Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
North Korea's attempt to put a $1 billion satellite into orbit failed on Friday when its rocket booster exploded in mid-air shortly after liftoff. Prior to launch, the United States and its allies had condemned the launch as a pretext to test controversial ballistic missile technology. The disaster marks a public humiliation for the new government of Kim Jong-un, which was using the event to commemorate the 100th birthday of the country's founding patriarch Kim Il-sung. Washington has suspended some 240,000 tons of much-needed food aid in response to the North Korea provocation (NYT). Despite the setback, Kim Jong-un accepted his position as head of the national defense commission from Communist Party.
"If history is any guide, this suggests that a test of a nuclear warhead or some sort of aggressive military action–for example, an artillery strike–against South Korea could be in the offing. And if this latter scenario occurs, South Korea, unlike on previous occasions, is almost certain to retaliate," CFR President Richard N. Haass.
"It is tempting to presume that there is some limit to the world's tolerance of North Korean aggression–some point at which South Korea and the United States, despite fears of a war and collapse, would conclude that North Korea is too dangerous a country to live with and that regime change is the less terrible option. But that presumption could be wrong. As intolerable as it is to absorb North Korea's assassination attempts and other provocations, it is also hard to imagine what could possibly prompt Seoul and Washington to gamble on regime change in a wrecked, nuclear-armed disaster of a country," writes Jennifer Lind in Foreign Affairs.
Growth Slows in the Chinese Economy
China's first-quarter growth was just 8.1 percent over the prior year, the slowest pace in nearly three years. Despite the news, economists expect higher growth in the coming months, and hope Chinawill help put off a global economic slowdown (FT).
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Economic Thaw Between India and Pakistan
India announced it will permit foreign direct investment from Pakistan (Reuters). The notice came just hours before the two countries were scheduled to open a trading post at the Wagah border, a signal analysts say indicates improving bilateral economic relations.
MYANMAR: UK Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Myanmar (BBC) for scheduled talks with President Thein Sein and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi. Cameron is the first Western head of state to visit the country since Ms. Suu Kyi's parliamentary success.
CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick says that even though its by-elections were relatively free and fair, Myanmarremains a long way from a truly democratic culture of elections.
Annan Pushes UN to Send Observers to Syria
UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan pressed the Security Council to dispatch an advance team of up to thirty observers to monitor the fragile cease-fire in Syria (AP). The request is set to be voted on today, and if passed, would pave the way for a full contingent of 250 observers.
EGYPT: The Egyptian parliament passed legislation that would bar former senior members of theMubarak regime (Haaretz) from running for president. The controversial bill still needs approval from the ruling military council.
CFR's Steven A. Cook discusses major contenders in Egypt's upcoming presidential election, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Khairat al-Shater and last-minute entrant Omar Suleiman, Hosni Mubarak's one-time spy chief.
Attempted Coup in Guinea-Bissau
Witnesses in the West African country of Guinea-Bissaureport an attempted coup targeting Carlos Gomes Junior (al-Jazeera), the outgoing prime minister and candidate in the upcoming presidential election runoff. The whereabouts of Gomes and Raimundo Pereira, the country's acting president, are unknown.
SUDAN: The UN Security Council called for an end to the spiraling violence between Sudan and South Sudan, which have clashed over a disputed oil-rich region territory (CNN). Earlier in the week, South Sudan captured Heglig, which produces close to half ofSudan's oil.
EU Mulls Capping Banker Bonuses
The European Parliament is considering regulations that would prohibit banker bonuses that surpass fixed pay. Amid Europe's swirling debt crisis (BusinessWeek), many voters and politicians have criticized excessive bonuses as out of touch with economic reality.
The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed.
UKRAINE: The United States officially denounced the five-year prison sentence given to former Ukrainian Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko as "selective justice." Ivashchenko is a top political ally of jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko (AP).
Obama Preps for Summit of the Americas
U.S. President Barack Obama is set to depart for the sixth Summit of the Americas (CNN) inCartagena,Colombia. Issues the president plans to focus on include trade, energy, and regional security, although the hemisphere's drug war may also surface in talks.
MEXICO: The Mexican presidential campaign, which officially began on March 30, has left many voters disillusioned with the top competitors, analysts say. A top area of concern is how candidates address the U.S.-backed drug war against the Mexican cartels (LAT).
Since 2006, the Mexican government has been embroiled in a bloody drug war, which has failed to significantly curb trafficking. This Backgrounder looks at Mexico's eradication efforts, along withU.S. policy options for one of its most important regional allies.
Romney Criticizes Obama on North Korea's Launch
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney condemned the launch in a statement, holding the Obama administration partly responsible for North Korea's behavior against the will of the rest of the world.
President Obama held a conversation about world oil market conditions (Reuters) with France's President Nicolas Sarkozy in a video conference Thursday. Gas prices and the oil market have beendriving the dialogue on the campaign trail, along with voter concerns about the economy.
Concerned about the U.S.economy, voters are split on whether a growing China is good for the United States,Gallup says.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.