Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng is eligible to apply to study abroad "just like any other Chinese citizen" (NYT), the Chinese Foreign Ministry said today. The announcement came shortly after Chen, who escaped from house arrest and was sheltered at theU.S. embassy inBeijing for six days before being moved to a nearby hospital on Wednesday, indicated to a friend that he did not wish to seek political asylum in theUnited States, but rather accept an offer to study atNew YorkUniversity. The foreign ministry statement offered a potential route out of an impasse that has undermined U.S.-China relations and embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. FULL POST
Senior U.S. officials acknowledged on Thursday that Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident and central actor in an escalating U.S.-China diplomatic crisis (NYT), has changed his mind, and would now like to leave China. Mr. Chen dramatically escaped house arrest in Western China roughly two weeks ago, and sought refuge at the U. S. Embassy in Beijing for six days. He was subsequently released on his own accord to a local hospital for medical treatment. Chen's desire to leave China is a stark reversal from reports that he, who is now wary of his government hosts, had embraced a plan to remain in his native country. The Chen affair comes at an inopportune time for the United States, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner kick off two days of high-level strategic and economic meetings. FULL POST
Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who fled house arrest last week, left the U.S.embassy in Beijing to go to a medical facility and reunite with his family (NYT), theUnited States said in a statement today. The statement was issued hours after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived inBeijing for planned economic and security talks with senior Chinese officials. The Chinese Foreign Ministry confirmed that Chen had stayed in theU.S. embassy for six days, while demanding an apology from theUnited States. The incident is expected to overshadow the two days of U.S.-China discussions. FULL POST
Tens of thousands of workers are expected to protest strict austerity measures during annual May Day rallies in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France today. The International Workers' Day demonstrations come amid rising anger over the rigid fiscal cutbacks (Reuters) being mandated by Berlin and Brussels to tackle the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis. Spain became the latest eurozone economy to fall into recession on Monday. Today's rallies come ahead of pivotal national elections in Greece and France this weekend in which voters are expected to turn on austerity. FULL POST
Fears over an imminent military confrontation between the United States and Iran over the latter's controversial nuclear program have receded, according to a New York Times report today. Western economic sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector prompted the Iranian government to be more flexible in direct negotiations with the United States and other world powers, held in Istanbul two weeks ago, the Times said. Negotiations are set to resume in Baghdad next month. At the same time, there is a growing debate within Israel over launching a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which has delayed the possibility of an immediate attack, experts said. FULL POST
Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded Spanish debt by two notches (WSJ) to triple-B-plus from single-A on Thursday evening. At the same time, the national statistics bureau said employment had risen to an eighteen-year high of 24.44 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, more than double the eurozone average. Spanish borrowing costs rose on Friday, raising new market fears that the eurozone's fourth-largest economy was falling prey to the ongoing sovereign debt crisis. FULL POST
French Socialist challenger François Hollande beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France's presidential election yesterday by 28 percent to 27 percent, even as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen captured an unprecedented 18 percent of the vote. Hollande and Sarkozy will face off in the final runoff vote on May 6 (Guardian), in an election that is expected to have significant implications for European integration and the eurozone's response to its ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
"Mr. Sarkozy will have to find a way to attract most of Ms. Le Pen's votes as well as the 9.2 percent who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou, who finished fifth. This is no easy task, and his appeal will probably include a combination of anti-immigration riffs and more attacks on the European Central Bank (which has become the modern French substitute for running against the Germans)," notes this Wall Street Journal editorial. FULL POST
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned of a fragile global economic situation with "dark clouds on the horizon" (NYT), at the start of the IMF and World Bank's spring meetings in Washington yesterday. Lagarde's comments come as borrowing costs are on the rise in Europe and high oil prices are draining spending power in the United States, potentially undermining the global recovery. This weekend's meetings are expected to focus on the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis and global efforts to boost growth. The IMF has called on member states to pledge an additional $500 billion to increase the fund's lending capacity (VOA). FULL POST
U.S. officials condemned photos of U.S. soldiers who allegedly posed with the corpses of Afghan insurgents during a 2010 deployment to Afghanistan. The actions depicted in the photos, which were revealed by the Los Angeles Times yesterday, violated U.S. military regulations and its "core values," U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said. President Barack Obama called for a full investigation into the incident. Meanwhile, the United States and its NATO allies reached an agreement (NYT) at a NATO summit in Brussels yesterday on bringing the war in Afghanistan to a close by the end of 2014, while still keeping some international troops there beyond that point. FULL POST
Taliban fighters launched multiple raids on government installations across Afghanistan, including strikes on the diplomatic quarter and parliament in Kabul (BBC). Analysts say the audacious, complex operation was designed to send a bloody message to NATO forces and its domestic allies. The assorted attacks commenced simultaneously at about 1:45 p.m.—several in Kabul, and others in Nangarhar, Logar, and Paktia provinces.
Officials say thirty-six gunmen were killed along with three civilians and eight members of Afghan security. They also report they have arrested two would-be suicide bombers who were targeting the second vice president, Mohammad Karim Khalili. There were also reports that members of the Haqqani network participated in the violence. As NATO forces prepare to draw down by the end of 2014, the attacks have raised concerns about the handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces. FULL POST
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. FULL POST
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