US and allies expel Russia from Group of 8; Obama criticizes Russia of Annexing Crimea; President Obama visits Saudi Arabia; President Obama brings South Korea and Japan together for talks
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • (MARCH 17-30)

    According to reports, the United States and its closest allies on March 24 cast Russia out of the Group of eight industrialized democracies, their most exclusive club, to punish President Vladimir V. Putin for his lightning annexation of Crimea, while threatening tougher sanctions if he escalates aggression against Ukraine. President Obama and the leaders of Canada, Japan and Europe’s four strongest economies gathered for the first time since the Ukraine crisis erupted last month, using a closed two-hour meeting on the sidelines of a summit meeting about nuclear security to project a united front against Moscow.1

    According to reports, President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia on March 28 and sought to reassure Saudi King Abdullah that he would support moderate Syrian rebels and reject a bad nuclear deal with Iran, during a visit designed to allay the kingdom's concerns that its decades-old U.S. alliance had frayed. During his talks with Saudi King Abdullah, Obama underscored the importance of Washington's relationship with the world's largest oil exporter in a two-hour meeting that focused on the Middle East but did not touch on energy or human rights. While the two leaders discussed "tactical differences", they both agreed their strategic interests were aligned, a U.S. official told reporters after the meeting. "I think it was important to have the chance to come look him (King Abdullah) in the eye and explain how determined the president is to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," the official said. The meeting was a chance to assure the king that "we won't accept a bad deal and that the focus on the nuclear issue doesn't mean we are not concerned about, or very much focused on, Iran's other destabilizing activities in the region." The leaders had a full discussion about Syria, where a three-year-old civil war has killed an estimated 140,000 people and uprooted millions. Overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia is backing the insurgents in their battle to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is supported by Riyadh's rival, Shi'ite power Iran. The official said both countries shared the objective of a political transition in Syria and supporting moderate opposition to Assad.2

    Repots noted that US President Barack Obama held a tri-lateral meeting with President Park Geun-hye of the South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan after the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 25, 2014. President Obama brought together the leaders of Japan and South Korea for their first face-to-face talks, seeking to thaw chilly relations between two of Washington's closest Asian allies. The United States hopes the move may improve the bilateral relationship between Seoul and Tokyo, clouded by resentment over Japan's colonial past, and strengthen their combined response to regional concerns such as North Korea and China. Obama, speaking after meeting both leaders on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague, said the three countries had presented a united front against the threat posed by the nuclear ambitions of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Pyongyang's "provocations and threats" will be met by a united response, said Obama, who will visit Japan and South Korean in April. "It is the first time that the three of us have an opportunity to meet together (on) some serious challenges that we all face," he said. South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also attended the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, emphasized a need to work together on containing the North Korean nuclear threat. "Over the last five years, close coordination between our three countries succeeded in changing the game with North Korea: our trilateral cooperation has sent a strong signal to Pyongyang that its provocations and threats will be met with a unified response," Obama said. The three leaders discussed "specific steps to deepen that coordination", including "military cooperation that includes joint exercises and on missile defense," he said. Japan is to hold high-level talks with North Korea over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs next week.3