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NightWatch 20110407

NightWatch

For the Night of 7 April 2011

North Korea: The Fourth Session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly met on 7 April to approve the budget and unspecified organizational changes. The Korean Central Television Station and Korean Central Broadcasting Station announced that Jon Pyong Ho was recalled as a member of the National Defense Commission of North Korea due to being transferred to another post, and that Ri Myong Su was appointed Minister of People's Security of the National Defense Commission of North Korea.

Comment: The primary purpose of the annual session of the Supreme People's Assembly is to evaluate progress towards achieving national goals in the past year and to approve goals for the coming year. While the press reports reported the Assembly praised economic progress in 2011, North Korea faces a famine and has no hope of even improving living standards in the next year, much less achieving prosperity in 2012.

The most significant announcements at the session concerned personnel changes. Jon Pyong ho has been the director of the defense industrial sector since 1980. He was a class mate of Kim Chong-il at the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School after the Korean War, although fifteen or more years older than Kim. He has been the overall director of the manufacture of all ballistic missile systems, all modern conventional weapons and nuclear weapons production. Jon has been the chief architect of all proliferation activities. He is 85 and probably is being superannuated because of age and infirmity.

Army General Ri is a former army corps commander and chief of the operations department of the general staff of the Korean People's Army. He has no background in law enforcement. The Ministry he now heads is the top law enforcement agency in North Korea.

However, he is an associate of the Chang family. He was an army protégé of Vice Marshal Chang Song u, who was the eldest brother of National Defense Commission Vice Chairman, Chang Song-taek, who acts as regent for the heir apparent and is Kim Chong-il's brother-in-law. This promotion is intended to safeguard the Kim and Chang families.

South Korean media noted that the Assembly announcements made no mention of leadership succession issues. Kim Chong-il's designated heir received no promotion or public mention. The elder Kim must be healthy enough to hold his own for now.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are attempting to reach an agreement with Yemen President Saleh to hand power over to an interim council of tribal and political leaders, unidentified sources said. The plan, which will be presented to Saleh and his opponents soon in Saudi Arabia, is for an interim council to gather parties and tribes that will rule for three months while preparing for general for elections.

Saleh told the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) envoys on 5 April he would attend talks in Riyadh, while ambassadors are still waiting for responses from opposition leaders after meeting with them in Yemen on the 6th. Talks have been stalled by Saleh's demand for assurances he and his family members will not face persecution.

Comment: Saleh's attitude towards this settlement proposal is not clear, despite his agreement to attend talks in Riyadh. What is clear is that he has lost the confidence of the Arab monarchs, who are demanding that he accept a settlement that none of them would accept.

Libya: The media reported extensively on another friendly fire attack in which NATO aircraft mistakenly killed rebel fighters. The most significant report, however, is that residents of Ajdabiya have begun fleeing because of the advance of Qadhafi forces. Ajdabiya is east of Brega, and the next large town between Brega and Benghazi.

Comment: If Qadhafi forces continue their advance, they can be on the outskirts of Benghazi tithing the week. The only significant opposition to Qadhafi's forces is the air forces. But they appear incapable of maintaining the 24-hour air cover which is necessary to prevent advances by Qadhafi forces. For that, US forces and leadership are required. The rebellion is approaching collapse.

End of NightWatch for 7 April.

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