North Korea Suddenly Turns Up the Charm

Posted: Oct 26, 2013 12:01 AM

North Korea-South Korea: North Korea has notified South Korea of its intention to return six South Korean citizens, the Ministry of Unification disclosed.

An official told reporters on 24 October, "Via a notice issued in the name of the chair of the Central Committee of the Chosun (Korean) Red Cross Society, North Korea today gave notice that it will send back six of our detained citizens tomorrow afternoon via Panmunjom."

"On 26 February 2010, North Korea reported that it was investigating four of our citizens," the official recalled. "Although it is belated, we consider it a good thing that the North has decided to take this humanitarian measure," the Unification Ministry said. "We will get custody of our six citizens, verify their identities and find out how and why they entered the North."

Comment: The release appears to be a unilateral North Korean action, rather than the result of negotiations. North Korea has detained hundreds of South Koreans, mostly fishermen, over the years for entering North Korean territory or waters without permission.. One report said some of the men about to be released might have been held for three years.

South Korean media reported the announcement came as a surprise. Apparently the North is making another adjustment back to conciliation and easing tension. What is not yet clear is what the North expects in exchange from South Korea.

Kaesong update. North Korea today also confirmed that members of the South Korean National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee will be allowed to visit the Kaesong Industrial Complex on 30 October.

A Ministry of Unification spokesman said, "The North expressed its acceptance of our application at 9AM today. The visit will go ahead on the 30th as previously agreed with the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee."

"As the purpose for the visit is to inspect the site and review plans for support, we consider North Korea's agreement fortunate. The government is preparing ways to contribute to the developmental normalization of the complex, and will strive to ensure that the visit goes ahead as planned."

The 57-person South Korean delegation will include all 24 full members of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.

Comment: A week ago North Korea was threatening to rain artillery fire mercilessly. The abrupt change could be attributed to the idiosyncratic quirks of the North Korean leadership. On the other hand, the quick switch back to the charm offensive raise strong suggestions that a behind-the-scenes deal with South Korea has taken place or is taking place. North Korea never takes an action without expecting and exacting a price.

Algeria-Libya: Algerian soldiers found a large weapons cache on 24 October in Illizi in east central Algeria, near the border with Libya. The weapons included 100 anti-aircraft missiles, more than 500 MANPAD shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missilesand hundreds of rocket launchers, rifles, landmines and rocket-propelled grenades.

Comment: Algerian authorities have not commented about whom they suspect stored the weapons, except to suggest they came from Libya. Illizi is on the road several hundred kilometers southwest from Tripoli, Libya. This is one of the routes used to smuggle Libyan weapons to militants and terrorists in Mali.

The cache contents help confirm where some of Libya's large store of man-portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles (MANPADS) went after the weapons depots used by Qadhafi's forces were ransacked and their contents carried off. This is an important discovery, but only a portion of the weapons that are unaccounted.

Five hundred MANPADS would be more than enough to neutralize French air superiority in Mali, had they reached the militants there. Libya has become the arsenal of Muslim terrorists.

Mali: Terrorists attacked positions of the Chadian army in Tessalit in northeastern Mali, killing two Chadian soldiers. All four suicide bombers and a civilian died.

The Malian leader of a splinter group of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Sultan Ould Bady, claimed responsibility for the attack because the Chadians were "working for France".

French, Malian and UN forces have launched a "large-scale" operation in Mali. Colonel Gilles Jaron told press that several hundred French soldiers were involved in the new mission in northern Mali which is aimed at preventing a resurgence of terrorism. He denied that the operation was a reaction to the attack on the Chadians.

Comment: The last suicide bomb attack against UN-peacekeepers occurred on 8 October. The Chadians are peacekeepers in the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA. It is authorized 11,200 troops, but has only 5,219 military personnel.

The French hope to reduce their 3,200-man force to 1,000 soldiers by the end of the year, but might have to delay because of the threat of resurgent militant attacks. The jihadists seem determined to make a comeback. Periodic bombings appear to be probes to find weaknesses in the capabilities or the resolve of the pro-government forces.

End of NightWatch


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