North Korea-South Korea: The South Korean government confirmed today that no plans have been made for another round of separated family reunions during the Chusok (harvest) holiday in early September. An official from the Ministry of Unification reported at a press conference today, "Reports of a forthcoming agreement with the North about the Chusok separated family reunions are false… At the current stage the government has made no detailed plans."
The official said that the South remains open to a last minute proposal, but it has received none at this time.
Comment: The latest round of reunions took place at the Mount Kumgang tourist resort in eastern North Korea in February 2014. The North professed to want more frequent bilateral exchanges at that time. In retrospect, those initiatives appear to have been part of a political propaganda campaign to divide South Korea from its allies and to undermine public support for the South Korean government.
The South Korean official also commented on the status of negotiations about North Korean participation in the Asian Games that will be held in Inchon from 19 September to 14 October. "In accordance with international practices and regulations, we will proceed with talks about North Korea participating in the games," but South Korea has no plans to begin new discussions on the matter.
Comment: Working-level talks at Panmunjom broke down in July over the size of the North Korean delegation and the amount the North was willing to reimburse the South for hosting the North's delegation. For a time, North Korean media bragged about the quality of the North Korean cheerleading team it was forming for the Games. Those articles have stopped.
North Korea appears to have turned inward again for a while. News about Kim Jong Un is mainly about his visits to various industrial and agricultural enterprises. North Korea has been relatively quiet.
Iraq: Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have seized control of the Mosul Dam and its water resources. Kurdish militia fighters withdrew. They also stopped defending the town of Qaraqosh, which is the largest Christian town in Iraq.
Comment: Events of the past four days indicate the Kurdish militia will not be able to defend Erbil or any other location ISIL chooses to attack. The fighters are too lightly armed and supplied, now that ISIL is using captured Iraqi army equipment and stocks. Turkey and Iran need to be prepared for large numbers of Kurdish refugees.
Lebanon: Update. Syrian Islamic militants have withdrawn from Arsal in northeastern Lebanon, taking with them captive Lebanese soldiers and police. Muslim clerics mediated a cease fire that ended the fighting. They said they would try to negotiate the return of the hostages.
Al Jazeera reported that the military standoff at Arsal is almost over. Lebanese army commander General Kahwagi said the situation is good and the army is in control. "Armed fighters linked to the Islamic State group and al-Nusra Front have withdrawn from Arsal and are now on the outskirts."
Comment: The Lebanese said they intend to pursue the fighters, but it is more likely they will declare victory for having liberated Arsal and concentrate on securing the return of the soldiers. A security official said 19 soldiers and 12 policemen are still missing.
Israel-Gaza Strip: The armed wing of Hamas rejected discussions for extending the three-day cease fire and fired two rockets into Israel from southern Gaza hours before the cease fire expired. They fell harmlessly into an open area.
Comment: Hamas officials in Gaza had threatened to restart hostilities "the minute" after the 72-hour ceasefire with Israel expired, if their demands were not met. Once again Hamas showed it cannot or will not control its side of a negotiation.
Israel was willing to extend the cease fire, but the Palestinians said they would not extend it unless Israel met their maximum demands, which include lifting the blockade, building a sea and airport, opening the Sinai border crossings and freeing prisoners.
Hamas did not compromise its opening position during three days of talks in Cairo. That means it had no intention of negotiating seriously. Apparently its leaders judge their position is strengthened by more destruction and carnage. There will be more rocket firings and more air attacks in retaliation.
One news source said the Israeli government is prepared to declare Gaza enemy territory. That declaration would absolve Israel from rebuilding Gaza. Palestinians estimate that Gaza sustained between $4 and 5 billion in damage.
End of NightWatch
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