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NightWatch 20101229


For the Night of 29 December 2010

South Korea: Today, 29 December, President Lee received a work report for 2011 for the Ministry of Unification. The Ministry announced a new strategy that would move beyond inter-Korean dialogue to preparation for reunification. South Korea's Unification Ministry said Wednesday it would shift focus next year from pursuing inter-Korean talks to preparing for unification with North Korea.

The report said the immediate focus would be on ways to improve living conditions for the North Korean people.

North Korea has not reacted yet to the new strategy, but multiple Chinese media outlets denounced it as provocative.

Comment: The blueprint for a confederal form of government in a united Korean state already exists. It was agreed at and announced during the 2000 summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung and North Korean leader Kim Chong-il in Pyongyang. The blueprint is a derivative of China's relationship with Hong Kong - one nation, two systems. The sticking point was who would lead, but the fundamental nature of the relationship was not disputed. The North would be responsible for the North and the South for the South. A Council would manage inter-Korean issues. Thus, Lee has a foundation for moving forward that puts North Korea on the defensive.

The new strategy is an example of a non-military offensive operation. It offers North Korean leaders the choice of absorption into China's "greater Asian prosperity sphere," or siding with the South Koreans in an entirely different and Korean political arrangement that promises Korean reunification without absorption by the South - one state, two systems.

Some analysts have criticized the new strategy as a reprise of the now discredited 'Sunshine policy" of accommodation and engagement with the North. What analysts have forgotten is that the Sunshine policy was crafted as a form of economic warfare, but the primary mission got diluted into a form of paying the North for good behavior, i.e., extortion.

It did not prevent the North from making advances in nuclear and missile programs, for many reasons, and did not reduce the North's penchant for provocations. However, it did succeed in getting hundreds of South Koreans into North Korea at factories and a resort; increased the interactions and the flow of information between the two systems and peoples, and eased the worst consequences of North Korean economic mismanagement on the North Korean people.

If Lee is serious and keeps the mission focused, the North will be on the political defensive, for a change. Provocations might increase, as the Chinese warn, but the risk of war will remain small and leaders in both Koreas appreciate that. Additionally, North Korean leaders would much prefer to deal with South Korea than the Chinese.

North Korea-US: "The DPRK's (North Korea) building of an independent light water reactor and its operation of uranium enrichment factory are the natural outcome of the United States' perfidy as it broke its promise to provide light water reactors (LWR) to it," the Party daily Rodong Sinmun reported on 29 December in a signed commentary. An excerpt follows.

"The U.S. has no face to take issue with the DPRK's nuclear activities for peaceful purposes….The DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework signed in 1994 calls on the U.S. to build two LWRs and provide them to the DPRK on a turn-key basis by 2003."

Comment: The commentary is noteworthy because even low level signed commentaries published in Rodong Sinmun cannot be published without the approval of the appropriate secretariat of the Party Central Committee. The article's matter of fact mention of a uranium enrichment factory is new, taking advantage of the revelations of the US scientific delegation in November.

The commentary makes the point, in a cumbersome fashion, that in developing a light water reactor capability, the North also had to develop and build a source of nuclear fuel for the reactor. The point is factually accurate.

Under the now defunct Agreed Framework, the fuel for the two light water reactors that were to have been built by 2003 was to be supplied by the US-South Korean consortium, KEDO, which was building the reactors at Sinpo.

A point not made in the commentary is that the North is desperate for power. The goal of achieving prosperity in 2012 probably is not achievable even on a relative scale, but it is certain that no progress is possible without more power.

Ironically, the North's electric power grid is too fragile to carry clean, steady electric power. The power lines would burn up, according to South Korean assessments during the period of the Agreed Framework. The electricity generated at Sinpo, as a result, was to have been sent to South Korea, under a kickback payment arrangement because North Korean power lines could not handle it.

The North has made no investment to upgrade the electricity grid since the death of Kim Il-sung in 1994. This fact undercuts the North's contention that nuclear activities at Yongbyon are for peaceful purposes. For example, if the purpose is to increase the electricity supply, then a complementary upgrade to the grid should be occurring. If the purpose is research, the facilities are excessive.

If the purpose is to build more nuclear weapons, then Yongbyon will remain the self contained facility it was when it burned nuclear fuel for reprocessing into plutonium.

The critical indicator that the Yongbyon facility was not built for peaceful nuclear purposes is that it was a consumer of electricity, not a generator of it. Power lines were built to supply electricity to the graphite-moderated reactor and its supporting facilities, but none were built to carry electricity to the national grid.

A key indicator of the sincerity of North Korea's peaceful intentions is the construction of power lines to feed the grid plus upgrades to the grid itself. As yet NightWatch has seen no reports about that work.

North Korea-Iran: For the record. Japanese media reported on 28 December that North Korea has held secret talks with Iran on the provision of the "Taepo Dong-2" long-range ballistic missile (with a range of about 6,000 kilometers). An unidentified source expressed wariness saying that the two countries are entering a "new stage" of cooperation in the field of long-range ballistic missile, in addition to the intermediate-range missile program. North Korea has been a supplier of Iranian ballistic missiles and support systems since the 8-year Iran-Iraq war.

According to the source, an Iranian delegation visited North Korea twice in early October and early December this year. The delegation consisted of executives from SHIG, an Iranian company involved in missile development. During the visit in October, delegates were invited to a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party of Korea. The same source said, "Discussions are also being held on developing longer range missiles, as well as the transfer of the Taepo Dong-2 missile body and related technologies."

Iran has stepped up its efforts for missile development, but a recent flight test of the newly designed "Sejil-2" missile (with a range of 2,000-2,500 kilometers) reportedly failed. According to the same source, Iran has conducted five tests of the Sejil-2 missile, but it did not make public the fifth test, which resulted in failure.

The Iranian Embassy said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran in Tokyo emphasizes that there is no cooperative relationship in the area of ballistic missile or any other military programs between Iran and North Korea."

Comment: The Taepo Dong-2 is a two-stage missile that uses a newly designed booster at the first stage and a No Dong intermediate-range ballistic missile at the second stage. Although the first test carried out in July 2006 failed, the second test in April 2009 is believed to have flown more than 3,000 kilometers over Japan before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

Iran already has a battalion of BM-25 nuclear-capable missiles that can reach Israel. Acquisition of the Taepo-Dong 2 would imply that Iranian leaders want the capability to hold most of Europe and much of Russia and Central Asia at risk of missile attack under some conditions.

Pakistan: Update. President Zardari said he was working with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which threatened to resign from the Cabinet on 27 December, to address its concerns, On the 29th, Zardari met leaders of his Pakistan People's Party (PPP) before speaking with Sindh Province Governor Ishradul Ibad, a close ally of MQM leader Alfaf Hussain, Zardari's aides said.

A PPP member said MQM agreed to negotiate and that Zardari asked Ibad to mediate talks, and a second PPP official said MQM had agreed to continue the dialogue. An MQM spokesman said his party was open to a deal. Samaa TV reported that MQM was meeting simultaneously in London and Karachi to discuss Islamabad's reconciliation efforts.

Comment: MQM leaders, curiously, are not looking to Prime Minister Gilani for relief but to President Zardari, who is the official head of the PPP. That always means that political deals are being cut involving some form of economic corruption.

If the MQM accepts Zardari's blandishments, the crisis it created is phony, bordering on extortion. If not, the PPP-led government is in serious trouble.

Israel-Iran: Israeli officials indicated on 29 December that Iran was farther from producing a nuclear weapon than the Israelis have indicated in the past. They now assess Iran is three years from having a nuclear weapon, owing to "technical" problems in the nuclear weapons program.

Comment: Earlier this year and all of 2009 the Israelis claimed Iran might achieve a nuclear weapons capability before 2012. The apparent explanation of the longer time line is the destruction caused by a worm, introduced into Iran's nuclear-related computer system that technical experts claim has virtually destroyed parts of the system.

IT analysts say the Stuxnet worm has destroyed up to 1,000 centrifuges in a key Iranian facility. Explanations of how the worm works are almost beyond belief because of the specificity of its targeting of Iran's nuclear program and its effects in disrupting it.

The IT experts claim the worm only could have been developed by cyber warriors working for national governments because of the resources involved. Some suggest that Israel and several European states pooled their knowledge of Iranian IT systems that support the nuclear program. The technical experts estimated earlier this year that Stuxnet had setback the Iranian nuclear program several years.

Israel has not provided a public explanation for its new, longer assessment on Iran. The implication is that Israel successfully attacked Iran's nuclear program without firing a shot. That is not confirmed, but the prospect is both scary and tonight's good news.

End of NightWatch for 29 December .

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