Mitchell Taps Out and Kerry's in Pakistan

U.S. special envoy to the Middl East George Mitchell is calling it quits. He resigned from his post over the weekend. The mediator attempted many rounds of shuttle diplomacy in the hopes of restarting talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, and though he came close to getting indirect talks off the ground, the peace process has essentially gone nowhere since 2008.

Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is in Pakistan to try to secure the country’s cooperation as tensions continue to flare up following the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He is the highest-ranking member of the government to head to Islamabad since the Abbottabad operation, and his presence carries an additional weight since he was key in securing a rather large aid package for Pakistan. Some members of Congress are now threatening to cut that aid off. Kerry is expected to not mince words in his meetings. The senator stopped in Kabul before heading to Islamabad and he said, “Yes, [insurgents] are operating out of North Waziristan and other areas of the sanctuaries. And yes, there is some evidence of Pakistan government knowledge of some of these activities in ways that is very disturbing. That will be without any question one of the subjects of conversation.”

Last night, Kerry met with General Ashfaq Kayani, the head of Pakistan's army. And about his meetings today, Kerry commented, “I expressed as clearly as possible grave concerns in the United States over Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and existence here of sanctuaries for adversaries in Afghanistan.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the senator noted, will also head to Pakistan soon.

As ties with Pakistan heat up, the administration continues its talks with China. Feathers were ruffled last week as Washington and Beijing held their Strategic and Economic Dialogue (with Beijing, for instance, criticizing Clinton for her criticisms of China’s human rights’ record). Perhaps things will go a little better this week, as a high-level Chinese military delegation visits the States. In fact, it is the first time in seven years that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen’s Chinese counterpart, General Chen Bingde, has made it stateside. Officials aren’t expecting anything groundbreaking to come out of the meetings. The hope is just to further contact. Beijing had broken its military ties to Washington in 2010 when the U.S. administration announced a $6.3 billion arms package going to Taiwan.

And Stephen Bosworth, the U.S. special envoy on North Korea, is in South Korea on a three-day visit. He’ll meet with various South Korean officials just days after Pyongyang criticized South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s proposal to hold a summit to discuss the nuclear situation. Kim Jong il rejected the idea, calling it a “ridiculous attempt to disarm” North Korea.