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NightWatch 20110801

NightWatch

For the Night of 1 August 2011

North Korea-South Korea: The Korean Central Broadcasting Station reported that effective 1 August, North Korea has commenced procedures for disposing of South Korean assets and interests in the Mount Kumgang tourist site. The Pyongyang government passed the notification to Hyundai representatives at Mount Kumgang and to South Korean government officials at Panmunjom.

"The period for undertaking procedures on the legal disposition of the South Korean companies' property is three weeks, and the concerned parties of the South side must attend the proceedings."

"As necessary in the course of the proceedings, we may regularly extend the grace period of legal disposition while providing the opportunity to choose to participate in international tourism or to lease, transfer, or sell the properties."

"Those companies that have difficulty coming to Mt Ku'mgang because of the authorities' obstructions can do registration and disposal by entrusting it to a third party or meeting with us at a third location, and they can also do it by other methods."

Comment: The North appears intent on auctioning the assets and interests to the highest South Korean or other foreign bidder and is willing to extend the time for the right price.

The usual pattern is emerging again. Progress with the South tends to occur when the North has no other negotiating adversary. North-South engagement stalls when the North senses progress in talking with the US.

Calculated conciliatory moves by South Korea never achieve substantive change in North Korea's negotiating position. Rather they reinforce North Korean arrogance and intransigence. Last month, South Korean President Lee modified his hardline position that the North must apologize for last year's provocations before bilateral negotiations could resume in earnest. For that concession, the North raised the stakes in the Mount Kumgang talks.

US and South Korean negotiating tactics and objectives must become more congruent to block the North's whipsaw tactics.

North Korea-US: Update. North Korea's Foreign Ministry announced its agreement to hold additional talks with the United States and to resume six-party talks over its nuclear program. The spokesman said Pyongyang remains committed to resume six-party talks without precondition at an early date and pledges to implement 19 the September joint statement on the principle of simultaneous action.

Comment: International coverage has treated the statement as indicating progress in talks. Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan called the late July talks in New York "very constructive." US descriptions were comparable.

Some analysts interpret the North's formulation, "without preconditions," as a sign of flexibility and openness, implying the North waived preconditions. The North did no such thing.

The preconditions to which it refers are those of the Allies. They are, or were, that the North must apologize for sinking the patrol ship Cheonan and for shelling the South Korean islands off the west coast; it must pay reparations for the damages it caused and it must show by its actions that it is prepared to end its nuclear weapons programs.

Vice Minister Kim is justified in his positive description because the US evidently agreed to not hold North Korea accountable for last year's provocations, destruction of property and killings. If so, US acceptance of the North's offer rewards bad behavior and would, indeed, be considered constructive in Pyongyang's view.

As for resuming the Six Party talks, the statement is a minor reformulation of past statements by Kim Chong-il, such as the one he made during his last visit to China. It is not a breakthrough.

The reference to the 19 September 2005 joint statement from the fourth round of the Six Party Talks means the North judges its position has been consistent, ignoring the North's nuclear and long range missile tests in 2006 and 2009.

Movement to the next steps in talks with the US always hinges on what the North received as incentives. The upbeat public statements about the 28-29 July talks suggest the North got all its recent debts and misdeeds forgiven, just for being willing to talk in New York..

China-Pakistan: "China on Monday blamed Muslim separatist 'terrorists' trained in neighboring Pakistan for an outbreak of deadly violence and imposed heavy security in a bid to prevent further unrest. Nineteen people were killed in two separate incidents in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar over the weekend in the latest wave of violence to hit Xinjiang region, home to a mainly Muslim Uighur minority.

Comment: China seldom blames Pakistan in public for training Uighur terrorists. This formulation does not blame the government of Pakistan, though China has done so in the past. Uighurs reportedly have trained at camps in Pakistani Kashmir that are supported by Pakistani intelligence personnel.

Both China and the US, Pakistan's only benefactors, now are pressuring the Pakistani government to get the terrorist problem under control. Today's statement appears to be China's warning that state support of terrorism goes too far when it threatens to undermine the internal security of a strategic partner.

Egypt: Troops and security police forcibly cleared central Tahrir Square in Cairo on 1 August, ending a three-week long sit-in protesting the slow pace of change since the ouster of President Mubarak. The security forces supported by a squad of tanks shredded tents, arrested dozens of protestors, and opened the area to traffic on the first day of Ramadan observances.

Comment: The shop keepers wanted the protestors removed, according to one account, because they are bad for business. The distance between the Army and the activists is growing.

With Army backing, last month the government removed Mubarak supporters from the cabinet, dismissed hundreds of police officials and accelerated legal proceedings against Mubarak-era officials, all in response to activist pressure. The activists reciprocated by clamoring for more and faster reforms and by allowing Islamists to take control of last Friday's demonstrations.

Today's action indicates the Army disapproves the extremist direction the protests have taken and shares the general public's desire for an end to political demonstrations.

End of NightWatch for 1 August.

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