TOKYO — Despite having denied newspaper reports that it is planning to drop its efforts to acquire the F-22 Raptor, the Japanese government seems no closer to securing an order of the stealth fighter in the face of an American export ban. The U.S. is said to be wary of lifting the ban because of a well-publicized data leak concerning the U.S.-developed Aegis defense system by a Japanese officer in 2007. The approach has left some Japanese policymakers and U.S. analysts frustrated. “I find the U.S. policy in this case incomprehensible,” said James Auer, director of the Center for U.S.-Japan […]

GADHAFI REACHES OUT — In recent days, Washington has been the target of a mini-media blitz by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, including an op-ed piece in the New York Times and a video conference with Georgetown University students. The advertised purpose of both was to push Gadhafi’s idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, which he calls Isratine. But as commentator Dana Moss points out in the Guardian this week, the quirky Libyan leader is reaching out to the Obama administration “using his stance towards Israel as bait.” According to a Libyan source in Tripoli, Gadhafi is disappointed […]

In his first major interview since taking office, pointedly given to the Arab-language network Al-Arabiya, President Barack Obama reached out to the Arab and Muslim world, vowing to forge “a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest.” The president reiterated his wish to engage with Iran in a sharp reversal from his predecessor. “It is important to us,” he highlighted, “to be willing to talk to Iran.” Given Obama’s new emphasis on reconciliation in the Middle East and his willingness to speak directly to controversial interlocutors, is the U.S. government hinting it will hold direct talks with Hamas? […]

BANGKOK, Thailand — Regular bombings, killings and skirmishes between rebels and the military in southern Thailand have forced Thai authorities to finally grasp the scope of a conflict that has scarred thousands and changed the lives of millions. Previously, Thai police, military and politicians had dismissed the attacks as random violence committed by bandits or a handful of disgruntled Islamic militants. Such attempts to play down the carnage were dismissed by Western governments, who see the confrontation with ethnic Malay-Muslim separatists in the south as a persistent threat to regional security. Now, as the rebellion enters its sixth year, Thai […]

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The inauguration of President Barack Obama was filled with tremendously moving images, perhaps none more striking than the crowds who gathered in Kogelo, Kenya — the birthplace of Obama’s father — to watch the ceremony. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the South African newspaper Business Day both compared Obama’s election to that of Nelson Mandela, the first democratically elected president in South Africa. As elsewhere in the world, Obama’s task will be to maintain that enthusiasm in the face of real challenges. Although Africa has been billed as one of the Bush administration’s foreign policy successes, three conflicts continue to dominate […]

While few can predict exactly what new policies will be implemented by the incoming Obama Administration, it is clear that addressing climate change will be among its top priorities, and that any successful approach to the challenge will involve international cooperation. The outlines of a solution are relatively simple. Over time, global carbon emissions need to be reduced, which means that current emitters — largely in the developed world — will need to reduce their emissions. Countries in the developing world, meanwhile, will need to limit the increase in their emissions as their economies grow and modernize, so as not […]

Taken as a whole, the European Union disposes of enormous foreign policy resources. Its population is larger than that of the United States or Russia. Its members have approximately 2,000 diplomatic missions. It provides more foreign aid than any individual country. Indeed, since its formation in 1993, the EU has striven to bolster its collective foreign policy capabilities, based on the underlying assumption that even the most powerful EU members will have more international influence when they unite around a common position and speak with a single voice than when they act alone. Yet, the EU’s Common Foreign and Security […]

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – It is uncertain what effect last week’s arrest of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) rebel leader Laurent Nkunda will have on peace prospects in Africa’s third largest country, where more than 5 million people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since internal fighting began a decade ago. While some people have hailed it as the biggest step yet toward ending one of Africa’s worst civil wars ever, others suggest that any celebration must wait until the new-found alliance between Rwanda and Congo proves durable. Nkunda, a 41-year-old former DRC army general who has led […]

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — In October 2007, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf deployed more than 25,000 security forces to Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan to fight against Taliban militants under the command of Maulana Fazlullah and restore peace to the picturesque valley. At the time, military commanders claimed that the whole mountainous region would be cleared of all militants within two weeks. The locals hoped the heavy deployment of security forces would be instrumental in defeating the rising tide of militancy that increasingly threatened their lives and property. Fifteen months later, the inhabitants of Swat valley are witnessing a completely different […]

ICC TRIAL TO TAKE AIM AT CHILD SOLDIER USE — Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court hope the impending trial of Democratic Republic of Congo militia leader Thomas Lubanga will focus international attention on the plight of child soldiers, and serve as a warning to others around the world that use of children in combat will result in prosecution. Lubanga is charged with three counts of war crimes for recruiting child soldiers into the armed wing of his Union of Congolese Patriots group. Hundreds of children as young as 10, prosecutors charge, were kidnapped or recruited by Lubanga, then beaten, […]

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Voters in Bolivia decisively approved a new constitution yesterday, handing a major victory to President Evo Morales and laying the foundations for the world’s first modern indigenous state. Supporters say the charter will empower Bolivia’s long-excluded indigenous majority, which comprises roughly 60 percent of the population. Its text creates autonomous indigenous zones governed by traditional authorities and communal justice systems, which will elect representatives to Congress through customary procedures such as tribal councils. “Finally we have a constitution that leaves racism and hatred aside, because indigenous people are included,” said Adolfo Chavez, president of the Confederation […]

Last of a three-part series. Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here. Audio Reporter’s Notebook: Don Duncan discusses how recent resettlement efforts have affected Bhutanese refugees left behind in the camps, and the implications for the militant groups in their midst. (Trouble listening with the above flash player? Download the audio.) THIMPHU, Bhutan — The banners, portraits and flags marking the Bhutanese monarchy’s centenary in 2008, are slowly being taken down in Thimphu’s main streets, as the country eases itself into the new year. But while the rest of the world braces itself for 2009, […]

Long before we knew who the 44th president of the United States would be, Latin America experts began debating the list of priorities that should guide the next administration’s regional policy. From Foreign Affairs to the Brookings Institution to the Washington Office on Latin America — every magazine or think tank with a background in the region was shopping a set of ideas that could reverse the low tide of the Bush years. Some argue for more emphasis on free trade, a robust regional security initiative, and a strategy to isolate Hugo Ch├ívez and his populist ilk; others want to […]

When throngs of Brazilians take to the streets of Rio de Janeiro next month for the famous Carnival, Barack Obama will be there, dancing to the sultry beat of the samba. Obama masks are all the rage as preparations for the Carnival kick into high gear. When the party starts, hundreds, maybe thousands of Brazilians with Obama masks will hit the streets. Not surprisingly, the new president of the United States has become a celebrity in Latin America, just as he has in the rest of the planet. While at times it seems the entire globe is cheering Obama in […]

While the United States and most of the world celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama, the people of Zimbabwe were once again being pushed to the brink. Talks between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangarai have broken down over several key issues, prompting Tsvangarai to say: “For us as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), this is probably the darkest day of our lives, for the whole nation is waiting.” At the heart of the dispute is control of key ministries in the power-sharing arrangement being pushed by the South African Development Community (SADC) and its chief mediator, […]

In her Senate confirmation hearing last week, incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that American foreign policy under President Barack Obama must blend military, diplomatic and humanitarian efforts, in equal measure. “We must use what has been called ‘smart power,’ the full range of tools at our disposal.” While consistent with Obama’s longstanding call for greater international cooperation to address the world’s problems, the idea of “smart power” gained widespread popularity in military and diplomatic circles during George W. Bush’s second term. Obama’s national-power strategy represents an evolution, not a revolution. At a speech at Kansas State University in […]

A great deal of the fascination Barack Obama elicits in Europe is rooted in the acknowledgment that Europe lags behind the U.S. in the integration and political representation of its ethnic and religious minorities. Although a fifth of Germany’s residents are of foreign descent, for instance, less than 10 of the Bundestag’s 600-plus seats are occupied by ethnic minorities; the house of representatives of Vienna, Austria — where 25 percent of the city’s 2 million citizens originate from abroad — has only three. There are many causes of this lamentable state. Unlike America, which identifies as an immigrant country, national […]

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