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Friday: At U.N., Obama Meets on Sudan, Asia; Japan to Release Chinese Captain

A day after encouraging the international community to support Middle East peace talks and speaking about the importance of human rights and democracy in ensuring a stable world economy and global security, President Obama on Friday will attend a high-level U.N. meeting aimed at ensuring an upcoming independence referendum for southern Sudan does not spark a new civil war.

The president will also meet with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations who are concerned about increasing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. He is expected to press Myanmar’s military rulers to hold free and fair elections this year and release political prisoners. President Obama will also talk with the presidents of Colombia, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan.

From New York, Margaret Warner recaps the General Assembly meeting and looks ahead to Friday.

The Los Angeles Times’ Edmund Sanders describes a notable absence on Thursday:

“President Obama’s call Thursday in an address before the U.N. General Assembly for Israel to extend its West Bank construction moratorium got little reaction from the Israeli delegation. That’s because they weren’t there.”

Foreign Policy’s John Norris has a look at America’s global development policy. According to President Obama, writes Norris:

“The United States has to start being picky about how it distributes aid. Gone are the days when Washington can help everyone everywhere…. The good news is that Obama gets it. The bad news is that all of this is much easier said than done.”

Japan to Release Chinese Fishing Boat Captain

Japanese prosecutors decided Friday to release a Chinese fishing boat captain following intense pressure from China in the worst spat between the Asian neighbors in years, reports the Associated Press.

Japan had accused Zhan Qixiong of deliberately ramming two patrol vessels near disputed islands in the East China Sea. China had said his detention was “illegal and invalid,” and was sending a plane to bring him home.

The BBC has a helpful explainer of the islands in dispute. The BBC’s Roland Buerk in Tokyo writes:

“Many in Japan may bristle, saying the country has caved in to Chinese pressure. But Japan certainly had a lot to lose. The economy is dependent on exports for growth, and China is its biggest trading partner. Japan’s government is looking in to reports that China stopped shipments to Japan of rare earths – elements in which it has a near monopoly vital for the manufacture of hi-tech goods like electric cars.”

So who won the dispute? The Economist “scores this match:

“In the end, it came down to economic ties versus national pride. Business concerns prevailed — and so did China, in a sense…. Japan comes off looking weak, as it succumbs to an avalanche of pressure. But the ferocity of the Chinese response has harmed China ultimately, by undermining confidence in China as a responsible stakeholder in the region.”

Pakistan Protests U.S. Sentence of Scientist

A U.S.-trained Pakistani scientist convicted of trying to kill U.S. agents and military officers in Afghanistan was sentenced Thursday to 86 years in prison, setting off large protests in Karachi.

Aafia Siddiqui, who was detained in Afghanistan in 2008, was found guilty of seizing a weapon from one of her captors and trying to shoot U.S. authorities who were interrogating her there.

On Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Siddiqui “the daughter of the nation” and vowed to campaign for her release.

Andy Worthington, who has extensively covered the long, strange case of Siddiqui, writes about the sentencing here.

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