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NightWatch 20110824

NightWatch

For the Night of 24 August 2011

Russia-North Korea: North Korea is interested in pursuing a 10 billion cubic meter per year natural gas pipeline from Russia to South Korea, transiting the North, Russian President Medvedev said in a TV interview on 24 August. He spoke following talks with North Korean leader Kim Chong-Il in Ulan Ude. Medvedev said technical work would begin soon.

Comment: The Russian government is now extending its pipeline diplomacy, used successfully in Europe, to South Korea, which is the ultimate customer. The North Koreans are bit players, but stand to profit from transit fees.

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova told the media that North Korea is ready to resume six-party talks without conditions, and that North Korean leader Kim Chong-Il agreed to impose a moratorium on nuclear testing and nuclear weapons production.

Comment: Other versions of this item reported Kim said he is willing to consider resuming talks without conditions. The North Korean media has carried no report of the results of the Ulan Ude summit, which would help clarify just what Kim said he is ready to do.

The language in translation does not signify a breakthrough in talks. Rather it repeats the familiar North Korean term "without conditions," which means the North will not pay for the damage caused by its aggression and provocations last year.

As for the moratorium, the North's stockpile of fissile material is small and would be exhausted quickly by a vigorous testing program. As a result the North also lacks the fissile material for producing additional nuclear weapons. Thus Kim's so-called agreement looks like an empty concession. Plus, it is a moratorium, not an agreemet to terminate the program. Acceptance of a moratorium would be a form of official recognition of the program.

Pakistan: The Islamabad government sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad that asked it to phase out over 200 U.S. officials in the next 30 to 40 days, according to a report in the Pakistan Observer. The number of officials could be over 250, The Nation reported.

A U.S Embassy spokesman said the reports about the notice are not true, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported. However, US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter is cutting his vacation short and is returning to Pakistan in order to deal with the situation.

Comment: If this is confirmed, it means US and Pakistani relations have broken.

Libya: Update. Qadhafi loyalists continue to fight in pockets of Tripoli and a few other Libyan towns. The Qadhafi loyalists have no chance of returning to power. Western special forces will ensure that, even if rebel fighters falter. Libyan businessmen posted a bounty of I million British pounds on Qadhafi, dead or alive.

End of NightWatch for 24 August.

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