North Korea: The 1st session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea convened in Pyongyang on 9 April. The deputies elected Kim Jong Un as the first chairman of the National Defense Commission and approved his selection of the members of the Commission, which is the highest security policy body in the North.
Deputies also elected the leaders of the Assembly and approved the cabinet members which were proposed by premier Pak Pong Ju. Deputies also appointed the director of the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office and elected the president of the Supreme Court.
Finally, they approved last year's budget report and the budget for the current year.
Comment: The Assembly approved whatever the Korean Workers' Party Central Committee decided on Tuesday. North Korea adheres to the form of a separation of the Party from the government, but most deputies also are central committee members. Today's spectacle installed the government.
Preoccupation with preparations for the Assembly session probably has contributed to the North's more erratic behavior of late. The North has a difficult time staging more than one large event at a time because of limited expertise and the extreme centralization of decision-making in a climate of fear.
China: Chang Wanquan, China's state councilor and defense minister, and visiting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, jointly met with reporters on 8 April in the August First Building following their talks, according to a Chinese news summary, excerpted below.
"Chang Wanquan replied to reporters' questions and expounded on the Chinese side's position on maintaining territorial sovereignty, on peripheral security situation, on Sino-Japanese relations, on Sino-US cyber security cooperation, and on other hot-button issues."
"Safeguarding Territorial Sovereignty: No Compromise, No Concession, and No Deal-Making"
"Chang Wanquan stressed that on territorial sovereignty issue China would not comprise, make concessions, and make deals, let alone allow violation of China's territorial sovereignty in the slightest."
"He said China's position on the East China Sea issue and on the South China Sea issue has been consistent and clear. China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands (aka Senkaku Islands), the Nansha islands (aka Spratly Islands) and nearby waters. Regarding sovereignty disputes over islands and reefs and issues relating to the delimitation of waters, China hopes for proper resolution with relevant concerned countries through talks and consultations."
"Chang Wanquan reaffirmed that territorial sovereignty is China's core interest. 'The Chinese Army shoulders the mission of maintaining the state's sovereignty security and territorial integrity. We are well-prepared at all times to deal with various threats and challenges. As long as the party and the people require us, we can come as summoned; we can fight; and we will definitely win.'"
Comment: Senior Chinese officials invariably announce their willingness to hold talks and consultations with neighboring nations. However the purpose of such talks is to find a formula whereby the neighbors will agree to accept Chinese sovereignty over the islands. On that issue, the Chinese defense minister was willing to disagree in public with the US Defense Secretary, despite the risk of causing a loss of face to the US.
One of the main reasons for talks is to postpone the time when shows of force or applications of force will be necessary to defend claims. China's position on sovereignty is fixed. Every consultation with neighbors and interested parties seems to persuade the leadership of the need to restate that position in increasingly blunt, if not belligerent terms. There is an innuendo in the language and tone of the statements that the Chinese judge that their Asian neighbors and the US are not taking the Chinese assertions of sovereignty seriously.
Iran: Update. Iranian press today noted that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has backed talks with world powers, but warned Tehran will never give up its nuclear program. He said Iran had agreed to the talks to 'break the hostile atmosphere' with the international community.
Comment: Whenever Iran engages in talks about its nuclear program, the Supreme Leader seems compelled to remind the world that the nuclear program is not negotiable. The next round of talks will be in Vienna on 13 May.
Ukraine: Ukraine's interior minister warned the pro-Russian activists who have taken over state buildings in eastern cities to enter talks to find a political solution or face 'force.'
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said, 'A resolution to this crisis will be found within the next 48 hours,' referring to the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk where protesters remained in control of government buildings.
Comment: The Minister has given the protestors until Friday to vacate the buildings they occupy. News services reported that Ukraine has moved armored vehicles to Luhansk to execute a forced removal of the activists, if required.
This is a pivot point that will help determine Russia's intentions toward eastern Ukraine and whether Ukraine fragments again. Russia could interpret a Ukrainian security operation, backed by armor, against the activists in Luhansk as an attack against Russians that required a protective security or military response.
If the activists do not comply, this situation will escalate with a high risk of violence.
End of NightWatch
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