North Korean Brass Show Signs of Discontent

Posted: May 15, 2013 12:01 AM

North Korea: According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Colonel General Jang Jong Nam was introduced as recently appointed Minister of the People's Armed Forces during the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Korean People's Internal Security Force. Kim Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju attended.

Comment: General Jang is the third Minister in a year. He replaces General Kim Kyok Sik who was appointed last November. General Kim was last seen in public on 3 May.

The Ministry of the People's Armed Forces is mainly an administrative, logistic support and finance-raising bureaucracy, not comparable in power or influence to the US Defense Department or the South Korean National Defense Ministry. For example, it is not in the chain of command of the General Staff which commands the Korean People's Army.

Nevertheless, three Ministers in a year is a highly unusual turnover and a strong indicator that the senior ranks of the armed forces are unsettled. It is tempting to consider that General Kim Kyok Sik, who was associated with the aggressive provocations against South Korea in 2010, might be the scapegoat for the North's failure to make any significant achievements from the hardships of the winter alert.

What is certain is that the general most associated with aggressive confrontation has been replaced.

After all the civilian and military hardships associated with the high combat readiness alert and the threats and boasting, the North's media managers have not mentioned any great and glorious results from the recent confrontation.

Pakistan: Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party dominated Saturday's election, despite polls that predicted a much closer election. The election commission has not announced the final results, but the preliminary returns on Monday indicated PML-N won 126 of the 272 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. It is expected to gain four more and to be able to reach an outright majority of 137 by persuading independents and small parties to join the PML-N.

Nawaz Sharif will be the next prime minister. In statements during the past two days, he vowed his top three priorities would be the economy. He said that there were better ways than force to deal with the Islamists and the Pakistan Taliban.

As for foreign affairs, he invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his swearing in ceremony, stating he wanted to reduce mistrust between Pakistan and India. He said he wants good relations with the US and promised to cooperate in the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Voters also elected provincial governments. The PML-N held its control of Punjab Province and probably will lead a coalition government in Baluchistan. It will probably be in the opposition in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The Pakistan People's Party will lead a coalition government in Sindh Province.

Comment: Pakistani voters voted for change in national level policies. The 60% voter turnout was the highest on record.

The outgoing Pakistan People's Party coalition was unstable, weak and intimidated by the Pakistan Arm to whom it deferred on national security matters. It was transitional.

A PML-N administration promises to be much more stable and much less deferential to the Army because of the elections. Nawaz said he intended to take control of defense policy and put it back in the cabinet.

Nawaz' past two terms as prime minister were distinguished by political infighting with the military and leniency in dealing with Islamists. Nawaz' supporters claim that years in jail and exile have made him more tolerant and more prudent. However, in commenting on relations with India, on policy towards the Pakistan Taliban and on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Nawaz already has touched on policy domains dominated by the Pakistan Army.

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