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NightWatch 20120101

NightWatch

For the night of 1 January 2012

North Korea: The annual New Year's Editorial, published in all major North Korean media and the first during Kim Jong-un's tenure, is directed entirely to the North Korean people and stressed loyalty to the army and the party plus continuity and completion of the policies of Kim Chong-il. It contained no threats to the South or the US.

A recurrent theme is that Korea is Kim Il-sung's Korea, tracing current policies through Kim Chong-il and back to his father. For example, the paramount goal for 2012 is the make North Korea a prosperous and powerful nation by improving the people's standard of living.

The army is described as the pillar of North Korea but the strengthening of the party and enhancing its leadership is described as the decisive guarantee of a new era of prosperity "true to the behests of Kim Chong-il."

A significant admission is that "food is a burning issue" followed by explicit instructions on how food production must increase in 2012. The editorial addresses all sectors of economic life, but only agriculture contains such specific instructions.

Comment: The New Year's editorial announces the themes, priorities and major tasks for the year. This editorial is explicit in restoring the communist party. The state is still a "military first state" but that term - songun-- is formulated as something already accomplished. The army is the foundation on which prosperity shall be based. The editorial contains no calls for sacrifices for the benefit of the army.

The dominant focus is on making North Korea more prosperous in 2012. Any leadership devoted to prosperity is open to making deals.

On 30 December the Korean Central News Agency broadcast that the Political Bureau of the Korean Workers' Party met that day and voted by acclamation to appoint Kim Jong-un as the Supreme Commander, according to the wishes of Kim Chong-il.

"A meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) was held here on Friday. Present there were members of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and members and alternate members of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee, the WPK.

"The meeting courteously proclaimed that the dear respected Kim Jong-un, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK, assumed the supreme commandership of the Korean People's Army, according to the behest of leader Kim Cho'ng-il on 8 October, juche 100 (2011).

Comment: The significance is that the leadership followed the communist party rules, which did not happen when Kim Chong-il took this title. This is the first and highest official top-level title that Kim Jong-un holds. The Party leadership invested him with it, though it is a state position.

An overriding concern about loyalty seems to be the best explanation for the restored visibility of the Party as well as the stress on the details of Kim Jong-un's genealogy. Nevertheless, the Political Bureau did not elect Kim Jong-un as general secretary nor did it elect him to any other position in the party or government, such as Chairman of the National Defense Commission, another of the top leadership posts.

North Korea-South Korea: The National Defense Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Friday released a statement regretting the loss of Kim Chong-il but denouncing South Korea for not sending an official delegation and for putting forces on alert.

"Upon joint authorization of the Party, state, army and people of the DPRK, the DPRK National Defense Commission clarifies the following principled stand on the group of traitors' hideous crimes committed at the time of the great misfortune of the nation: As already declared, the DPRK will have no dealings with the Lee Myung Bak (President of the Republic of Korea) group of traitors forever.

"Taking this opportunity, we solemnly declare with confidence that the south Korean puppets and foolish politicians around the world should not expect any change from the DPRK."

Comment: This statement looks petulant or an attempt to influence South Korean elections in December 2012. If North Korea seeks prosperity as much as its proclamations claim, it will deal with South Korea one way or another.

Iran-US: The US President authorized additional sanctions against Iran on 1 January, specifically the central bank. Iranian bankers denounced and minimized their likely effect, but they promise to be damaging.

Iraq: For the record. Prime minister al-Maliki declared 31 December a national holiday in honor of the end of the American military presence in Iraq. He described the US military departure as marking "a new dawn" in which Iraq would focus on rebuilding a nation after nearly nine years of war.

"Your country has become free," he said. "The faithful sons of Iraq have to preserve its sovereignty, unity and independence." He said the U.S. withdrawal that was completed Dec. 18 was proof of the government's ability to protect the country's sovereignty.

In Basra, the Badr organization, which is part of a key Iraqi Shiite political faction that was founded in Iran, celebrated the occasion by putting posters of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, on the walls of government institutions and buildings.

Comment:  Al Maliki did not credit nor thank the US for anything. 

End of NightWatch for I January.

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