For the night of 15 October 2013
North Korea-South Korea: On 16 October the South Korean Minister of Unification told a committee of the National Assembly, "The North has notified us that 'Under the current circumstances, it would be inappropriate to host the investment expo.'" The North Korean notification, in effect canceled the event designed to help "internationalize" the Kaesong Industrial Complex.
The joint event had initially been agreed upon by the two Koreas at a meeting of the "North-South Joint Committee" on September 10th. It was supposed to be one element in the "developmental normalization" of the Kaesong Complex. Other key elements are the so-called "Three Tongs": passage, communications, and customs.
As a direct consequence, the South Korean government has postponed a joint investment briefing that had been scheduled for 31 October for the purpose of attracting foreign investment to the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), thus "internationalizing" it.
A government official explained on the 14th, "Considering issues such as delayed agreement on passage, communications, and customs at Kaesong, and foreign businesses' responses to this delay, we concluded that it would be difficult at this time to revive the original intention of the briefing session, which was originally agreed upon between North and South
Comment: The North is slowly extending the deterioration in the political atmosphere to Kaesong, which it agreed to keep open under all circumstances. It also agreed to internationalize Kaesong in cooperation with South Korea, but is now reneging on that agreement, just as it reneged on the agreement to permit reunions of separated family members last month.
The reason ostensibly is the hostile attitude of the South which the North has found offensive. South Korean experts suggest that the that North Korea primarily is concerned with tourism to Mount Kumgang on the southeast coast, which South Korea is not yet ready to finance and resume.
Kim Jung Un appears to have staked his personal prestige on creating playgrounds, tourist attractions and sporting venues as sources of earning hard currency quickly. This appears to be rooted in a poor understanding of the economy of Switzerland, where he attended school. He is much less interested in complex business processes and international trade that might require South Korean cooperation.
In short, the situation continues to trend towards increased stress in the political atmosphere. That will be followed by another round of instability in security conditions, probably by December when winter military training season starts in North Korea.
Iran-US: The first of two days of Geneva talks on the Iranian nuclear program took place on 15 October. The Iranian accounts of the talks were upbeat. The participants have provided few details, as is customary.
The US press reported for a second time this month that the United States is considering allowing Iran to continue uranium enrichment, despite objections from U.S. allies in the region. Tehran recently said that it would like to continue uranium enrichment for civilian purposes and that it would not ship nuclear materials out of the country. US allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia strongly oppose what appears to be a weakening of the US position.
Comment: If the news report is accurate, the US apparently is considering adoption of a containment strategy which must include a relaxation of sanctions in order for it to be acceptable to Iran and for it to make logical sense. That would constitute a fundamental change in strategy, which leads ineluctably to greater regional instability. Some US allies could consider this an act of bad faith.
Syria: Opposition and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In a statement today the Syrian Coalition and the General Staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) reiterated their commitment to cooperate fully with members of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), as they carry out their duties in dismantling and destroying the Assad regime's chemical weapons.
"The Syrian Coalition wishes that the Director-General of OPCW, Mr. Ahmet Üzümcü, will, in the future, choose his remarks with more precision. There are regime-controlled chemical weapons sites that are in areas besieged by the FSA; however, there are no chemical weapons sites that are controlled by rebel brigades."
"The OPCW has not yet communicated with the Syrian Coalition. This lack of contact must come to an immediate end. Continued communication with the Coalition, and the General Staff of the FSA is needed to ensure the safety of the UN-OPCW team. We express this concern in light of the fact that the Assad regime is likely to exploit the chaos across Syria in attempt to jeopardize the safety of members of the mission."
"The Coalition reaffirms that, unlike what the regime has claimed, there are no chemical weapons sites under the control of FSA or any other groups in liberated areas. The Syrian Coalition and the General Staff of the FSA reiterate their readiness to fully cooperate with the international mission, to facilitate their work and ensure their full protection."
Comment: Cooperation with the OPCW experts is the first recent issue on which both the opposition and the government agree. The OPCW has been requesting local ceasefires to enable its personnel to work in safety. This announcement would seem to create a basis for honoring the OPCW request, provided the people who issued the statement can enforce it on the many oppositions in Syria.
At this point, this statement is for show to offset the favorable publicity the government has been getting. OPCW people say they have tried to communicate with opposition leaders. In any event, agreement on and enforcement of local ceasefires would be signs of earnest intent.
As for the OPCW operation, it continues. However, no source has reported yet locating Scud warheads adapted for or filled with chemical agents.
End of NightWatch for 15 October 2013.
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