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NightWatch 20110724

NightWatch

For the Night of 24 July 2011

North Korea-South Korea: North Korea and South Korea agreed to resume six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program as soon as possible, North Korean nuclear envoy Ri Yong Ho said, Yonhap reported 22 July. The agreement came after a two-hour meeting between Ri and his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung Lac on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Bali, Indonesia.

North Korea-US-China: US Secretary of State Clinton said she would meet with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to discuss their mutual desire for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. Yang said it was time for China and the United States to unite on the issue. North Korean Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun said North Korean diplomat Ri Yong Ho had been named the country's top envoy to the six-party nuclear talks.

North Korea-US: First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan plans to visit New York during the week of 24 July to talk to US officials about restarting denuclearization talks, according to Secretary of State Clinton.

North Korea-Russia: Russian energy giant Gazprom is preparing a plan to deliver natural gas to North Korea on condition that Pyongyang agrees to end its nuclear program, according to unnamed officials familiar with the negotiations. A Gazprom delegation recently visited Pyongyang for cooperation negotiations on energy and it estimates that North Korea needs 10 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

Comment: Taken together, the reports suggest progress towards resuming nuclear talks. First, that means the North Koreans are desperate for aid. There will be talks of some kind.

Next, the Russians are exploring prospects for a new market, which they expect will be financed by parties other than North Korea which has no money. Meanwhile, the appear to be doing their part to pressure North Korea to restart nuclear talks.

China has succeeded in deflecting international pressure to bring North Korea to the negotiations. China is off the hook because the US and South Korea again have greed to talk about restarting talks with no assurances. So much for hardline diplomacy.

There is no substance in the diplomacy, but the Russians might make a profit. The Russian date for the end of the North Korean nuclear program was not specified!

A cynic might suggest that somebody in the US administration apparently perceives his or her position is at risk if he or she does not show progress with North Korea. The US and South Korea both have dropped conditions for talks, including the South Korean demand for apologies bythe North Korean for the atrocities its forces committed last year and the US demand for signs of sincerity in ending the nuclear program.

North Korean diplomats will understand that they are being rewarded for agreeing to talk about nuclear talks. They will raise the price for actual negotiations. Readers should expect no progress.

Syria: International press outlets with limited access reported more than 400,000 Syrians gathered in the eastern city of Dayr al-Zur on Friday to protest against the government.

The head of the Syrian League for Human Rights said hundreds of demonstrators marched in various Kurdish towns in the northeastern province of Hasaka, while hundreds more marched in the southern town of Suweida. Activists are claiming higher numbers, saying more than 1.2 million demonstrators took to the streets in Dayr al-Zur and Hamah, and that two protesters have been killed by Syrian security agencies in Aleppo and Hamah, Al Arabiya TV reported.

Comment: The Syrian government responded to the pressure from demonstrators by delaying promised reforms. The government assessment of Friday's protests is that the pressure has diminished and there is less urgency in implementing reforms.

South Sudan: For the record. "A brigade of Ethiopian peacekeepers will arrive in the Abyei region later this week ... Around 4,200 troops have already travelled (to Sudan) overland in the past week," an Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency. "This mission, which operates under the auspices of the United Nations, will start peacekeeping operations in the Abyei area by the end of this week," he added.

Comment: Ethiopia appears to be making a move, with UN and probably US approval, to provide security from southern Sudan to the Indian Ocean in Somalia. Ethiopia is one of the protectors of the Somali government.

Norway: The death toll from the work apparently of a single terrorist was 93, according to police.

Comment:  Some citizens in Norway, Switzerland and France, among others, recently have displayed a backlash against their governments' open door policy of allowing immigration from Islamic states.  The liberal attitudes of government leaders are out of touch with their constituencies. France is an exception in that it requires assimilation.

The murders in Norway may be understood as a dark symptom of a fundamental flaw in the way that Norwegian democracy works or doesn't. The shooter has been portrayed as deranged in US media, but the sentiments he expressed are not unique to him, according to NightWatch first-hand experience in Oslo. 

End of NightWatch for 24 July.

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