Council on Foreign Relations: Daily news brief Sept. 19, 2022

Top of the Agenda

Biden Again Says U.S. Military Would Defend Taiwan

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired yesterday, U.S. President Joe Biden said that if China were to invade Taiwan, U.S. military forces would come to the island’s defense. It is at least the fourth time (NBC) that Biden has publicly made comments appearing to contradict the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan, though the White House later said U.S. policy has not changed. The long-standing policy deliberately leaves unanswered the question of whether the United States would defend the island.  China’s foreign ministry said it lodged a complaint (Reuters) with the United States. A ministry spokesperson said Beijing “will not tolerate any activities aimed at [Taiwan’s] secession.”

“The fourth time [Biden] has endorsed strategic clarity. This is now US policy, despite his administration’s attempt (also for the fourth time) to walk it back. Now time to fully resource this commitment and truly focus on it,” CFR’s David Sacks tweets. “Smart people may differ about the wisdom of eroding strategic ambiguity around Taiwan, but with stakes this high, the public deserves a clear and open discussion of the high risks and cost and benefits of defending the island,” Foreign Policy’s Howard W. French writes. This Backgrounder explains U.S. policy toward Taiwan

World Leaders Pay Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II at London FuneralLeaders of countries including the United States, Brazil, and Kenya are attending (NYT) Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral today. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is not attending, and Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited. This In Brief examines what King Charles III’s rule will mean for the British monarchy overseas. 

U.S./Armenia: During a visit to Armenia over the weekend, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House of Representatives will soon take up (CNN) a resolution condemning “Azerbaijan’s unprovoked military attack” on its border with Armenia last week. 
Pacific Rim

At Least Two People Killed as Typhoon Slams JapanThe Japanese government ordered over nine million people (Kyodo) to evacuate as Typhoon Nanmadol approached. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio delayed his travel to New York for the UN General Assembly session by a day to assess the damage.
South and Central Asia

Cease-Fire on Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan Border Largely Holds After Dozens KilledA Friday cease-fire mostly held (BBC) over the weekend, though there were some accusations of shelling by both sides at the border. Nearly one hundred people died in clashes last week. 

U.S./Afghanistan: The Taliban government said it freed (Reuters) American engineer Mark Frerichs in exchange for an Afghan man who had been held in the United States on drug charges since 2005.
Middle East and North Africa

Funeral of Iranian Woman Who Died in Police Custody Prompts ProtestsTwenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody last week after police found fault with her hijab. Hundreds of people protested at her funeral (AP) on Saturday and at a demonstration yesterday, where police made several arrests. 

Egypt: Authorities released an Al Jazeera journalist who was detained in 2020 without trial. Al Jazeera called for the release of three other reporters the network said are being held in Egypt “without trial or charge.”
Sub-Saharan Africa

Ukrainian Troops Leave UN Peacekeeping Mission in DRCThe 250 Ukrainians serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) returned to Ukraine (BBC) to fight Russian forces. This Backgrounder explains the role of peacekeeping in Africa. 

South Africa: A potential challenger to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s position as head of the African National Congress (ANC) party, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, earned an endorsement (TimesLIVE) from her local ANC branch ahead of party elections in December.

Colombian Government Envoys Meet With Guerrillas Representatives of President Gustavo Petro’s administration met on Saturday (Colombia Reports) with a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as FARC, that did not demobilize as part of the country’s 2016 peace deal. For Foreign Affairs, Ivan Briscoe looks at the Petro government’s ambitions.

Haiti: Thousands of people faced water shortages (Reuters) after nationwide protests over fuel prices halted distribution.
United States

Puerto Rico Without Power After Hurricane Fiona HitsMore than one million people in Puerto Rico were without power after Hurricane Fiona made landfall yesterday. The National Weather Service warned of (NYT) “life-threatening and catastrophic flooding” that could continue today as the storm reaches the Dominican Republic. This Backgrounder discusses Puerto Rico’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
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