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NKorea Looks to Mend China Rift

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

North Korea-China: Chang Song-taek (also, Jang Song Thaek) -- a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission which governs North Korea; also an uncle and chief advisor to Kim Jong-un --- is traveling to China this week with a delegation of 50 officials to revive bilateral economic cooperation, according to South Korean and Japanese press.

The talks will center on the development programs for Hwanggumpyong island, the Wihwa Islands and the Rajin-Songbong special economic zones, according to a report by the Korean Central News Agency.

Comment: Chinese enthusiasm for investing in the three development zones vanished after North Korea attempted its latest space launch in April. The official reasons for suspending investment is the Chinese determined that the three zones will not turn a profit for their investors.

A condition for renewed Chinese interest reportedly is a requirement for North Korea to invest more to build the infrastructure in the projects. Chang Song-taek's mission is to rekindle Chinese interest with the best ideas North Korean businessmen have to offer.

Beyond that, there are two other implications. This visit is a North Korean way of apologizing for having ignored Chinese advice to not try the space launch.

More importantly, this North Korean delegation is the first to look to China for economic advice on economic reform. In that respect, Chang Song-taek, the brother-in-law of Kim Chong-il, and Kim Jong-un appear to be overruling Kim Chong-il's steadfast rejection of the Chinese economic model as appropriate for North Korea.

This does not mean that peace is breaking out, far from it, but internal economic reform is beginning … slowly. If the NightWatch hypothesis about new experiments to make North Korean more prosperous continues to prove accurate, the North's armed forces will remain as prickly and reflexively violent as ever.

India-Pakistan: Pakistani occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir state is illegal and needs to be resolved, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said on 13 August, according to Indian media. The entire state is an integral part of India, Antony said, adding that India remains committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan in accordance with the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.

Comment: Antony - arguably the most able minister in the cabinet -- seldom speaks in public about highly-charged foreign policy issues, especially the legal status of Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, which the Pakistanis call Azad (Free) Kashmir. Azad Kashmir is a narrow strip of territory, adjacent to Pakistan which belonged to the princely state of Kashmir and Jammu that acceded to India in 1947. It was occupied by Pakistani troops at the time of partition and the UN ceasefire that created the Line of Control.

A recent surge in Islamic militant attacks in Indian Kashmir, with Pakistani intelligence and army artillery support, seems to have contributed to Antony's decision to speak out. Indian officials very seldom assert India's claim of ownership of western Kashmir against Pakistan.

Pakistan has created an artificial entity in Azad Kashmir, which maintains the fiction of running an independent state, but which in fact is completely controlled by authorities in Islamabad, and defended by the Pakistan Army and Pakistani intelligence.

Readers should know that Pakistan has no interest in supporting an independent Islamic state in Indian Kashmir because it would be uncontrollable by the Pakistanis. Nor does Pakistan want to annex the restive Kashmiris, who look more to India by tradition and history than to Pakistan. An independent Muslim state of Kashmir would almost inexorably become a new source of regional instability as it sought to define itself.

Pakistan's main interest in Kashmir is that the dispute justifies a 500,000-man Pakistan Army and other forces that Pakistan really cannot afford. All other issues in dispute with India have been resolved through talks. In short, the Pakistan Army has no other reason to be so large or influential in Pakistani government decisions. The irony is that in a conventional war the Pakistan Army is no match for the Indian Army.

As for India, the Indian constitution identifies Jammu and Kashmir State as an integral part of the state of India. That means that Indian leaders have no authority to compromise Indian sovereignty of that state, including the Pakistani occupied part, known as Azad Kashmir. And they will never do so.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-Syria: The OIC has proposed to suspend Syria from 15 August because of the violent tactics it has used in suppressing its country's uprising, a diplomat said. Iran is opposed to Syria's suspension, but the diplomat expressed confidence that the suspension will be approved.

Comment: Saudi and Bahraini suppression of the Shiites in Bahrain did not result in OIC suspension of either kingdom. The OIC is a tool of the Saudis. This represents the Sunnis shunning the Shiites, not a top priority for the Asad regime.

Egypt: President Mohammed Mursi was not trying to marginalize Egypt's army when he dismissed his defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. He said it is time for a new generation to move Egypt forward, adding that he did not intend to embarrass institutions.

Comment: Mursi appears almost to be apologizing for making the personnel changes, which suggests they were not his idea. The latest narrative is that Mursi was just getting rid of the old guard and allowing younger men to rise in the ranks. It is now known that all the heads of all the armed services have been retired. This confirms that the moves are part of a clean-sweep face lift, including a new military leadership in support of the new president. Egypt looks like a western-style democracy.

In reality, there are no flag rank officers in Egypt who did not rise because of Mubarak or a Mubarak-promotee. The Army has extensive economic interests that are critical to the economic health of Egypt and give the army significant political clout.

Today's message to the world media, especially select US media and analysts, is that there is no danger of a military backlash; no likelihood of a coup. The underlying power structure is unchanged, but the names on the office doors are different.

End of NightWatch ###

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