For the night of 29 May 2013
North Korea: The North Korean communist party daily, Rodong Sinmun, published a signed special article entitled, "The United States Should Scrap Its Theory on "Threats" and "Provocations." Excerpts follow.
"The United States is spouting drivel once again. Some time ago, US Secretary of State Kerry let loose the sophistry that the DPRK's nuclear weapons and missiles pose a "threat" to peace and security of Northeast Asia and that it should show sincerity for denuclearization. Prior to this, the US ruler and the special representative for DPRK policy at the US Department of State rattled on about the need to make the DPRK change and not just waiting for it to change…
"…Our stance is firm. In a situation where the nuclear threats of the United States persist, we have no intention of unilaterally abandoning the war deterrent at our own sacrifice. This is the lesson we drew from the crisis on the Korean peninsula."
"Our war deterrent serves as a mighty treasured sword for holding fast to the country's supreme interests and as a reliable shield for defending peace."
"To ensure peace on the Korean peninsula, the nuclear threats of the United States and its hostile policy toward the DPRK have to come to an end."
Comment: This is the first article about nuclear issues since Vice Marshal Choe's return from China. Most of it is a recital of familiar themes about the US nuclear threat to North Korea. The central message is that North Korea will not abandon its nuclear weapons.
Chinese President Xi mentioned the word "denuclearization" three times, according to the Chinese press coverage of his guidance to Choe. North Korean media omitted Xi's guidance in its coverage. Moreover, today's special article restates the pre-visit North Korean position that the North will not abandon its nuclear weapons as long as the US has nuclear weapons.
The injection of the adverb "unilaterally" appears to be a concession to the Chinese. It is a figleaf that apparently is supposed to imply that North Korea is willing to denuclearize, as the Chinese stressed, but only as long as the US is as well. The argument is silly and will not satisfy the Chinese, but it is as much as the North risks telling its people. The publication of this nuance in a signed article indicates that this will become a dominant theme in future and more authoritative articles and in talks.
The facts are that the North cannot negotiate denuclearization without changing its law and the party line. Until those change, nuclear talks will be non-substantive. In other words, changes in the nuclear law and in the party line will be the indicators that the North is serious about nuclear weapons program negotiations.
NightWatch judges that North Korea will not halt its nuclear weapons and delivery systems programs as long as it can get the raw materials for them.
Pakistan: Press reports indicate a US drone attack killed a senior Pakistani Taliban leader and, variously, from four to seven comrades today. The Pakistani Taliban denied that Wali ur Rehman Mehsud was killed.
Comment: Reaction to this drone attack has been mixed, but the timing relative to political developments in Pakistan is unfortunate. The new parliament has not yet convened and the new government is not in place. Prime Minister-nominee Nawaz Sharif promised peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban to try to restore law and order and he promised to stop the drone strikes.
One commentator said the attack shows the US has no respect for Pakistan. Another opined that peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban are now dead.
Iraq: Update. Sectarian militias conducted 19 attacks in 16 cities, killing 49 people and injuring 102. The attacks were a mix of bombings and gunfights and most were against Sunni targets. There is no pause in the violence yet, but the Shia had the initiative today.
Syria-Lebanon: According to a Beirut newspaper, the Syrian opposition group affiliated with al Qaida, the Al-Nusrah Front, has distributed a statement announcing that it will commence military operations in Lebanon.
The statement said, "If Hizballah is not deterred from killing our mujahideen brethren in Syria, and if its members do not withdraw from the Syrian areas of Al-Qusayr in three days, we will harshly respond in the different Lebanese territories, particularly in the border areas, Al-Biqa, and Beirut's Southern Suburb, where the rejectionist members of Hizballah are spreading. We will target markets, schools, public institutions, and parks."
Comment: The term rejectionist is a derogatory description of the Shiites, Hizballah. Syrian opposition sources claim fierce fighting is occurring in al Qusayr, Syria, which is close to the northeastern Lebanon border. Hizballah is fighting in support of the Syrian army forces.
The significance of the statement is that it means al Qaida could have a franchise operating in Lebanon by next week. The Al-Nusrah Front has the capability to carry out this threat and spread the Syrian fighting deeper into Lebanon.
End of NightWatch for29 May.
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