North Korea-South Korea: North Korea failed to respond to South Korea's proposal to hold Red Cross talks on 29 January at Panmunjom to work out details for family reunions in February. The North also failed to respond to South Korea s offer to hold reunions next month for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North's silence resulted in no Red Cross meeting on 29 January. It also calls into question whether family reunions could be held at Mount Kumgang between 17 and 22 February, as South Korea proposed.
Comment: North Korean policy is disjointed. That condition suggests the charm or reconciliation offensive is not real and might be part of a deception plan.
Supporting that judgment is the absence of diplomatic activity. North Korean media have reported the arrival or departure of no foreign delegations since 14 January. The last was by a member of the Japanese House of Councilors. Prior to that, the last foreign delegation was that led by Dennis Rodman. North Korea has sent no delegations abroad apparently since the death of Chang Sung-taek.
In times of political normality, foreign delegations arrive at or depart from Pyongyang several times a week. The absence of diplomatic activity reinforces the observation that North Korea has turned inward. It is not engaging in significant foreign initiatives and not responding to its own initiatives on North-South relations.
The absence of normal diplomatic activity is a general warning indicator. That means that conditions in the North are not normal but the reason is not yet clear.
The last comment is significant because North Korean media almost daily repeat the propaganda theme that North and South Koreans can and must solve the challenge of reunification. Nevertheless, the North has failed to respond to South Korea proposals and ignored its own proposals.
The disconnect between North Korea's words and actions justify a high alert condition by South Korean and Allied military forces. It also suggests that the overtures to the South are gestures without substance. They might provide cover for the continuing purges and campaigns to guard against counter-revolution. They also might cover North Korean preparations for a military provocation.
China Relations. A South Korean news outlet reported that on 10 January Kim Jong Un approved a security plan aimed at eliminating the "China pigs." The "China pigs" are all those people who worked with Chang Sung-taek to attract Chinese investment in North Korea.
If confirmed, as seems likely, this North Korean internal security program means that Chinese relations with North Korea are severely strained again. China has no credibility to act as an honest broker for restarting the Six Party Talks.
Ukraine: In the past few days the hard line prime minister has resigned and the parliament has approved amnesty for most protestors. Russia has offered financial assistance to stabilize the economy;
The leaders of the protests asked for more concessions, which is no surprise.
Comment: Concessions never satisfy an opposition movement. They only stimulate a demand for more. That explains the opposition's reflexive rejection of the concessions and its renewed call for Yanukovich's resignation.
Russia has intervened to keep the Ukraine in the Russian sphere of influence. It has not acted to preserve the government of President Yanukovich. Russian President Putin seems to appreciate that the Ukraine can maintain useful, if not profitable, relations with European Union states that do not degrade Russian influence.
In the heyday of NATO ascendancy and Russian weakness, NATO attempted to bring the Ukraine and Georgia into full membership as part of NATO's eastward expansion.
Russia drew the line at Georgia and the Ukraine, after having lost the three Baltic states. The pro-western leaders in Kiev were voted out of office or put in jail. Georgia was fragmented because of Russian military intervention. No information suggests the Russians have changed their position.
That means that Yanukovich probably is expendable. Even the Russian-speaking eastern Urkrainians judge that he has blundered. Nevertheless, Yanukovich's ouster would not alter the fundamental orientation of the Ukrainian state which gravitates to Moscow more than Brussels.
At stake, then, is the politics of personality, rather than revolution. Yushchenko and Tymoshenko tried revolution and both were voted out of office. Ulkrainians might not want Yanukovich, but the majority of voters don't seem to want the strongly pro-western policies of those he replaced.
Egypt: Update. The first session of the trial of former president Mursi was held on 28 January. This session appears to have been similar to an arraignment in which the prosecution read the charges against Mursi and 130 member of the Muslim Brotherhood. The defendants were allowed to respond to the charges.
Mursi denounced the court from his glass cage, but commissioned a defense attorney. The court adjourned its proceeding to 22 February.
Comment: This was a required procedure in a criminal prosecution. The adjournment is normal. Mursi has contended the High Criminal Court has no jurisdiction over him.
That makes his commission of a defense attorney curious. Apparently he intends to contest the jurisdiction of the court under Egyptian law. This is a contest no attorney can win.
End of NightWatch
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