooperation with China.

– For that China-Taiwan MoU on banking regulation, the signature’s ready, but the title it goes over is holding things up.

– After Malaysia, Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Singapore. His way of letting President Barack Obama know just whose neighborhood it is?

Don’t hold your breath on Turkey-Armenia reconciliation.

France and Turkey have reportedly reached an agreement on Turkey’s EU accession: France will continue to oppose it, without blocking continued negotiations.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– Among the agreements signed during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Malaysia was an MoU on banking regulation. This seems to be an increasing priority for Chinese regional policy.

– Count World Bank President Robert Zoeller as the latest believer in the Yuan as an alternative reserve currency.

– If China is looking to raise its profile in the Gulf, Qatar makes for a logical partner.

– It looks like Japan and the U.S. have agreed to downgrade the Futenma base dispute, in advance of President Barack Obama’s imminent arrival in Tokyo.

China agrees to sell $1.4 billion worth of advanced fighter jets to Pakistan, beyond the two squadrons of J-10s already contracted. I thought Pakistan was broke. Where’s the money coming from? And what was Zardari’s cut?

– Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline got final approval for transit through Scandinavian economic zones in the Baltic Sea. Once completed, Nord Stream will allow Russia to cut off gas supplies to Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland without affecting deliveries to Germany and beyond.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– Chinese President Hu Jintao kicked off a state visit to Malaysia, pledging to deepen strategic cooperation between the two countries. Hu is the first Chinese head of state to visit the country in 15 years.

– China’s Health Ministry will step up regulation and licensing of medical practitioners, after a high-profile case of medical malpractice involving unlicensed medical students.

– As part of its independent “space program,” Iran has announced plans to launch a second research satellite in 2011.

– Macau, the Las Vegas of Asia, is running out of potable water. The city has 10 days of drinking water left — not a small problem for “a city whose GDP is derived almost entirely from visitors.”

– A MoU regulating cross-Strait financial transactions is close to being signed by Taiwan.

– Turkey’s ruling AKP party introduced its Kurdish initiative to the Parliament, sparking heated denunciations by the opposition, which called the decision to introduce the initiative on the anniversary of Kemal Ataturk’s death “a plot.” For all its higher profile on the international stage, Turkey remains very much a house divided.

– Turkey’s tender for offers to build its first nuclear power plant was already a disappointment. Now the Turkish Supreme Court has ruled that it was also invalid.

– The UAE has made H1N1 vaccinations mandatory for everyone leaving the country to go on the Haj pilgrimage.

Dog bites man.

Another dog bites another man.

Research contributed by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

- Thought Chechnya was "pacified"? Think again. Violence has spiked since Russia officially ended its 10-year counterterror mission there in April. (The implications for Iraq seem ominous.)

- It's been a violent week for Chechnya's North Caucasus neighbors, too, with attacks reported in Ingushetia, Dagestan and North Ossetia.

- Japan continues its checkbook diplomacy, pledging $5.55 billion to the Mekong states: Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and, yes, Burma. Among the reasons for the aid given by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are China's growing influence and America's greater interest in the region. Interesting . . . Chinese influence, American interest.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak rules out a North-South summit without an end to the DPRK nuclear program.

– The EU and India set ambitious goals for bilateral trade, but a long-negotiated free trade deal is still being held up by disagreements over EU demands on regulatory standards (a major component of EU soft power). At the same summit, the two sides signed a civil nuclear agreement on fusion research.

– Another Indian free trade agreement, this one with South Korea, is set to take effect now that South Korea’s parliament just ratified the deal. Trade between the two nations reached $15.6 billion last year, up sixfold from $2.6 billion in 2002.

– With Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Paris to discuss, among other things, France’s opposition to Turkey’s EU accession, Turkey is catching some flak from the EU for inviting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit in Istanbul this weekend. Turkey is not a party to the Rome Statute, and therefore not bound by the ICC. Nevertheless, in Ankara’s “two steps forward, one step back” routine of late, this would qualify as an example of the latter.

– Andry Rajoelina — the self-made millionaire, former DJ who has been Madagascar’s leader since staging a March coup — stormed out of African Union-mediated talks to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with deposed president Marc Ravolamanana. The talks were extended for two days, but it’s still unclear whether Rajeolina will return to the bargaining table.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

Off the Radar News Roundup

This is a new feature we’re going to experiment with here on the blog, with the help of our intrepid editorial assistant, Kari Lipschutz. The idea is to catch significant news in the foreign English-language media, before it shows up in Western outlets. So, yes, it amounts to yet another news roundup. But we’re going to try to justify it by delivering not so much breaking news as developing news. In the context of Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, we’re trying to catch the butterfly before it becomes a monsoon. So with that in mind, here goes:

– Is China intent on weaponizing space? Probably, (just like everyone else is). But the real news is that they’re also intent on treating the subject delicately.

– It’s admittedly a longshot, but the new Japanese government might replace its maritime support mission to the Afghanistan war with a Japanese liaison contingent in ISAF headquarters. Either way, $4 billion in development aid will probably be more decisive. Note how Japan, once again, is stepping up to the plate — with cash — in Afghanistan. Note, too, how the division of tasks that leaves Japan with the post-conflict humanitarian/development role is also strengthening its presence in the Gulf and Middle East.

– Seems like India’s Maoists are willing to talk after all. Too bad their demands will in all likelihood torpedo any negotiations.

Russia weighs in positively on Turkey-Armenia détente. It will be interesting to see whether there’s a simultaneous, coordinated push to move the Armenia-Azerbaijan negotiations forward in the context of the Minsk Group.

– Where Russian troops occupy, Russian-style democracy must not be far behind.

– Nigeria moves to back up the Niger delta amnesty with development funds.

Researched by Kari Lipschutz.

More World Politics Review