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NightWatch 20130607

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For the night of 7 June 2013

North Korea-South Korea: The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published North Korea's counter-proposal to the South Korean proposal to hold talks in Seoul on 12 June.

"The spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) gave the following answer to a question raised by KCNA on Friday, 7 June, as regards the positive response of the South Korean authorities to the proposal made by the DPRK on holding talks between the authorities of the north and the south in its special statement: As already reported, we issued a special statement on Thursday, 6 June, clarifying its crucial stand with the aim of providing a fresh and decisive phase in the north-south relations. "

"We appreciate the fact that the south side promptly and positively responded to the proposal made by us for holding talks between the authorities of both sides."

"It is our view that working contact between the authorities of the north and the south is necessary prior to ministerial-level talks proposed by the south side in the light of the prevailing situation in which the bilateral relations have been stalemated for years and mistrust has reached the extremity."

"So, we propose holding working contact between the authorities of the north and the south in Kaesong on 9 June. To this end, we will reopen the Panmunjom Red Cross liaison channel from 14:00 on 7 June and, through this, hope the south side sends a reply to our above-mentioned proposal."

South Korea counter-proposed to hold the talks at Panmunjom. North Korea communicated its agreement via the Red Cross liaison channel.

The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the two sides have agreed to meet at the Cabinet level in Seoul on Wednesday.

Comment: The 9 June talks will be the first working level talks since 2011. The ministerial-level talks will be the first at that level since 2007.

The North Korean agency in this new initiative is worth noting. Most of the terminations of contacts in March and April were announced from military channels. The Foreign Ministry weighed in on one cancellation. The message was clear that it was an all-of-government action.

The restoration is being accomplished in civilian channels by a single government agent, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. The channel of the North's engagement does not convey fundamental or permanent change of policy. This is the same old North Korean policy game.

Nevertheless, it is prudent for South Korea to take advantage of this opening. Looking back on what worked and what failed in the Kim Chong-il era, it seems that it is more useful to go beyond talking and engage in more joint projects. The aim would be not just to shore up regional stability, but also to expose North Koreans to modern ideas and technology and to make profits.

Some analysts consider that the Agreed Framework of the Clinton administration and the Sunshine Policy of engagement of President Kim Dae-Jung between 1994 and 2003 were failures in that they did not prevent North Korea's development of ballistic missiles and nuclear devices or weapons or reduce is belligerent attitude.

That is an accurate judgment, but they did slow them and they had lasting effects on attitudes. There were no nuclear tests; the Yongbyon reactor was frozen; and serious discussions had begun on limiting North Korean missiles under the Missile Technology Control Regime. All nuclear tests and long range ballistic missile launches occurred during the past eleven years of hardline policies, after the earlier initiatives were abandoned.

That history shows that North Korea responds to modern economic and technological projects that benefit it in tangible ways even though they work against the state ideology.

Finally, it seems more than coincidental that North Korea's peace offenses was timed to occur right before President Xi's trip the California this week. The message is that China is in control of its neighborhood.

China-South Korea: Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei hosted a regular news conference on 7 June 2013. He led off with an announcement:

"At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Republic of Korea (ROK) President Park Geun-hye will pay a state visit to China from 27 to 30 June to hold talks and meet with Chinese leaders. The two sides will exchange views on bilateral relations as well as major international and regional issues of mutual concern."

"China and the ROK are important near neighbors to each other. Maintaining the sustained, healthy, and stable development of China-ROK relations serves the fundamental interests of both countries and their peoples and helps promote regional peace, stability, and development. China and the ROK have maintained the sound momentum of high-level communication since President Park Geun-hye took office."

"It is believed that the visit will further enhance strategic mutual trust, chart the future course of development of bilateral relations, and promote exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in various areas. The Chinese side is ready to continue to work with the ROK side to constantly consolidate and develop good-neighborliness, friendship, and cooperation between the two countries and to further enrich the meaning of the China-ROK strategic cooperative partnership."

Comment: As noted above, China is taking care of its neighborhood.

India-Pakistan: A senior Indian Army officer told the press that Pakistani troops shot and killed an Indian Army officer on Friday near the Line of Control in Kashmir. "A junior commanding officer (JCO) was shot dead by the Pakistani troops near Poonch sector." A 40 minute exchange of fired across the Line of Control ensued.

Pakistan denied that its forces killed the JCO or engaged in any firing along the Line of Control.

Comment: Despite the statement above, it is not clear whether Kashmiri Islamic militants killed the JCO or a Pakistan Army sniper. This is the second exchange of fire across the Line this month and the first since Nawaz Sharif announced that peace with India is a top priority.

The Kashmir Free Press reported this is the 31st ceasefire violations along the Line of Control this year.

Pakistan-US: A US drone attack killed seven people in northwest Pakistan, officials said. Two missiles hit a compound in a village in the North Waziristan tribal area, close to the Afghan border. It is the first drone strike since Nawaz Sharif took over as Pakistan's prime minister.

Special Comment: Every time a Pakistani leader endeavors to improve relations with India, hardliners in Pakistani intelligence and the army stoke up ceasefire violations in Kashmir. The timing of this incident suggests a deliberate challenge to Prime Minister Sharif. Dismantling the extensive Army and intelligence-supported paramilitary infrastructure in Pakistani Kashmir that supports the 800 or 1,000 militants in India's Jammu and Kashmir State would be a major sign of Sharif's sincerity.

Only Musharraf managed to impose and enforce a ceasefire along the Line of Control. As commander of special operations forces and Chief of Army Staff he also helped build and manage the militant infrastructure so he knew how to ratchet tension down.

The drone strike also looks like a challenge to Sharif in defiance of his inaugural statement two days ago that the drone attacks must stop. Some people obviously have decided to test whether Sharif is true to his word on both accounts: India and drones. No one ever accused Sharif of being wishy-washy.

Syria: Update. Syrian troops and Hizballah fighters pressed on with their offensive Friday, capturing two small villages where opposition fighters had fled from Qusayr.

Lebanon: The Lebanese army warned on Friday that a plot was afoot to embroil the country in the 26-month conflict in neighboring Syria, as deadly clashes between Damascus supporters and opponents inside Lebanon multiply. "The army command... calls on citizens to be wary of plots aimed at taking Lebanon backwards and dragging it into an absurd war," a statement said.

Comment: The defeat and scattering of the opposition fighters at Qusayr has destabilized the western Syria border. Clashes have occurred in Lebanon and along the Golan Heights.

Some fleeing fighters apparently perceive it in their interest to cause as much spillover as they can so as to enlist Lebanese and Israeli help.

End of NightWatch for 7 June.

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