The Cable

Obama names his world leader best buddies!

For years, the Washington foreign policy community has wondered about President Barack Obama's world leader best-buddies -- the international figures he's become close to personally as he sets out to rule the free world.

Well, in an interview with Time's Fareed Zakaria, Obama named his international BFFs and the surprising list includes: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"Have you been able to forge similar relationships with foreign leaders?" Zakaria asked Obama. "Because one of the criticisms people make about your style of diplomacy is it's very cool, it's aloof, that you don't pal around with these guys."

Obama replied that he couldn't compare his relationships to those of past presidents, but "the friendships and the bonds of trust that I've been able to forge with a whole range of leaders is precisely -- or is a big part of what has allowed us to execute effective diplomacy."

Obama then went on name the five world leaders he feels especially close to and explained that he isn't exactly shooting hoops with them, but they at least have good working relationships.

"I mean, I think that if you ask them -- Angela Merkel, or Prime Minister Singh, or President Lee, or Prime Minister Erdogan, or David Cameron would say, we have a lot of trust and confidence in the President. We believe what he says. We believe that he'll follow through on his commitments. We think he's paying attention to our concerns and our interests," Obama said. And that's part of the reason why we've been able to forge these close working relationships and gotten a whole bunch of stuff done."

Singh was the first world leader to be honored with a state dinner at the White House during the Obama administration (that even the Salahis attended). Lee just got finished with a highly successful trip to Washington that included the signing of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement. Some reporting says that Obama and Erdogan talk on the phone regularly. Cameron has joined Obama on all sorts of adventures, including the war in Libya.

As for Merkel, even we can't figure that one out.

But somewhere, soon to be ex-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is shedding a single tear. After all, Obama did take him out for hamburgers in 2010 in Washington, but I guess it just didn't work out.

By the way, who was George W. Bush's world leader best buddy? Well, towards the end of his administration it was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but he also called British Prime Minister Tony Blair "My closest partner and best friend on the world stage" and nicknamed him "Landslide."

But Bush had cute nicknames for several world leaders. He called Jean Chrétien, the prime minister of Canada, "Dino" (short for Dinosaur), Vladimir Putin was "Pootie-Poot" and John Howard, the prime minister of Australia, the "Man of Steel."

The Cable

U.S. ambassador: Political situation in China “very, very delicate”

The Chinese people are increasingly frustrated with the Chinese Communist Party and the political situation in China is "very, very delicate," U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke said on Wednesday.

"I do believe that there is a power of the people, and there is a growing frustration among the people over the operations of government, corruption, lack of transparency, and issues that affect the Chinese people on a daily basis that they feel are being neglected," Locke told NPR's Steve Inskeep during a Wednesday interview, part of a media blitz Locke is conducting during his visit to Washington.

"Do you think that the situation is fundamentally stable in China right now?" Inskeep asked Locke.

"I think, very delicate -- very, very delicate," Locke responded. "But there were calls earlier this year for a Jasmine Revolution and nothing came of it. I think it would take something very significant, internal to China, to cause any type of major upheaval."

Locke said that since he took over the ambassadorship from former GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, he has become aware of public demonstrations large and small throughout China that ordinary people were using to pressure the government to address their grievances. He singled out a recent protest in the southern Chinese city of Wukan over the confiscation of land without reasonable compensation.

"[The people] basically prevented anybody from the outside from coming in and brought the city to a halt and forced the Chinese government communist leaders to send people to address their grievances," Locke said.

The discord inside China is partly a result of the income and wealth disparity between China's growing middle class and the masses of poor, rural residents, Locke said. He also said the Chinese government's human rights record was worsening.

"[I]t's very clear that in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and since then, there's been a greater intolerance of dissent -- and the human rights record of China has been going in the wrong direction," said Locke.

Asked for comment at today's State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland backed up Locke's comments on human rights and the rule of law in China.

"[Locke] obviously speaks for the administration in expressing continued concern that we seem to have an increasing trend of crackdowns, forced disappearances, extralegal detentions, arrests and convictions of human rights activists, lawyers, religious leaders, ethnic minorities in China," she said.

But Nuland declined to repeat Locke's assertion that the Chinese government was potentially unstable.

"I think our message to the Chinese government on these issues is the same message that we give around the world when we have human rights concerns, that governments are stronger when they protect the human rights of their people and when they allow for peaceful dissent," she said.

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