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NightWatch 20100111

NightWatch

For the Night of 11 January 2010

North Korea-US and others: Today, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the resumption of the six-nation nuclear talks depends on building confidence between Pyongyang and Washington and called for a peace treaty, which it has long demanded.

"It is our conclusion that it is necessary to pay primary attention to building confidence between (North Korea) and the United States, the parties chiefly responsible for the nuclear issue, in order to bring back the process for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula on track," the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said it "courteously proposes to the parties to the armistice agreement an early start of the talks" to replace it with a peace treaty.

Note: The North appears unusually insistent in resuming talks … not the nuclear talks, but peace treaty talks. Its proposal appears aimed at enlarging the agenda for the Six Party Talks so as to place success in peace treaty talks ahead of and a condition precedent for nuclear talks.

North Korea: Internal. The South Korean daily, Chosun Ilbo, published a report that purported to quote North Korean leader Kim Chong-il as making some significant remarks about food shortages one of his so-called guidance stops during the "arduous march despite a snowstorm" last year.

Kim supposedly said, "Now, our country has become a powerful nation in political, ideological and military terms, but we feel many things are still wanting in people's lives. In the past, the leader (a reference to his father Kim Il-sung) always said he wished to feed our people with rice and meat soup, clothe them in silk, and let them live in tile-roofed houses. But we haven't yet fulfilled his wishes. I will do everything to let our people live a content life by improving their lives in the shortest period possible."

A senior South Korean government official said it was unprecedented for Kim Cho'ng-il openly to admit economic difficulties.

Comment: Most readers will not recall that in December 1993, six months before he died, Kim Il-sung suspended the communist economic planning system, put the country in economic freefall pointed towards free market economics, and shifted the national priorities away from military first to feeding the people, production of consumer goods for the population, production of goods for export and, lastly, production for the armed forces.

Only the father of the nation had the political stature to reorder national economic priorities in this fashion, but he died before his directions could take effect.

His son, Kim Chong-il, facing multiple assassination attempts and a military rebellion in 1994 and 1995. restored the primacy of the armed forces, 14 years ago. The assassination attempts stopped.

Nevertheless, the long shadow over Kim Chong-il's regime is his failure to honor his father's final wishes that the people should come first over the military and that Korea should be reunited. Kim Chong-il's new concern for these two issues is a sign that he is looking to his own legacy… to be at least as great as his father.

In military weaponry -- missiles and nuclear weapons, he has surpassed the achievements of his father, arguably; his father disdained nuclear weapons in public at least. Beyond weapons, Kim Chong-il has little to show for the last 15 years. The Stalinist system survived but failed to take advantage of multiple opportunities for prosperity that never threatened its survival.

In national development, Kim Chong-il's tenure has been an unrelieved horror of failed economic initiatives; needless and pointless national hardship; half-hearted reforms; and military preemption of any production of value. His concern with the same issues that vexed his father in his final year -- namely, the complete failure of Stalinist economic programs to improve the living standards of the North Korean people - is a reliable sign that Kim Chong-il is in his final year or so, just like his father.

Malaysia: Christian church officials said a ninth church was attacked by arsonists, according to a report in Agence France-Presse on 11 January.

The senior pastor of the Sidang Injil Borneo Church in the central state of Negri Sembilan said a church member alerted him that the church door had been burned. Deputy State Police Chief Abdul Manan Mohamad Hassan confirmed the attack, stating that police are investigating the incident with the fire department. He said they have not discovered any Molotov cocktail in the compound and are still probing the cause of the fire.

The attacks have been triggered by a High Court ruling last month that overturned a government ban on non-Muslims using the word "Allah" in their services to refer to God. Muslim groups argue that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts from Islam, which is banned by the Malaysian constitution. Proselytizing among non-Malays, i.e., among Chinese and Hindus, is permitted.

Christians make up around 9% of the 25.7 million population in the majority Muslim state. Most non-Muslims are ethnic Indian or Chinese.

The theological issues are a bit more complicated than the press account that the issue is winning converts. The Muslim understanding of Allah is not the equivalent of the Christian or Jewish revelation, though all three religions believe god is one and there is only one god. For strict believers on all sides, this issue is not semantic and not solvable.

The resort to violence against Christians by Muslim Malays to press a theological disagreement is not characteristic of Malaysia. The constitution stipulates that Islam is the state religion of Malaysia. Some Malays, probably with outside encouragement, are taking the state religion more seriously than Malaysians have in the past.

Malaysia has few to no Islamic terrorist attacks. However it can not be considered an example of a Muslim country with moderate policies. It does not experience Islamic terrorist attacks, at least not on the Malay Peninsula, because it tolerates Islamic extremists.

NightWatch considers Malaysia a transit point for terrorists; a rest and recovery station; and a base for operations outside Malaysia.

India-Pakistan: Update. Troops along the India-Pakistani border in Jammu and Kashmir are on high alert after reports of an increase in infiltration attempts, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported on 11 January. Security officials said Indian intelligence sources report an increase in cross-border infiltration attempts from "Pakistan-administered" Kashmir and troops are on high alert along the border with intensified round-the-clock patrolling.

It was the first time in six months that an Indian soldier or paramilitary policeman has been killed in firing along the Line of Control (LoC). "There was an unprovoked firing from across the LoC in Poonch area, we lost one BSF (Border Security Force) soldier," Vinod Sharma, a spokesman for the border guards said.

Security officials stated that according to intelligence received, 1,000 to 1,200 militants are staged along the border in "launching pads" to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir State. (This number looks highly inflated, without more.)

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said, "Such an incident did not happen."

Iraq-Saudi Arabia: For the record. Iraqi President Talabani has asked Saudi King Abdullah to intervene in stopping Saudi criticisms of Iraq's Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Mehr News Agency reported 11 January. In a letter to King Abdullah, Taliban wrote that insults to al-Sistani cause "division and quarrels that spark the flames in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other countries."

To recap the action, a Kurd - Talabani - made an argument to a Sunni Arab King to protect Arab Shiites. That'll work, right.

Sudan: President Omar al Bashir has retired from his post as commander in chief of the country's armed forces, Reuters reported 11 January, a report in the Sudanese state-run news agency SUNA. Sources within al Bashir's administration said his retirement is a procedural step ahead of his nomination on 12 January for the country's presidential election.,

People who rely on press reporting might be prone to consider Omar al-Bashir a strict religious leader because of his support for Islamic fundamentalist causes, including support for Hamas in Gaza, for al Shabaab in Somalia, support for Ethiopia, attacks in Darfur and harassment of the Christians in southern Sudan.

In fact, he is a run-of-the-mill, military officer r who came to power after the military coup in 1989. Bashir was elected President by popular vote in 1996, but, heretofore, did not relinquish his military position, sort of like Musharraf in Pakistan.

Honduras: Today Supreme Court President Jorge Rivera accepted an offer by the Honduran joint chiefs of staff who participated in the ouster of President Zelaya to appear voluntarily in court on 14 January, La Prensa reported. Rivera reportedly accepted a petition from the military chiefs' defense lawyer for a voluntary court appearance, and according to the defense attorney, Rivera's acceptance of the petition means the joint chiefs will not be placed under arrest.

This does not look like the behavior of a government that has abandoned democratic principles and is under military domination. This is tonight's good news and a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 11 January.

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