For the night of 10 April 2013
North Korea-China: A Chinese border official at the border town of Dandong told the media, "Travel agencies are not allowed to take tourist groups to go there, since the North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave…As far as I know, business people can enter and leave North Korea freely."
A travel agent on the Chinese side of the border said she was informed that North Korea has closed the border to tour groups. However, locals said that passenger service by rail was normal as was bus and automobile traffic.
In other developments, South Korean press reported that North Korea accepted at Nampo port last week a ship loaded with antibiotics and other medicines that was arranged by a South Korean humanitarian organization. The ship sailed from South Korea to the Chinese port of Dalian and then to Nampo.
Comment: Video clips from Pyongyang today showed North Korean workers preparing the city and hanging decorations for the celebration of Kim Il-sung's birthday on 15 April. It is a national holiday, which means civilians and military personnel will spend the day publicly honoring Kim in a variety of ways, studying his speeches and writings and listening to lectures.
Missile launches are likely to be featured parts of the celebration. However, an armed provocation that would risk general war seems likely to be delayed until after the 15 April holiday. It will take concerted effort by thousands of people to prepare Pyongyang in the next four days.
The aid shipment was arranged by a private group, but it had the Pak government's permission to go to North Korea. The mixed signals continue.
Syria: The head of Syrian jihadist group Jabhat al-Nusra said today that the group pledges its allegiance to al Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, but denied the group merged with al Qaida in Iraq.
Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani of the al-Nusra Front acknowledged that its Iraqi counterpart had helped it and said his group was proud of the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq. However, he said he was not aware of any merger and that the statement by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi yesterday was not cleared with the Front.
Comment: Today's recorded statement is the first time the Front has acknowledged in public its link to al Qaida, but there is less here than is apparent. One commentator suggested that the Syrian al Qaida group wants to play down ties to the Iraqi group because that might weaken its appeal in Syria and reduce its ability to get foreign financial and arms aid.
Nothing the two leaders said in the past two days changes the judgment that the al Qaida franchises see the fights in Syria and Iraq, and eventually in Lebanon, as parts of the larger fight against the Shiite "heresy," as they perceive it.
Egypt-Qatar: Qatar's prime minister announced that Qatar will give Egypt another $3 billion to bolster its ailing economy and help rebuild key industries. The pledge on Wednesday adds to Qatar's previous promises to invest up to $18 billion in Egypt over the next five years."
Comment: This means that Egypt should be able to pay its import bills for another month. Egypt is becoming a dependency of Qatar. Egypt's currency reserves are reported as adquate to cover no more than three months of imports and continue to drop.
End of NightWatch for 10 April.
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