By Elise Labott
It's what administration officials refer to as the North Korean "two-step," in which one daring act by Pyongyang is followed by another. This time, Washington and its allies are expecting North Korea to conduct a third nuclear bomb test shortly after the launch.
In April 2009, North Korea followed up a long-range missile test with a nuclear test. Then, after North Korea sunk the South Korean navy warship Cheonan in March 2010, it topped itself later that year by shelling South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea off the countries' west coast.
By Larry Shaughnessy
U.S. military officials are anxiously awaiting North Korea's announced ballistic missile launch, which they described to Congress on Wednesday as part of the regime's "coercive strategy" to antagonize, provoke and then try to win concessions.
April 15 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Song, the founder of communist North Korea and the grandfather of the current North Korean leader, who has said there will be a missile launch around that date, in violation of numerous U.N. resolutions and the most recent agreement with the United States.
North Korea has designated the entire year of 2012 as a year of strength and prosperity in celebration of Kim Il Song's birthday.
By Jamie Crawford
The United States formally designated a radical Indonesian Islamist group a foreign terrorist organization and imposed sanctions on its leaders Thursday.
Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), which seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, was added to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list following its attacks on Indonesian government personnel and citizens, the State Department said.
"JAT has robbed banks and carried out other illicit activities to fund the purchase of assault weapons, pistols, and bomb-making materials," the department said in a statement announcing the move. FULL POST
In an interview on the sidelines of the East Asian Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Brianna Keilar that what is going on in Syria is "very disturbing" and said the opposition is changing, and becoming "well armed and prepared to take action against the Syrian government."
Clinton also spoke about her upcoming trip to Burma, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in over 50 years. The trip will present an opportunity to test recent political and economic reforms recently enacted by the military junta in the Southeast Asian nation. "How real it is, how far it goes - we will have to make sure we have a better understanding than we do right now," she said in the interview.
And as President Obama announced an agreement with the Australian government earlier this week that would eventually allow over two thousand U.S. Marines to be stationed at an Australian military base on the northern coast of the country, Clinton told CNN the Marines would not be a "hostile presence" meant to counter China.
By Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty and National Security Producer Jamie Crawford
The State Department Wednesday defended its purchases of books authored by President Obama for gift-giving abroad and for placement in U.S. embassy libraries around the world.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters it is "longstanding practice" to allow embassies to buy books, "to put them out in libraries ... give them to contacts, which they think will help deepen understanding of the U.S. political system, of U.S. political figures and leaders of U.S. history, U.S. culture."
The purchases, she added are "done in strict accordance with government procurement standards."
By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy in Tokyo, Japan
If there's been one theme U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has tried to hammer home at every opportunity during his weeklong tour of Asia it is this: "The United States, as a Pacific nation, is and will remain a Pacific power in this region. We will always maintain a strong presence in the Pacific."
Those assurances come from a defense secretary facing major cuts at home.
"It's no secret that the United States faces some very tough fiscal decisions back home," Panetta said Tuesday during a news conference with the Japanese defense minister. "But let me reassure the people of Japan: The one thing that we have agreed upon is that the Pacific will remain a key priority.
I will continue to strengthen our forces in this part of the world."
So if the Department of Defense has to make cuts, and it's clear it will, how will the American military be strengthened in the Far East? Perhaps by looking to the west.
The U.S. military will be out of Iraq by New Year's Day and the mission in Libya with NATO could be over by Halloween. Even in Afghanistan, where no one is claiming victory, America's troop presence is shrinking; 10,000 troops are to come out by the end of 2011.
Panetta called it a "turning point after a decade of war." FULL POST
By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy traveling with the secretary of defense in Tokyo, Japan
One day after praising China for the way it has responded to issues like the U.S. sale of arms to Taiwan, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's comments turned more serious and stern Monday.
In an op-ed published in Japan's largest daily newspaper, Panetta wrote, "China is rapidly modernizing its military, but with a troubling lack of transparency."
He went on to criticize China's dealings with some of its neighbors, focusing on China's "increasingly assertive activity in the East and South China Seas."
"Together, the U.S. and Japan will work to... encourage China to play a responsible role in the international community," Panetta wrote.
Just the day before the op-ed was published, Panetta told reporters, "I would commend them (China) for the way that they've handled the news of that sale to Taiwan." FULL POST
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for an even greater investment in Asia, as the United States pivots from Iraq and Afghanistan,
"One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment - diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise - in the Asia-Pacific region," Clinton writes in an essay just published by Foreign Policy.
The essay, called "America's Pacific Century, published ahead of this week's State visit by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, comes at a time when many in Congress are calling for a pullback on U.S. efforts and spending abroad. Clinton, bluntly, says such calls are "misguided". South Korea alone is stuck in U.S. political quagmire with a hold on the nomination for U.S. ambassador to Seoul (more on that soon on Security Clearance) and a final vote still needed for the trade deal with the Koreans.
"With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward - we cannot afford not to," Clinton writes.