Gates Heads Home

Wrapping up his trip to Asia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates had some more words for North Korea today. “The DPRK leadership must stop these dangerous provocations and take concrete steps to show they will begin meeting their international obligations,” he said in Seoul. Gates was there meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin, and commented that negotiations with the North are possible, but Pyongyang must first take action.

Next month, the Quartet (the UN, the EU, the United States and Russia) will meet to discuss the stalled Middle East peace process. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will sit down with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton and Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, at the Munich Security Conference. Yesterday, U.S. special envoy George Mitchell had a face-to-face with both Palestinian envoy Saeb Erekat and the Israel's representative Yitzhak Molcho (in separate meetings).

National Security Adviser Tom Donilon will offer a sneak peek today at the White House’s goals for President Obama’s January 19 meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Yesterday, Obama met with advocates for human rights in China for 75 minutes. And today on the heels of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s China speech, Gary Locke, the U.S. commerce secretary, urged Beijing to open up, specifically to foreign firms. He was speaking at the U.S.-China Business Council. Calling for a “level playing field” for U.S. companies, Locke avoided the exchange-rate-appreciation issue. 

A memorial service for the late diplomat Richard Holbrooke will be held today at the Kennedy Center in DC. President Obama and Secretary Clinton will be in attendance along with dignitaries from across the world, including Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari. Obama is meeting with Zardari this morning to discuss issues like democracy and counterterrorism efforts.