For the night of 2 January 2015
North Korea-South Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in his annual New Year's speech Thursday that he believes that North Korea can resume suspended talks, including a possible summit meeting, if South Korea is sincere and if the right atmosphere and environment are created.
Most of the annual address was devoted to the North's internal needs. Only a small section near the conclusion addressed international issues.
The need for reunification during the year of the 70th anniversary of national liberation was the context for the statements about talks with South Korea. They are reproduced below from North Korea's English language translation.
"'Let the whole nation join efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification in this year of the 70th anniversary of national liberation!'-this is the slogan of struggle the entire Korean nation should hold up."
"We should remove the danger of war, ease the tension and create a peaceful environment on the Korean peninsula."
"The large-scale war games ceaselessly held every year in South Korea are the root cause of the escalating tension on the peninsula and the danger of nuclear war facing our nation. It is needless to say that there can be neither trustworthy dialogue nor improved inter-Korean relations in such a gruesome atmosphere in which war drills are staged against the dialogue partner."
":We think that it is possible to resume the suspended high-level contacts and hold sectoral talks if the South Korean authorities are sincere in their stand towards improving inter-Korean relations through dialogue."
:"And there is no reason why we should not hold a summit meeting if the atmosphere and environment for it are created."
"In the future, too, we will make every effort to substantially promote dialogue and negotiations."
Comment: Readers should know that the South Korean translations into English that NightWatch read are not true to the North Korean translation of Kim's speech. The North's translators chose English words that convey less exuberance and more conditionality than those the South Korean translators used.
Koreans attach special significance to 70th anniversaries and birthdays. Kim's remarks are in part a reply to the South's offer of high level contacts and special talks. But Kim outdoes the South by mentioning a summit because of the 70th anniversary. His speech indicates he wants North Korea to lead South Korea this year in any initiatives for making progress towards national reunification. Thus a major purpose of the speech is to upstage the South.
The North's offer is only about exploratory talks to determine whether the North's conditions for the proper atmosphere and environment exist or are achievable. The North's propagandists know that the conditions will not be met. Thus, the offer is crafted to be unacceptable to South Korea, eventually. The North's conditions are calculated to make South Korea and its Allies appear to be the obstacles to reunification in the 70th anniversary year.
In context, the stated major condition for improvement in relations is the end of Allied military exercises, which is a euphemism for the withdrawal of American forces from South Korea. This is a longstanding North Korean demand. The innovation is that Kim did not state that the war games would block the resumption of talks, only that they would block improvement in relations.
Thus, some talks will take place and a temporary reduction in tension is likely, possibly lasting through the Lunar New Year. If the thaw persists through March, an agreement on reunions of some separated families is likely. That process probably already is in progress.
Ultimately, at some point, the recurrence of annual, Allied military training will derail the talks initiatives because the North will claim the exercises show a lack of "sincerity" and the continuation of a "hostile attitude."
There is little new in the conditional invitation for talks. The parts of the speech devoted to correcting internal problems are somewhat surprising because they seem taken right out of the 1950s.
The list of achievements in 2014, which opens the speech, is short. The nation has built four new apartment complexes and new recreational facilities -- sports complexes that most North Koreans will never see, much less use. The armed forces, of course, are always getting stronger, as they supposedly have been annually since 1953.
It is worth noting that Kim Chong-il revived tongun, the military first doctrine that his father, Kim Il-sung abandoned in December 1993, as a national failure.
Kim Chong-il never allowed himself to be captured by the doctrine - and presumably the army's Vice Marshals and the Generals - in the way that Kim Jong Un appears captured. In nearly every reference to the people, Kim Jong Un precedes "the people" with a reference to "the army."
Placing the army ahead of the people is not how Kim Jong Un's father or grandfather spoke to the people. In Communist doctrine, that is called "Bonapartism." It is a counter-revolutionary capital crime in true communist regimes.
A second theme is self-reliance. Kim Chong-il paid lip service to self-reliance, the national ideology. He understood that North Korea never has been self-reliant since the end of the Korean War.
Kim Jong Un's speech, however, contains multiple references to greater self-reliance in sectors that can never be self-reliant, such as energy, because of the limits of North Korea's natural resources, such as fossil fuels. Many economic production sectors also are almost entirely dependent on imports of raw materials or sub-assemblies and exports of final products. The missile industry depends critically on Japanese sub-assemblies for mechanical and electronic components.
Kim Jong Un stressed several times the need to improve the living standards of the people and to raise production in industry and agriculture. His repeated exhortations to ensure adequate food supplies, including for children, are almost astonishing. After 70 years, this mini-Stalinist, nuclear state cannot feed itself. Kim's speech reads like North Korea is struggling to reconstruct the nation after a devastating war. That war ended 62 years ago.
India-Pakistan: Today, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted two suspicious boats near Porbandar, two days after four men detonated their boat after being cornered by Indian Coast Guard ships and helicopters, 365 kms from the coast.
The Indian intelligence agency, National Technical Reconnaissance Organization (NTRO - India's radio intercept agency) intercepted suspicious radio communications between the two boats, which prompted the Coast Guard to intercept them.
On New Year's Eve, the crew of what appeared to be a Pakistani fishing boat blew up and sank the boat, after trying to outrun Indian Coast Guard ships which pursued them in a high-speed chase at sea, officials said on 2 January.
The boat sailed from the Pakistani port of Karachi. Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft tried to intercept the boat near the maritime border with Pakistan, around 365 kms (225 miles) from the coast of Gujarat State, following an intelligence tip-off. "The boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of the maritime boundary. The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour," a Defence Ministry statement said.
The Indian Defence Ministry reported all four crewmen died in the explosion. The Defence Ministry declined to describe the incident as probable terrorism. It did say the crew was planning "some illicit transaction" because the boat was carrying explosives.
Comment: Indian news services have been careful to follow the line of the Defence Ministry. Nevertheless, every interested party recognizes that the activities of the fishing boats recall the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on 26 November 2008. Ten Lashkar -e-- Taiba terrorists from Karachi seized an Indian trawler in the Arabian Sea. After killing the master, they used the trawler to land on the Indian coast in order to execute 12 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 and injured more than 600 people.
Indian authorities captured one of those terrorists alive. Under interrogation, he confessed to being a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) supported the Mumbai atrocities. He identified the ISI officers by name.
NightWatch judges that the latest fishing boats were part of another attack plan by Lashkar-e-Taiba. The explosions on the boat on 31 December suggests that crew had support from some Pakistani official agency, such as ISI.
The attempted action appears timed to the judicially ordered release on bail in Pakistan of the mastermind of the 2008 attacks, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. Lakhvi was released and immediately re-arrested for other crimes because of the diplomatic and political storm that resulted. His release caused an immediate, serious deterioration in Indian relations with Pakistan that has not abated because of his temporary re-arrest.
These fishing boat incidents will increase tension and Indian suspicions, especially after the crews are interrogated. Indian intelligence will retaliate.
India-Kashmir: On 31 December Indian security forces in Jammu and Kashmir State killed four Pakistani paramilitary soldiers on the border. The clash took place on the international border near Samba sector after an Indian soldier was killed, reportedly by Pakistani Rangers.
The Indian Inspector General for the Border Security Forces (BSF) for the Jammu Region, Rakesh Sharma, told the press, "We have retaliated effectively... four Pakistani Rangers have been killed along the international border in Samba sector….As Pakistani Rangers suffered casualties, they waved white flags, asking he BSF to stop the firing so that they can lift the bodies of the dead men. We stopped the firing after their request."
Comment: The incident at Samba involved paramilitary border forces from both countries. It did not escalate to exchanges of fire by the regular armies.
The timing of the incidents in Jammu and in the Arabian Sea suggests that elements of the Pakistani security establishment and its proxies are trying to divert public attention away from the massacre of the children in Peshawar last month. By stirring up trouble on the sea and land borders with India, their objective is to refocus national attention towards "the real enemy" which is always India, in their world view. There will be more violent clashes.
End of NightWatch for 2 January.
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