With major political changes for Beijing and Washington on the horizon, President Obama called on China (Reuters) before the second Nuclear Security Summit to use its influence in Pyongyang to stop it from ratcheting up global nuclear tensions.
Reuters’ Alister Bull and Matt Spetalnick wrote it was Obama’s sharpest message yet to China on North Korea and “dovetails with recent calls for Beijing to meet its responsibilities” as a major world power. “In an election year when Republicans have accused Obama of not being strong enough with Beijing, talking tough on China is seen as a potential vote-winner after three years of troubled diplomacy in dealings with Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan,” they wrote.
AFP’s Stephen Collinson notes China’s President Hu Jintao and President Obama “are increasingly preoccupied by domestic political calendars – with a new generation of leaders poised to assume power in China and Obama’s quickening re-election bid at home.”
Collinson warns “Obama must watch his flank as his likely Republican foe Mitt Romney lacerates his policy towards Beijing, seeking to exploit a perception among blue-collar voters that unfair Chinese trade practices are costing U.S. jobs.” Romney has recently faced criticism from the Chinese media for his platform on the country, especially plans to label China a “currency manipulator” should he win the presidency.
The fifty-nation summit on policies to guard against terrorist nuclear attacks was originally initiated by Obama in 2010 as part of his overall push to reduce the threat from makeshift nuclear weapons, a major campaign issue for him in 2008. At the summit, reporters reportedly overheard Obama ask Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev to give him “space” on missile defense (ABC) until after the election in November. Russia also faces new leadership with the reelection of Vladimir Putin to the presidency.
Obama also demanded North Korea (WashPo) cancel a rocket launch scheduled for April that Pyongyang says is a test of system to send satellites into orbit but most of the rest of the world believes to be a thinly veiled ballistic missile test.
Rick Santorum won the Louisiana GOP primary Saturday, where exit polls (CNN) show not only is the economy the number one issue with voters, but that most of them think it is getting worse. Of voters polled, 51 percent said the economy was their top issue, with the budget deficit a second getting 28 percent of respondents – consistent with previous exit polls. Only 12 percent of Louisiana voters polled said they thought the economy is “starting to recover” 61 percent said they believe it is getting worse.
Still hammering for lower gas prices, Newt Gingrich told conservatives gathered Saturday at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference that not only would increased drilling lower gas prices, but U.S. energy independence would alleviate foreign policy problems (Politics PA), such as Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz in response to sanctions.
–Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson