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NightWatch 20091231


For the Night of 31 December 2009

North Korea: The New Year's editorial, an annual publication on 1 January, laid out the priorities for 2010. Military first is no longer just a national priority, it is the name given to the North Korean revolutionary movement, whatever that means other than job security for the Army Corps commanders. As for strategic direction, agriculture and light industry to improve the living standards of the people are mentioned first.

The last time these had significant priority was during Kim Il-sung's regime in 1993 when he made raising the living standards of the people a higher priority than supporting the armed forces. Kim Chong-il, a much weaker man than his father, undid his father's work in large measure. This year he promises to go back to the future, somewhat.

The second directive is for the armed forces to assert itself more fully. The context does not make clear whether the intent is to be more assertive in nation building inside North Korea or in showing off new weapons and equipment. The failed satellite launch and the nuclear explosions are mentioned in this context, implying the directive is not about provocations, as it would have been in an earlier era.

Another directive is to accelerate national reunification. "The entire Korean nation should crown the year 2010 as a year of opening a new phase of independent reunification by frustrating all challenges of the anti-reunification forces with their concerted efforts and stepping up the grand nationwide march toward reunification."

A subset of this new phase is putting an "end to the hostile relationship between the DPRK and the USA." The North's position is that the entire peninsula should be nuclear free through negotiations. Interesting. Kim Il-sung consistently said North Korea would never have nuclear weapons. The son is picking up several themes from his father, equally as untrue now as then.

A final theme worth noting is reconciliation. "National reconciliation and cooperation should be promoted actively. Reconciliation should be promoted with the common national interests given precedence, and cooperation should be encouraged through travel and contacts between the people from all walks of life.

All sorts of legal and institutional mechanisms that hinder the projects for common interests and prosperity of the nation should be abolished and free discussion and activities of the broad sections of the people for reunification should be fully ensured."

The editorial contained no threats as such. Its themes suggest Kim Chong-il is looking to solidify his legacy and wants it to surpass that of his father. Progress in reunification would do that.

Afghanistan: Update. The suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees, another American and wounded six more at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and had not been searched, two former U.S. officials have told The Associated Press.

A former senior intelligence official says the man was being courted as an informant and that it was the first time he had been brought inside the camp. The official said a senior and experienced CIA debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose of the meeting was to gain intelligence.

Note: thanks to all who provided feedback on last night's comment about intelligence failures.

All the best in the New Year .

End of NightWatch for 31 December..

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