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National Security Brief: April 3, 2012

— The U.N.’s special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan said Bashar al-Assad’s government has agreed to withdraw its forces from population centers by Annan’s April 10 deadline. Russia’s foreign minister said in response to Annan’s plan: “Ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters.”

— Syrian government troops continued to hunt down rebel fighters on Monday, torching their homes and bulldozing others, opposition groups said. Army defectors said that Syrian military personnel routinely have raped women and girls, tortured children and encouraged troops to loot the houses they storm.

— A new report released by the Brookings Institution in Washington and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies at Peking University says that China views the U.S. as a declining power and sees the bilateral relationship in zero-sum terms. The report also said that a pattern of distrust is emerging between the two countries that could result in an adversarial relationship in the coming decades.

— Asia Times Online reports that according to “confidential foreign government documents and official media reports from Pyongyang,” the “top managers of North Korea’s clandestine nuclear and ballistic missile program have been methodically promoted and now dominate the inner circle of Kim Jong-eun’s new government.”   — Myanmar’s president U Thein Sein said last weekend’s by-elections were “conducted in a very successful way” while his top adviser said the government was surprised by the scale of arch-rival Aung San Suu Kyi’s win in parliamentary elections.

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— NATO spokesman Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson said yesterday that personal grievances, battle stress, and domestic problems are behind more attacks by rogue Afghan security forces on NATO troops than are Taliban infiltrators.