When China Met Gates

Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were both on the Hill yesterday for the vote on New START, an arms-control agreement with Russia that the former senators have lobbied hard for recently. Biden presided over the Senate floor while Clinton spoke with senators in the thick of it. Their efforts have been stepped up of late as the administration has pushed to get the treaty signed by the end of this lame-duck session of Congress. Even President Obama made phone calls to undecided senators.

The Pentagon announced yesterday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would travel to China and Japan in early January. Spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Gates would try to build a solid military relationship with Beijing “that is confident in tone, cooperative in nature and comprehensive in scope.” The trip comes a year after China broke off military relations in the wake of the United States’ announcement that it made an arms deal with Taiwan. And the visit will take place just about six months after Beijing refused to meet with Gates when he was in Asia over the summer. With Japan, the defense secretary will “discuss recent security developments in the region.” His talks are likely to center around the tense situation on the Korean peninsula.

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo has refused to leave office even though, according to many sources, his challenger Alassane Ouattara won an election that was held on November 28. His refusal has led to weeks of political crisis and fifty deaths, pushing the country close to civil war. According to State Department spokesman PJ Crowley, the United States is considering how it, along with France, might “augment the UN peacekeeping force” currently in the country.