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North Korea Tries Nuclear Head Fake

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
North Korea-US: The Korean Central News Agency broadcast an important statement on 16 June.

"The spokesman for the National Defense Commission (NDC) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) issued the following crucial statement on Sunday:

The present U.S. administration is now asserting that the development of the situation depends on the DPRK, urging the DPRK to show the will for denuclearization first and stop "provocation" and "threats" in order to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula…."

"…In this regard the NDC of the DPRK clarifies the following crucial stand upon authorization:

1. We state to the world once again that it is none other than the U.S. which has steadily strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula century after century and decade after decade."

"2. We state to the world once again that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is an invariable will and resolve of the army and people of the DPRK."

"3. We propose senior-level talks between the authorities of the DPRK and the U.S. to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security in the region."

"If the U.S. has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the U.S. mainland and the region, it should not raise precondition for dialogue and contact."

"The talks can have broad and in-depth discussions on defusing military tensions, replacing the armistice system with peace mechanism and other issues of mutual concern including the building of a "world without nuclear weapons" proposed by the U.S."

"The U.S. can set the venue and date of the talks to its convenience."

"Consistent is the stand of the DPRK to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the region."

"If the U.S. truly wants to realize a "world without nuclear weapons" and bring detente, it should positively respond to the DPRK's bold decision and good intention, not missing the opportunity."

"All the future developments entirely depend on the responsible option of the U.S., which has strained the situation on the Korean Peninsula."

Comment: The North's overture to the US is almost on cue. Two weeks after the 5 June offer to the South Koreans would have been right on cure. The cancellation of the high-level talks with the South might have accelerated the timing of the offer to the US.

The purpose of this proposal for talks is to achieve by implication, if not by direct engagement, US recognition of North Korea as a nuclear armed power. That explains the open-ended nature of the offer-any topic, any place, any time, without conditions.

Item 2 is the giveaway that the North intends to discuss its denuclearization in the context of US denuclearization. Such discussions by definition would imply US recognition of North Korea as a nuclear armed state and negotiating partner.

The timing of the proposal indicates that another consideration is the 27 June state visit to China by South Korean President Park. An agreement on talks with the US would offset some of the North's loss of face. The peaceful interlude that resulted would last only as long as the talks. North Korea with a Kim as leader will not give up its nuclear weapons program.

Iran: On June 15, authorities announced that presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani won the election. He obtained 50.7 percent of the vote, making a run-off election not necessary. The voter turnout was over 72% of the 50 million voters.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared Rouhani's election a great day for Iranian theocracy. Rouhani is a cleric whose candidacy Khamenei and the Guardian Council approved. He is a past confidante of the Supreme Leader and a former top nuclear negotiator. He is not a so-called reformer, but he will allow the West to think of him as such to get sanctions eased.

By reputation he prefers engagement with the West. While he might be easier to engage in talks, the policies will not change, only the style of a new president. As for reform, the public comments by Khamenei indicate the clerisy will continue, but stylistic changes might serve as a pressure release, if Rouhani can get sanctions eased.

Iraq: Update. At least 30 people were killed in a wave of attacks on 16 June that targeted Shiites across Iraq, police and medics said. Two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices detonated only minutes apart in the southern city of Basra, which is predominantly Shiite. A similar device exploded in a market in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. Other explosions targeted Shiites in Nassiriya, Kut, Hilla, Tuz Khurmato and Mahmudiya. Also, gunmen shot and killed six policemen at a checkpoint in Hadhar, near the northern city of Mosul.

Comment: Sunday was evidently the turn of the Sunni militias. The Shiites may be expected to retaliate on Monday.

Turkey: Thousands rioted overnight on 15-16 June, blocking a main highway, building barricades and starting fires, according to news services. Several hundred people walked toward a bridge that crosses the Bosporus on the way to Taksim Square, while thousands rallied in the working-class Gazi neighborhood in Istanbul and around Kugulu Park in Ankara.

Opposition members of parliament joined the rally in Istanbul. KESK, a public-sector union group with about 240,000 members, said it would call for a national strike on 17 June.

Pro-government and pro-Erdogan demonstrations also occurred with tens of thousands participating. One news outlet said hundreds of thousands.

Comment: The protestors have given Prime Minister Erdogan the justification he needs to skip the promises he made Friday to allow a court challenge and to hold a referendum on the development project in Istanbul.

Secular Turks, young and old, are experiencing stress over the direction of Turkish government, but the secular interests are fighting a losing, rear guard action. The comparative size of the demonstrations speaks for itself about popular sentiment.

Turkish democracy is not necessarily inclusive of minority views. Erdogan said today that a minority will not be allowed to dominate the majority. The continued protests are dangerous for the protestors. One report stated the government used troops from the paramilitary Gendarmerie to assist the police in suppressing rioters.

Syria: Reports from Aleppo indicate fighting continues and the opposition has lost ground in outlying areas. The reports also indicate the main government offensive push has not yet begun.

North Korea-Syria: According to South Korean press, on 14 June, a "well-informed diplomatic source" said that "North Korea has dispatched chemical weapon technicians to Syria since the mid 1990s and transferred chemical agent synthesis methods and technology to manufacture warheads for chemical weapon delivery."

Comment: Last week an unidentified source in a Saudi news outlet said that North Korean chemical warfare officers are assisting the government. There is no confirmation that North Korean advisors are assisting Syrian forces in the current fighting, but North Korea has sold arms, missiles, chemical weapons and nuclear technology to Syria since at least the mid-1980s.

In light of the US decision to arm rebels because it says Syria used chemical weapons, Syria would seem to have little reason to not use chemical weapons more freely, as tactical situations require. The North Koreans could help with that. Plus, North Korea has sent pilots and air defense units in past Middle East conflicts, invariably aiding the side that was fighting against the US and its proxies.

Iran-Syria: The British newspaper The Independent reported on Sunday that its sources said that Iran made a military decision to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support Syrian government forces. The unidentified sources stated the decision was made before the outcome of the presidential election.

Comment: The Independent's report has not been corroborated, but it has gone viral on the Web. If confirmed, it would represent an Iranian escalation move in retaliation for the US decision to arm the Sunni rebels.

Egypt: For the record. President Mursi announced on the 15th, "We decided today to entirely break off relations with Syria and with the current Syrian regime." He also said he had decided to close down the Syrian Embassy in Cairo. He also called for an end to Hezbollah's presence in Syria.

End of NightWatch ###

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