For the night of 5 October 2014
North Korea-South Korea: On Saturday, the Director of the General Political Department of the Korean People's Army who also is a vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, led a delegation to Inchon to attend the closing ceremonies for the Asian Games. The delegation included Choe Ryong-hae and Kim Yang-gon, two top party officials responsible for relations with South Korea.
The National Security Advisor to South Korean President Park, Kim Kwan-jin, led a delegation that met the North Koreans for talks. The South Korean Unification Ministry announced that the two sides agreed to hold another round of high-level talks in late October or early November.
The Unification Ministry also said that Vice Marshal Hwang assured South Korea that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "has no problems with his health." .
Comment: South Korean and some other media described the North Korean visit as a surprise because it was announced only an hour before the arrival of the North Koreans. In fact, arrangements for a delegation visit probably were made before the North announced it would send a team to the Asian Games. The performance of the North Korean teams in winning medals probably assured a senior North Korean delegation would attend the closing ceremonies. The South almost certainly subsidized the North's sports team.
Media outlets are correct in describing the announcement about future high-level talks as a breakthrough, after months of accusations and denunciations in North Korean propaganda this year. The major achievement of the weekend talks was the agreement to talk again.
The North's motives and intentions are not clear. What is clear is that the underlying strategic issues - North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs and the South's Alliance with the US - remain unchanged. The only recent changes in the North are the absence of Kim Jong Un, the North's endless need for assistance and its participation in the Asian Games.
North Korea-China: The Daily NK reported that the annual congratulatory letter sent from North Korea on China's National Day on 1 October lacked mention of a special relationship. The letter was full of praise, but described the relationship as between "blood brothers."
Comment: The traditional formula described the relationship as close as lips and teeth. The two have not used that terminology since Kim Jong Un came to power.
The tone of the North Korean greeting reciprocates that of the message which Chinese President Xi Jinping sent to North Korea on its Founder's Day on 9 September. The significance is that it reinforces the judgment that China and North Korea relations remain strained.
Hong Kong: The talks between the Hong Kong Chief executive and the student protestors did not take place on Friday. On Saturday night and early Sunday morning police and pro-government protestors clashed with the student protestors.
During the day on Sunday, students began to clear some of the protest camps. Some students just went home. Others regrouped near the main government buildings. In an interview, a university professor advised the students to prepare for government action to clear the protest site soon. Central Hong Kong businessmen said they resented the students for interfering with business and accused them of being pampered
The Hong Kong government said the streets of central Hong Kong would be cleared in time for the opening of schools and businesses on Monday. News reports during this Watch indicate the protest crowds have thinned and central Hong Kong has returned to a normal Monday morning routine.
Comment: Apart from the offer to hold talks, the Chinese leadership has not budged. The action of pro-government counter-protestors and the publication of hostile attitudes from businessmen seem contrived to set the stage for forcible action to clear the protest sites in response to public opinion. However, the morning news reports indicates the authorities' judgment that most of the protestors would depart has proven to be accurate, thus far.
Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban, the Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), pledged its support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant ISIL). The TTP statement said, "Oh our brothers, we are proud of you in your victories. We are with you in your happiness and your sorrow. In these troubled days, we call for your patience and stability, especially now that all your enemies are united against you. Please put all your rivalries behind you. …All Muslims in the world have great expectations of you ... We are with you, we will provide you with Mujahideen (fighters) and with every possible support."
Comment: The TTP issued the statement on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha observance. Some Pakistanis already fight for ISIL, but this is the first time this Pakistani terrorist organization has pledged its support. TTP regularly engages in atrocities in Pakistan. Some members of the world-wide Pakistani diaspora might start to emulate ISIL practices.
Turkey: Syrian Kurdish refugees protested and clashed with Turkish authorities because Turkey is not doing anything to stop ISIL at Kobani. They also protested that the Turks were not permitting Kurds to go to Kobani to reinforce its defenders.
Comment: Late last week, Turkey deployed a unit of 15 tanks to the border near Kobani. Turkish forces have made no move to intervene in the fighting in and near that town.
Iraq: Weekend reports indicate ISIL forces still are moving towards Baghdad from the west. The latest seizure is the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib. according to news reports.
Comment: ISIL forces are moving slowly but steadily closer to Baghdad. They also are keeping up pressure on multiple fronts. Iraqi forces, even with Coalition air support, seem unable to stop them.
Mali-Niger: On Friday terrorist gunmen on motorbikes attacked a convoy of soldiers from Niger near the town of Menaka, killing nine of them. The soldiers are part of Niger's 600-man contingent in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. MINUSMA. The ambush was the second deadliest attack on the UN force in Mali.
President Issoufou of Niger said, "Niger will continue to fight terrorism in Mali. Niger will never retreat in in the face of the forces of evil." The government declared three days of mourning, beginning Sunday.
Comment: The nine casualties are Niger's first in the year since its forces joined the UN peacekeeping force. An attack in September resulted in 10 Chadian peacekeepers killed, making it the deadliest since the French intervention in 2012.
Malian authorities blame the attack on an al-Qaida affiliate based in Mauritania. The region south and east of Gao reportedly was where the terrorists fled when they were driven from Gao by French forces two years ago. The periodicity of the attacks does not suggest the terrorists are making a comeback, but it does prove they remain a serious local threat.
End of NightWatch for 5 October.
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