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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

North Korea: Back on the Terrorism List?

Mark E. Manyin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

Whether North Korea should be included on the U.S. list of terrorism-supporting countries has been a major issue in U.S.-North Korean diplomacy since 2000, particularly in connection with negotiations over North Korea's nuclear program. North Korea demanded that the Clinton and Bush Administrations remove it from the terrorism support list. On October 11, 2008, the Administration removed North Korea from the terrorism list. 

This move was part of the measures the Bush Administration took to implement a nuclear agreement that it negotiated with North Korea in September 2007 and finalized details of in April 2008. The agreement was reached under the format of the six party talks, which involve the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia. The President also announced that he was immediately lifting sanctions on North Korea under the U.S. Trading with the Enemy Act. North Korea's obligations under this nuclear agreement were to allow the disabling of its plutonium facility at Yongbyon and present to the United States and other government in the six party talks a declaration of its nuclear programs. North Korea submitted its declaration in June 2008. 

The removal of North Korea from the terrorism list, however, did not result in an early conclusion of the February 2007 six party nuclear agreement. The North Korean government and the Bush Administration disagreed over the content of an October 2008 agreement on verification, particularly over whether it allowed inspectors to take samples of nuclear materials from the Yongbyon installations. The other parties to the talks also had not completed the delivery of 1 million tons of heavy oil that they had promised in the February 2007 agreement. Against this backdrop, along with an apparent stroke suffered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, the six party process broke down. 

In the months since the breakdown of the talks, North Korea has taken a series of actions that have led to calls for its reinstatement on the terrorism list. In April 2009, North Korea launched devices suspected of being long-range missiles. In May 2009, North Korea tested a nuclear device. In March 2010, a South Korean naval vessel, the Cheonan, sank in waters disputed by the two Koreas. Nearly 50 South Korean sailors died in the incident. A multinational investigation team led by South Korea determined that the ship was sunk by a North Korean submarine. Meanwhile, reports from French, Japanese, South Korean, and Israeli sources described recent North Korean programs to provide arms and training to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, two groups on the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations. Large quantities of North Korean arms bound for Iran, intercepted in 2009, contained weapons that Iran supplies heavily to Hezbollah and Hamas. Moreover, a large body of reports describe a longstanding, collaborative relationship between North Korea and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that has continued throughout 2009. 

This report describes the rationales for including North Korea on the terrorism list from 1988- 2008, for North Korea's delisting in 2008, and the debate in 2010 over whether to re-list North Korea. This report was originally written by Larry Niksch, who left CRS at the end of January 2010.


Date of Report: May 24, 2010
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL30613
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Burma’s 2010 Elections: Implications of the New Constitution and Election Laws

Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

On an undisclosed date in 2010, Burma plans to hold its first parliamentary elections in 20 years. The elections are to be held under a new constitution, supposedly approved in a national referendum held in 2008 in the immediate aftermath of the widespread destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis. The official results of the constitutional referendum are widely seen as fraudulent, but despite significant domestic and international opposition, Burma's ruling military junta—the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)—has insisted on conducting the polls as part of what it calls a path to "disciplined democracy." 

On March 9, 2010, the SPDC released five new laws for the pending parliamentary elections. Three of the laws are about the three main types of parliaments stipulated in the constitution—the two houses of the national parliament (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) and the Regional or State parliaments. The fourth law—the Political Parties Registration Law—sets conditions for the registration and operation of political parties in Burma; the fifth law establishes a Union Election Commission to supervise the parliamentary elections and political parties. 

The new laws were quickly subjected to sharp criticism, both domestically and overseas. In particular, the law on political parties was widely denounced for placing unreasonable restrictions on the participation of many opposition political leaders and Burma's Buddhist monks and nuns. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said the Political Parties Registration Law "makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of creditability." There have also been objections to the terms of the Union Election Commission Law and the 17 people subsequently appointed to the commission by the SPDC. 

In late September 2009, the Obama Administration adopted a new policy on Burma. The policy keeps most of the elements of the Burma policies of the last two administrations in place, but adds a willingness to engage in direct dialogue with the SPDC on how to promote democracy and human rights in Burma, and greater cooperation on international security issues, such as counternarcotics efforts and nuclear nonproliferation. The Obama Administration accepts that little progress has been made during the seven months that the new policy has been in effect, but has indicated that it will remain in place for now. 

There are signs of concern among Members of Congress about the dearth of progress in Burma towards democracy and greater respect for human rights. Nine Senators sent a letter to President Obama on March 26, 2010, urging the imposition of additional economic sanctions on the SPDC in light of "a set of profoundly troubling election laws." However, another Senator perceives "several substantive gestures" on the part of the SPDC, and suggests it is time to increase engagement with the Burmese government. 

The 111th Congress has already taken action with respect to Burma, such as renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. If it were to determine that additional actions should be taken, there are several alternatives available. Among those alternatives are holding hearings or seminars on the political situation in Burma, pushing the Obama Administration to implement existing sanctions on Burma more vigorously, and adding or removing existing sanctions.


Date of Report: May 10, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R41218
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

Russia’s Economic Performance and Policies and Their Implications for the United States

William H. Cooper
Specialist in International Trade and Finance

Until recently, the Russian economy was one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The growth brought an improvement in the standard of living of the average Russian citizen and also brought economic stability that Russia had not experienced in at least a decade. This strong economic performance had been a major factor in the popular support that the Russian leadership enjoyed and was also arguably a factor in the boldness with which that leadership reasserted Russia's status as a world power, challenging the United States, Europe, the neighboring former Soviet states in economic and national security areas. 

However, as has been the case with most of the world's economies, the Russian economy has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and recession. The crisis brought an abrupt end to the decade's long (1999-2008) economic growth with real gross domestic product (GDP) increasing 6.9% annually on average. Russian GDP then declined 7.9% in 2009 and is expected to increase only modestly in 2010. Other economic indicators showed problems in other parts of the economy. 

The high oil prices were a major factor in the economic success Russia enjoyed, especially in the early and middle parts of this decade; however, the collapse of world prices for oil and other commodities in 2008 exposed the downside of Russia's dependence on the production and export of oil, gas, and other natural resources. The failure of Russia to complete important economic reforms and the government's penchant for re-asserting its control over key economic sectors loom among the possible roadblocks to a return to high economic growth rates down the road. 

Although its influence has been greatly diminished since the Soviet period, Russia remains a formidable force on the global stage, and its influence seems to be growing. Russia's economy is large enough to influence global economic conditions. Many European countries and former Soviet states are highly dependent on Russian natural gas. Russia is a significant player on a number of issues critical to the United States, for example, nuclear proliferation by Iran and North Korea. Russia's perceived national interests do not always match those of the United States, creating an environment for disagreement if not conflict. 

While U.S. exports to Russia are still relatively small, it is an important market for U.S. exporters of poultry, energy equipment, and technology. Russia is also an important supplier of a number of raw materials that are critical to U.S. manufacturers. These links have drawn the attention of some Members of Congress. Congress may consider in the near future whether to extend permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status to Russia, among other issues. 
.


Date of Report: May 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: RL34512
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Burma’s 2010 Elections: Implications of the New Constitution and Election Laws

Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

On an undisclosed date in 2010, Burma plans to hold its first parliamentary elections in 20 years. The elections are to be held under a new constitution, supposedly approved in a national referendum held in 2008 in the immediate aftermath of the widespread destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis. The official results of the constitutional referendum are widely seen as fraudulent, but despite significant domestic and international opposition, Burma's ruling military junta—the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)—has insisted on conducting the polls as part of what it calls a path to "disciplined democracy." 

On March 9, 2010, the SPDC released five new laws for the pending parliamentary elections. Three of the laws are about the three main types of parliaments stipulated in the constitution—the two houses of the national parliament (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) and the Regional or State parliaments. The fourth law—the Political Parties Registration Law—sets conditions for the registration and operation of political parties in Burma; the fifth law establishes a Union Election Commission to supervise the parliamentary elections and political parties. 

The new laws were quickly subjected to sharp criticism, both domestically and overseas. In particular, the law on political parties was widely denounced for placing unreasonable restrictions on the participation of many opposition political leaders and Burma's Buddhist monks and nuns. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip J. Crowley said the Political Parties Registration Law "makes a mockery of the democratic process and ensures that the upcoming elections will be devoid of creditability." There have also been objections to the terms of the Union Election Commission Law and the 17 people subsequently appointed to the commission by the SPDC. 

In late September 2009, the Obama Administration adopted a new policy on Burma. The policy keeps most of the elements of the Burma policies of the last two administrations in place, but adds a willingness to engage in direct dialogue with the SPDC on how to promote democracy and human rights in Burma, and greater cooperation on international security issues, such as counternarcotics efforts and nuclear nonproliferation. The Obama Administration accepts that little progress has been made during the seven months that the new policy has been in effect, but has indicated that it will remain in place for now. 

There are signs of concern among Members of Congress about the dearth of progress in Burma towards democracy and greater respect for human rights. Nine Senators sent a letter to President Obama on March 26, 2010, urging the imposition of additional economic sanctions on the SPDC in light of "a set of profoundly troubling election laws." However, another Senator perceives "several substantive gestures" on the part of the SPDC, and suggests it is time to increase engagement with the Burmese government. 

The 111th Congress has already taken action with respect to Burma, such as renewing the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003. If it were to determine that additional actions should be taken, there are several alternatives available. Among those alternatives are holding hearings or seminars on the political situation in Burma, pushing the Obama Administration to implement existing sanctions on Burma more vigorously, and adding or removing existing sanctions.


Date of Report: April 29, 2010
Number of Pages: 22
Order Number: R41218
Price: $29.95

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

What’s the Difference?—Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data

Michael F. Martin
Specialist in Asian Affairs

There is a large and growing difference between the official trade statistics released by the United States and the People's Republic of China. According to the United States, the 2009 bilateral trade deficit with China was $226.8 billion. According to China, its trade surplus with the United States was $143.3 billion—$83.5 billion less. 

This paper examines the differences in the trade data from the two nations in two ways. First, it compares the trade figures at the two digit level using the Harmonized System to discern any patterns in the discrepancies between the U.S. and Chinese data. This comparison reveals that over two-thirds of the difference in the value of China's exports to the United States is attributable to five types of goods. Those five types of goods, in order of the size of the discrepancy are electrical machinery; toys and sporting goods; machinery; footwear; and furniture. 

The second approach to examining the differing trade data involves a review of the existing literature on the technical and non-technical sources of the trade data discrepancies, including an October 2009 joint China-U.S. report on statistical discrepancies in merchandise trade data. The literature reveals that the main sources of the discrepancies are differences in the list value of shipments when they leave China and when they enter the United States, and differing attributions of origin and destination of Chinese exports that are transshipped through a third location (such as Hong Kong) before arriving in the United States. 

The size of the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China has been and continues to be an important issue in bilateral trade relations. Some Members of Congress view the deficit as a sign of unfair economic policies in China, and have introduced legislation seeking to redress the perceived competitive disadvantage China's policies have created for U.S. exporters.


Date of Report: April 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 10
Order Number: RS22640
Price: $29.95

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