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International News Briefs

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Section: International News Geography: Africa, Europe North Korea, Taiwan Topics: AIDS

August 8, 2003

International News Briefs

  • AIDS Relief on Back Burner

  • China, Russia, US Partners on North Korea

  • Fight Looms over EU Constitution

  • Taiwan Straits Report Alters Travel Plans

  • AIDS Relief on Back Burner

    Just months after pledging $15 billion dollars in support, the Bush Administration seems to be losing its interest on the fight against HIV / AIDS in Africa. Little mention of the initiative is brought up at daily White House and State Department press briefings, where the declared War on Terrorism continues to occupy Washington.

    According to recent statistics, almost 29 million of the 42 million people infected worldwide live in Africa. In South Africa alone, some 5 million people are either HIV or AIDS positive and hundreds die each day. Cemeteries are being overloaded with corpses as one funeral follows another.

    On May 27th, President George Bush signed the H.R. 1298 US Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003. Some $15 billion had been pledged to fight disease but the Act ran into controversy when it was learned that as much as one third of the money was to be spent on abstinence-based prevention and faith-based organizations. Critics of the plan argue that the monies should be used to purchase Antiretroviral drugs and pursue similar initiatives. Others say that the Bush Administration should apply greater pressure on pharmaceutical companies to give up their monopolies and allow cheaper generic versions of the life prolonging, life saving drugs to be made available to those who can least afford them.

    Michael Hunter

    » Avert.org: Antiretroviral drug programs and initiatives
    » US State Dept.: The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

    * * *

    China, Russia, US Partners on North Korea

    Despite their many differences, the national governments of China, Russia and the United States have found common ground when dealing with the thorny issue of North Korea's nuclear capabilities. The Chinese and Russians have been instrumental in encouraging North Korea to accept multilateral, multinational discussions and now it would appear that their efforts have paid off.

    On Friday, August 1st, 2003 North Korean government indicated it will accept such discussions, something the country has previously rejected preferring instead to have direct talks with Washington. Senior State Department Official John Bolton said the move was, "very encouraging". However, Bolton called the North's leader Kim Jong-Il a "tyrannical dictator" and warned that talks alone could not resolve the issue. One of the key issues is how to create a verifiable inspections program in one of the world's most secretive nations.

    The crisis heated up in October of 2002 when the North withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (for nuclear weapons) and began reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods to make weapons-grade plutonium. Since then all UN Weapons Inspectors have been required to leave the country. (BBC, US State Dept., North Korean Government)

    Michael Hunter

    * * *

    Fight Looms over EU Constitution

    According to sources quoted by the BBC, the countries of Finland, Austria and Lithuania are set to fight Italy's desire to begin full Constitutional negotiations this October with an eye towards wrapping things up by the end of next year. All three nations insist that there is too much at stake for such a rushed timetable. Other issues that need to be addressed include the future role and power of the EU Presidency, as well as foreign policy and military alliances.

    Kirsty Hughes, a senior fellow of the Center for European Policies in Brussels, argues that many of the smaller countries who joined the EU did so with the idea that they would get a chance to serve in the presidential capacity. The new proposal for a streamlined 15 member voting structure leaves it unclear how much influence the less populated countries will have. Meanwhile, Britain is concerned about mutual defense guarantees made outside of the NATO alliance and having to accept foreign policies that may be contrary to their individual needs and wishes.

    Italy's Prime Minister Belusconi, who serves as the current president of the EU, promises "gentle violence" to ensure that no radical changes are made to the text of the Constitution as it now stands. (BBC)

    Michael Hunter

    » BBC: Call for more constitution debate
    » BBC: EU constitution battles loom

    * * *

    Taiwan Straits Report Alters Travel Plans

    Just days after the US Department of Defense reported to Congress on the state of China-Taiwan relations, a planned US trip by Taiwanese Vice President Annette Lu is said to be up in the air. Lu had planned to travel to the United States later this month and stop in four cities including New York. However, according to reports filed by the Washington Post, the New York visit has been scrubbed and the other stops are in jeopardy. State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said he was "not aware" of any plans to block the visit.

    The controversy follows close on the heels of the FY99 Appropriations Bill Report which noted China was increasing its readiness and ability to take back what China considers to be the renegade province. The report highlighted Beijing's plans to emphasize a campaign of "surprise, deception and shock" against Taiwan. The US Defense Department estimates that China plans to spend as much as $65 billion to purchase long range missiles and other equipment which would assist a military incursion.

    The report to Congress has been required under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) since April 10, 1979. At that time the Congress established the Act and its subsequent reports in order to demonstrate US commitment to Taiwan's state security. The US has angered the Chinese national government many times since 1949 by placing American warships in the Taiwan Straits in order to deter an aggressive takeover of the runaway province. Past reports have noted concern over the ease with which Chinese Nationals can obtain visas to the United States and the relative ease with which they are allowed to travel once in the country.

    Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said that "the Government will press ahead to cast off the diplomatic isolation Beijing has imposed". Taiwan was expelled from the United Nations in 1971 and its place was given to the People's Republic of China. (Washington Times, US Dept. of Defense)

    Leslie Buckle

    » Richard Bush: The US role in the Taiwan Straits issue
    » US Department of Defense: The Security Situation in the Taiwan Straight
    » Washington Times: Taiwan's vice president cancels stopover in New York

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