Monday, May 24, 2010

FP morning brief 5/24

South Korea cuts trade ties with the North; frustration mounts over BP oil spill

South Korean Lee Myung-bak announced that his nation would cut all trade ties to North Korea, deny North Korean trading ships access to South Korean sea lanes, and call on the United Nations Security Council to discipline the North in response to the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel in March. These measures, outlined by President Lee in a nationally televised speech, were the harshest options avalable to South Korea short of military retaliation. A multinational team of investigators released a report last week providing evidence that linked North Korea to the attack.

The Obama administration supported South Korea, referring to its latest moves as "entirely appropriate." The escalation of tensions come as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. officials confer in Beijing with their Chinese counterparts, on both economic and security issues. Clinton, who referred to U.S. support for South Korea as "unequivocal," also voiced optimism that China would take some measures to rein in North Korea, their traditional ally, in the wake of the attack. A U.S. delegation will meet with President Lee in Seoul on Wednesday.

Obama administration losing patience with BP: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday that, if BP efforts to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico are deemed inadequate, the U.S. government would "push them out of the way" and take over the mission itself. Today, Salazar and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are scheduled to fly over the area affected by the spill, and meet with BP representatives. Salazar's tough line, however, contrasted with Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen, the administration's point person in the Gulf. Allen said that he trusts BP CEO Tony Hayward, and that "when I talk to him, I get an answer."

Middle East
An Israeli diplomat was expelled from Australia for forging passports linked to the assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January.
Two Americans tourists have been kidnapped by Yemeni tribesmen, near the capital of Sanaa.
Iran submitted a formal letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency outlining its plan for a nuclear fuel swap.
Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed that his nation would make "gradual progress" on currency reform.
The Thai army recommended that a curfew in Bangkok remain in place for another week.
A Pakistani court will hear challenges to a number of constitutional amendments.
British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outlined $9.4 billion in budget cuts.
A former Russian prime minister came to the defense of imprisoned tycoon and Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
The United States deployed Patriot missiles to Poland for a training exercise.
Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding spoke out against recent unrest in the capital of Kingston.
Brazilian authorities arrested a priest on charges of sexual abuse.
Strong retail sales in Canada fueled a rise in consumer prices, showing that the country's economy remains strong.
Members of the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab mounted an attack on the Somali president's palace.
Human Rights Watch claimed that the Ethiopia's election was marred by repression.
South Africa opened more than 50 courts dedicated to handling crimes committed during the upcoming World Cup.
-David Kenner
Presidental House via Getty Images

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