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NightWatch 20101212

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 December 2010

South Korea- US: For the record. South Korea and the United States on Monday began talks on security issues including a plan to set up a joint committee to effectively deter threats from North Korea's nuclear programs and other weapons of mass destruction, officials said.

South Korea also announced that week-long coastal artillery training at 27 sites would commence on 13 December. North Korea has not reacted as yet to the announcement and the start of the exercises.

North Korea: North Korean media reported the activities of Kim Chong Il who visited two light industry plants and the newly constructed Potonggang Department Store in Pyongyang. On this visit, his sister Kim Kyong Hui, the Minister for light industries, and her husband Chang Song Taek accompanied Kim.

Comment: The significance of the visits, which received lavish attention with detailed images, is that they again showed that North Korea does not intend or expect general war in the continuing confrontation over the offshore islands in the Yellow Sea.

They also reinforced the importance of Kim's sister and brother-in-law as members of the leadership elite.

Every analyst of North Korea should visit a North Korean department store, if the opportunity arises. The stores operate on Stalinist principles; the experience is difficult to describe to those accustomed to a money-based economy.

The curious point is that the images from Kim's visit to the Department Store indicate little has changed in 20 years. The escalators colors and shelving are modern; the lighting is brighter and the spacing is better. The place still looks sterile and phony, just like Cadre Department Store No 1 did in 1992.

In that regard, Kim's sister and the leadership in general still do not appear to understand that looking capitalist and modern is not the same as being capitalist and modern. North Korea is a third-world, non-monetary, barter economy.

The visits are part of the new policy line to demonstrate to the North Korean population - not the outside world -- that North Korea is a strong, modern state that will be prosperous in 2012, because the leadership so decreed.

Palestine Authority: Comment: The US Secretary of State made an eloquent argument for a two-state solution to settle the Palestine problem. The Israelis responded by pointing out that the Gaza Strip precedent does not recommend finalization of a two-state solution.

Free and open elections resulted in the election of a HAMAS government in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is implacably opposed to the existence of Israel. Despite hardships from isolation and encirclement, all sources indicate the Hamas policy towards Israel is overwhelmingly supported in the Gaza Strip.

A few years ago, polls in the West Bank indicated that in a free and open election Hamas would win elections, thereby removing the government of President Abbas and his more moderate supporters.

No reporting indicates a change in the likelihood of that outcome. Thus, assuming the polls remain accurate, a two-state solution proposed by the US would result in a Hamas breakout from the Gaza Strip and an enormously more complicated security situation for Israel.

Israeli estimates of the likelihood of Hamas control of a Palestinian state might explain their reluctance to support the US proposal.

End of NightWatch for 12 December.

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