North Korea-China: Kim Jong Un's special envoy in Beijing, Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae met Chinese Communist Party official Liu Yunshan on 23 May. Choe told Liu that North Korea seeks dialogue with "related countries."
He also said, "Korea is trying hard to develop its economy and improve the people's lives, while hoping for peaceful international surroundings," according to Chinese state television.
"The Korean side hopes to work continuously with China to improve China-Korea relations." Choe said the North Korean government assesses Chinese efforts for Korean Peninsula peace and security very highly.
In response, Liu reportedly emphasized, "Preserving Korean Peninsula peace and security is in the combined interests of every country in this region." He added that China wants to see all parties seek Korean Peninsula denuclearization, peace and security, and to resolve issues through dialogue.
Comment: On the second day of his visit, Vice Marshal Choe was accorded better treatment. For example, he met Liu, who is a member of the standing committee of the Politburo and handles international relations. The meeting with Liu was the first with a senior Chinese official of similar protocol stature. Chinese media also identified Choe by his rank and military title.
Neither Chinese nor North Korean media commented on the atmosphere. North Korean treatment was effusive, bordering on fawning. It strongly suggested that the primary purpose of the visit was to pander for a Chinese invitation for Kim Jong Un to visit China and be accepted as were the "leaders of the elder generation."
The Chinese have not abandoned North Korea, but Liu repeated the Chinese position on denuclearization, peace and security and dialogue. No statement has yet to mention sanctions.
Choe is the top commissar in the Korean People's Army. A sign of Chinese tutelage of Choe is his visit to the Beijing Economic and Technological Development District. Chinese television aired an image of the Vice Marshal and his entourage inspecting a model of the District.
There is precedent for Chinese leaders insisting that Vice Marshal Choe visit an economic development project, completely outside his responsibilities. .During the early to mid-1990's Vice Marshal and later Marshal Choe Kwang was the Chief of the General Staff and became Minister of the People's Armed Forces. Choe was one of the World War II and Korean War comrades of Kim Il-sung.
During one of the crises in the mid-1990's after the death of Kim Il-sung, Kim Chong-il sent Marshal Choe to China to obtain arms. The Chinese gave Choe no weapons, but they did take him to Shanghai to see the model development projects at that time.
The message was that North Korea should follow China's development model and stop making trouble. That appears to be the same message this week.
North Korea-South Korea: A quasi-governmental South Korean organization reported the following today, "We received a proposal from the North Korean Committee for the Realization of the 6.15 (June 15th) Joint Statement on the 22nd saying "let's hold a joint ceremony at Kaesong or Mt. Geumgang for the 13th anniversary of the announcement of the 6.15 Joint Declaration."
The proposal stated, "The only means by which to fully restore North-South relations and open a new phase of independent unification lies in the implementation of the Joint Declaration." The fax went on to say that the Committee's stance is to work with the people of South Korea to address the state of inter-Korean relations following five years of conservative rule.
"The North side's suggesting Kaesong as one place for the event indirectly expressed their will to restore the Kaesong Industrial Complex," the South Korean committee claimed, adding that if the event is to happen then there will need to be agreement between the two sides on the restoration of a cut military communications line and related issues.
Comment: This is the second message via informal channels that North Korea has sent this week that involves an activity at Kaesong. Earlier this week, a quasi-governmental entity in the North reportedly invited South Korean businessmen to return to Kaesong quietly to retrieve their property.
The 15 June Joint Statement was made at the conclusion of the summit in Pyongyang between Kim Chong-il and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung. It contained five paragraphs. The most important was for the two Koreas jointly agreed to resolve the question of reunification independently. They also agreed to work towards a loose form of federation and to deal with humanitarian issues, national economic development and dialogue to effectuate their accord. The Kaesong Industrial Zone was an outgrowth of the paragraph on development.
The developments in North Korea since the dismissal of the hard-line Minister of the People's Armed Forces General Kim Kyok Sik in early May appear to represent a significant retreat from the policy of confrontation. As NightWatch noted in earlier editions, the North is ready to talk.
China-Mali: For the record. China has offered to send more than 500 soldiers to the UN force seeking to contain Islamist militants in Mali .This would be China's largest UN peacekeeping contingent.
Iraq: An attack at a military checkpoint at Taji, north of Baghdad, on Thursday killed 11 people, including four soldiers, and wounded five.
Comment: The pause appears ended. The fighting has killed 420 people this month.
Lebanon: Fighting in Tripoli continued for a fifth day. Overnight clashes killed six people and wounded 40. .The Middle East is now destabilized from the border of Iran to the Mediterranean.
Niger: Islamic militants executed coordinated attacks at two locations in Niger, the country east of Mali. In one attack, a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a French-Niger owned uranium mine in the town of Arlit. Simultaneously and 125 miles south, another bomber detonated a car bomb inside a military camp in the city of Agadez. Other jihadists in vehicles attempted to overrun the base, but were stopped by a firefight with Nigerian soldiers. The bombs killed 5 bombers, 25 people and injured 29, according to the Ministry of Defense. No expatriates were killed.
During this Watch, a surviving bomber is holding several Nigerien soldiers hostage
Comment: These were the first terrorist attacks of this kind in Niger. The two towns are in central Niger. Some of the facilities for processing uranium ore were damaged at Arlit.
An affiliate of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, known as the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claimed responsibility. They were also involved in the Mali fighting. Nigerien officials judge the fighters came from Libya. One said that Libyan instability is destabilizing the entire region.
Early this year one military analyst judged that Niger was even less prepared than Mali to cope with Islamic militants and terrorists. Nevertheless, a Nigerien unit participated in clearing operations in Gao, Mali.
The key points are that the jihadists have not given up their plans to establish a base in Sahelian Africa and all the countries are vulnerable. Their territory is enormous with poor infrastructure. They are poor and have small, poorly supported security forces.
The attacks might compel France to deploy some of the troops withdrawing from Mali to Niger. Niger is France's single most important supplier of uranium for its extensive nuclear and electric power industries.
France might need to re-evaluate its strategy for providing security assistance to its former colonies. The threat calls for an integrated regional approach to security. The Sahelian nations and France will certainly need outside help.
End of NightWatch
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