North Korea: Since the execution of Chang Sung-taek, North Korean behavior has been a study in contrasts. In an effort to project normal economic relations, on Friday North Korea made overtures to South Korea and China.
Officials at Kaesong industrial complex proposed a new round of talks on 19 December aimed at advancing the restoration of normality at the complex. They agreed to permit a delegation of officials from the G20 economic group to tour Kaesong also on the 19th.
As for China, North Korea signed an agreement to construct a high-speed rail line linking northwestern North Korea with northeastern China.
On 14 December, the BBC and other news outlets reported that North Korea has ordered North Korean business people in China to return to North Korea. The announcement provided no reason but presumably they will all be interrogated for their connections to the late Chang..
On 15 December, North Korea announced that Kim Jong Un's aunt Kim Kyong-hui was named to a position on the state funeral committee for a deceased official.
Comment: Chang Sung-taek was reputed to be close to Chinese authorities and businessmen as well as to South Korean businesses. The recall suggests that the North is uprooting Chang's network of associated and contacts. This is a normal step in a purge and has happened multiple times in North Korea's past.
The prominent announcement about Kim Kyong-hui, who is the sister of the late Kim Chong-il, indicates that no blood relatives of Kim Jong Un are implicated in Chang's treason. Chang was an uncle by marriage. Thus, the Kim blood line remains unsullied by counter-revolutionary impulses. That is the message, but it certainly is not the truth.
Maintenance of normal economic or any kind of relations would be unusual. The North Korean bureaucracy is small with every important decision made by a despot. North Korea has never shown that it can manage more than one crisis or major development at a time. The promise to do so this time should provide insights as to the leadership's management competence and style.
Chinese reaction. At Friday's daily Foreign Ministry press conference, a reporter asked the following question."First, two DPRK (North Korean) vice premiers reportedly sought asylum in China not long ago. Can you confirm this?"
The spokesman denied he had heard of such a development.
Comment: The daily press conference is a staged event that superficially resembles a press conference. It is a way to promulgate or restate the official party and/or government position without going through formal processes. Thus, what was presented as a reporter's question looks more like a deliberate leak that two vice premiers defected from North Korea.
China is invariably the refuge of civilian and military leaders who run afoul of the despotic Kim regime, which gives China a cadre of North Korean former leaders who are beholden to China and available for installing as a friendlier government in Pyongyang, should China perceive the need.
Regarding the execution of Chang, the Chinese spokesman said that China considers it an internal affair and hope that North Korea will maintain internal stability.
When asked whether the death would affect economic cooperation, the official response was,
"The development of economic cooperation and trade between China and the DPRK serves the common interests of both sides. The Chinese side is ready to continue to carry out economic and trade exchanges with the DPRK in a friendly and mutually beneficial spirit and to promote pragmatic cooperation. We hope and believe that the China-DPRK relationship of economic cooperation and trade will continue to enjoy sound and stable development."
Comment: Every interested nation is acting with caution. The withdrawal of North Korean businessmen from China overrides any impressions of normality that the North is attempting to project.
Mali: Voter turnout was low in Sunday's national assembly elections, according to international observers. Up for election were 128 of the 147 seats in the national assembly.
Comment: This election was supposed to complete the political normalization process. The first phase of the national assembly election process occurred last November to fill 19 seats. Malians elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in presidential elections last August.
Analysts saidSaturday's suicide bombing in Kidal that killed two Senegalese peacekeepers and injured four Malian soldiers intimidated voters. Elections seem almost irrelevant in much of Mali, but they create a perception of normality and internal stability. That is enough to enable France to switch soldiers from Mali to the Central African Republic.
End of NightWatch
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