For the night of 24 March 2014
South Korea-China: In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in The Hague on Sunday, President Park Geun-hye conveyed South Korea's conditional willingness to restart the Six-Party Talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Her office released a statement.
"President Park said that various options can be studied with regard to dialogue resumption if there are guarantees that real progress can be made in denuclearization efforts and that North Korea will be prevented from advancing its nuclear capabilities."
Park said that it is impossible for North Korea to develop nuclear weapons while concurrently developing its economy. Xi said that China clearly opposes North Korea possessing nuclear weapons and is sincerely carrying out related United Nations Security Council resolutions. Though there are differences between Beijing and Pyongyang on the nuclear issue, China is trying to persuade the North, Xi was quoted as saying.
According to the South Korean press release, the two leaders reaffirmed their existing positions that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable and the North must be denuclearized.
China: On Monday, after a meeting with President Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear security summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said the only correct way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue is "to restart negotiations."
Xi said, "China has major interests and concerns on the Korean Peninsula and firmly commits itself to realizing the denuclearization of and to safeguarding peace and stability on the peninsula."
Xi urged all parties to implement the goals set in a joint statement released on 19 September 2005 at the conclusion of the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks held in Beijing. That statement affirmed, among other things, that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) promised to abandon all its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, and, in return, the United States and South Korea said they would accommodate the DPRK's security concerns.
The Chinese president said his country is willing to keep close contact and coordination with the United States and other relevant countries on the issue.
Comment: Xi stated in the clearest terms used by any Chinese leader that China opposes North Korea's nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons programs. This is the second tough statement in a month about Korea. On 8 March Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that instability and war on the Korean Peninsula represent a red line for China. Xi's statement reiterated Wang's.
These statements mean that China has linked Korea's future to China's leadership objectives in Asia. In a sense, it is now included in Xi's Chinese Dream.
The US has worked diligently for years to urge China to get tougher with North Korea. With Xi Jinping as President, China is doing precisely that in ways his predecessors would not do. The drawback is that, beyond stability and no war, China's long term strategic interests in emerging as the dominant power in Asia do not coincide with those of South Korea or of the United States.
North Korea-US: North Korea's deputy ambassador to the United Nations said in a press conference on Monday, that North Korea will take additional "nuclear measures" if the United States continues its current approach toward Pyongyang. Ambassador Ri Tong-il warned his nation is set to demonstrate its nuclear capability.
"We are ready to take a series of additional nuclear measures to demonstrate the power of the self-defensive nuclear deterrent." Ri would not specify what those additional steps might be.
Comment: Commercial satellite imagery has detected steady activity at the nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea, but no clear indications that a nuclear test will occur soon.
North Korea seldom uses its UN mission to make public statements. The frequency seems to have increased under Kim Jong Un's tenure.
This conference appears to be a reaction to two diplomatic body blows. They are South Korean President Park's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss North Korea; and President Xi's unambiguously stated opposition to North Korea's nuclear weapons, following his meeting with President Obama.
An unconfirmed news item in a South Korean paper reported that North Korea has restored a sign at the Kang Kon Military Academy that reads, "China is a turncoat and our enemy." According to the press, the sentence is a statement the late Kim Il-sung made in 1992 after learning China had established diplomatic relations with South Korea.
Ukraine: On the evening of 24 March, Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchinov signed an order for the withdrawal of Ukrainian military service members, their families, and certain categories of civilian personnel from the "temporarily occupied" Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The order enacts a Ukrainian Security Council resolution issued yesterday.
Comment: The regime and the street demonstrators in Kyiv have provided no useful leadership or assistance for the Ukrainian military personnel in Crimea. Few people have been killed in the confrontations with the Russians and pro-Russian Crimeans, but the pride and morale of the Ukrainian armed forces died in Crimea this month.
Egypt: A court in Egypt sentenced to death 529 supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi on charges of murdering a policeman and attacking police, convicting them after only two sessions. Saudi Arabian press reported the men are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. .
Only 147 defendants were present at the trial, while the rest are on the run and were tried in absentia, according to Aswat Masriya. The court acquitted 16 other defendants.
According to state news agency MENA, the men were accused of killing a senior police officer and attempting to murder two others, as well as attacking public property, torching the Matay police station, seizing police weapons and disrupting public order.
Comment: The verdicts probably will be overturned on appeal and, reportedly, must be reviewed by the grand mufti. Under Egyptian law, all cases requiring an execution go to the grand mufti. It is not clear what happens if the grand mufti approves these convictions.
It is the largest number of people convicted in one trial in modern Egyptian history, according to Egyptian press. It was replete with irregularities. For example, the trial judge refused to allow defense attorneys to argue for their clients; he would not allow them into the court room.
Brotherhood and other lawyers cited the action as proving the extent of politicization of the court system. Another way of putting it is that it shows the depth of hatred one Egyptian judge has for the Brotherhood and the Mursi regime. The Egyptian judiciary waged a rear-guard action to prevent the Mursi regime from establishing an authoritarian Islamist government, until the Army intervened last July.
Libya: The rebels who control three Libyan oil ports will not enter any talks with the government about ending their blockade unless Tripoli returns the tanker, Morning Glory, which loaded oil at one of its terminals but was recaptured by U.S. forces.
Abb-Rabbo al-Barassi, self-declared prime minister of the rebel group, told a local television station, "We set as a condition that the tanker and those on board must return in safety before any dialogue." This was the group's first reaction to the return of the tanker to Tripoli.
The government told the rebels to negotiate an end to their port blockade or face a military offensive.
Comment: This would be a farce were it not so serious. The Libyan government lacks the means to mount an effective offensive that would not cause more harm than good.
End of NightWatch for 24 March.
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