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NightWatch 20100625


For the Night of 25 June 2010

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported that the Workers' Party (WPK) will convene a meeting of the Politburo in September. The meeting is "for electing the party's highest leading body reflecting the new requirements of the WPK," the announcement said. "We are now faced with the sacred revolutionary tasks to develop the WPK... into an eternal glorious party of Kim Il-sung and further increase its militant function and role to glorify the country as a great prosperous and powerful socialist nation."

Yesterday Yonhap reported that during his trip to China North Korean leader Kim Chong-il asked the Chinese leaders to shield his country from international criticism over the sinking in March of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan, according to South Korea's director of the National Intelligence Service Won Sei Hoon. Won also was reported to have said Kim's ill health is forcing him to hasten the process of a power succession to his third son. South Korea's spy chief said a hereditary power succession is quickly progressing in North Korea, as Kim throws his full weight behind it.

Comment: The NightWatch hypothesis is that Kim has been far more ill than the North has admitted. The above reports lend weight to that hypothesis. Leadership illness explains the inconsistencies in behavior and propaganda as well as the unusual session of the Supreme Peoples' Assembly on 7 June.   The statement about the Politburo described the Party as Kim Il-sung's, without mentioning Kim Chong-il. This emphasis on continuity and the founder of the party, instead of its current leader -- Kim Chong-il, raises a reasonable suspicion that Kim is incapacitated. It is anomalous.

The 7 June session restructured the government to prepare for succession, including shuffling the cabinet and promoting Kim's brother-in-law, Chang Song-taek, to a Vice Chairman's position where he will act as regent for Kim's third son. The Politburo session will restructure the top party leadership to prepare for the succession.

North Korea may be expected to be inward focused and prickly in its external dealings as the succession process proceeds. It will become even more sensitive to any actions by outsiders that it perceives as trying to take advantage of its preoccupation with internal changes. It strains to demonstrate that leadership change does not signify weakness or a lapse in decision making capabilities to respond to provocations.

India-Pakistan: Indian Home Affairs Minister Chidambaram arrived in Islamabad today for a two-day visit to discuss security. His visit is the first by an Indian cabinet minister since the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. Those attacks are expected to be the focus of Chidambaram's talks with his Pakistani counterpart.

On Thursday the top civil servants in the foreign ministries of the two countries pledged better relations and cooperation in dealing with terrorism. The Foreign Secretary talks helped prepare for the ministerial meeting and are part of a long process of repairing relations after the Mumbai attacks. Talks were frozen after the Mumbai attacks by Pakistan-based terrorists who launched the attacks from Pakistan.

Israel: Israeli combat aircraft flew three raids against targets in the Gaza Strip Thursday night, wounding one person, according to witnesses and Palestinian medical officials, Dawn News reported 25 June. The planes attacked the town of Rafah, with raids on the former airport and the town of Beit Hanun. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the raids to Agence France-Presse, stating that planes attacked an armory in the north of the Gaza Strip and two tunnels in the south used for gun running from Egypt.

The raids are a reaction to Gaza's shelling of the western sector of the Negev desert in southern Israel, the spokesman added. Israel continues its policy of asymmetric response to Palestinian mortar and rocket attacks.

End of NightWatch for 25 June.

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