Tension is building up again on the Korean peninsula. According to Seoul, North Korea fired shells near its Yellow Sea border with the south. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland called on Pyongyang “to exercise restraint.” Also in her briefing yesterday, Nuland challenged Beijing to explain exactly why it needs an aircraft carrier: “We have had concerns for some time and we've been quite open with them with regard to the lack of transparency from China regarding its power projection and its lack of access and denial of capabilities.” Washington, she said, is ready to be transparent; Beijing just needs to reciprocate.
Switching regions, Nuland commented that Washington is concerned about the “creeping” anti-Americanism in the “Egyptian public discourse.” In particular, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, who hasn’t been in the country all that long, has been personally targeted, with a state-run Egyptian newspaper calling her the “ambassador from hell.” Nuland called the attacks “unacceptable,” and broader anti-Americanism “unfair” and “inaccurate.”
UN Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco spoke to the UN Security Council yesterday in a closed session, explaining that the situation in Syria has only worsened, “with increased violence and the same pattern of anti-government protests, military operations by security forces and supported militias, killings and mass arrests.” (White House spokesman Jay Carney used similarly strong language yesterday, describing Bashar al-Assad’s actions as “heinous” and saying “We are all watching with horror at what he is doing to his own people.”) U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice explained to the council that Washington wants to see the UN take a more active role in addressing the crisis, perhaps even by “sending a senior U.N. official to Damascus.”
General John Allen, now the commander of forces in Afghanistan, said that NATO-led forces killed the Taliban that shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter over the weekend, but have not managed to get a hold of the insurgent leader that the ill-fated forces were going after in the first place. And frequent foreign policy pinch hitter John Kerry is going to be taking on a matter a bit closer to home in the coming weeks. A member of the Senate Finance Committee, he was named to the supercommittee tasked with cutting $1.5 trillion from the budget. His national-security experience will help him weigh in on potential military funding cuts.