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NightWatch 20110526


For the Night of 26 May 2011

North Korea: On 25 May North Korean leader Kim Chong-il and Chinese President Hu Jintao discussed enhancing economic cooperation and the North's nuclear program, Yonhap reported. The discussion included expanding Chinese food aid and investment in the North.

Chinese media reported that President Hu said he was glad to see North Korea giving priority to improving people's lives. Kim said the North is now concentrating its attention and resources on economic development, and it is in "great need of a stable neighboring environment."

Kim said the DPRK hopes to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, sticks to the objective of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and believes that the six-party talks should be resumed at an early date

Comment: The 20-26 May visit was an unofficial visit at the invitation of President Hu. It was Kim's third visit in a year, which is exceptional. Kim's public comments about needing a stable environment for economic development and about resuming six-party talks are boilerplate he has used in the past that signify no change. The need for a stale environment for development is borrowed from the Chinese, who use it frequently. It also is the mantra for achieving prosperity in 2012, the North Korean national goal. That need, however, did not deter the North from sinking a South Korean patrol ship or shelling a South Korean island last year.

Nevertheless, the news reporting does not come close to capturing the significance of Kim's visits to China, especially the latest. Thirty years ago Kim's writings on the North Korean ideology of self-reliance, called juche, were acclaimed as justifying his rise to power. During Kim's tenure, bad weather and chronic mismanagement have caused the North's economy to decline steadily.

Since 1994 Kim has resisted Chinese initiatives to tutor him and his advisors about the merits of the Chinese way to prosperity. He has visited many Chinese farms, factories and enterprises, but in 25 years approved only a few half-hearted experiments in free market economics.

After the floods and famine of 1995 and 1996, North Korea accepted UN, South Korean and Western food aid for the first time to cope with the disaster, in addition to Chinese aid and concessional sales. Now, Kim must rely on the Chinese because the West is donor weary with no signs of improvement and the hard line Lee government in South Korea ended the policy of engagement.

Conditions reportedly have declined so that Kim, the once leading exponent of self-reliance, has virtually linked parts of the North Korean economy to that of Northeastern China to prevent a worse economic calamity. Under Kim, the North has moved from dependency on Chinese and South Korean aid, to dependency on them plus US and Western aid, to dependency primarily on China.

In an earlier visit, the Chinese refused Kim's request for modern weapons because the Chinese feared that the North would use them to provoke the South and because the economic decline was more urgent than arms Kim left angry. A more contrite Kim might have obtained more Chinese aid and investment promises.

Pakistan: For the record. At least 36 people were killed, including ten policemen, and 50 injured in a suicide car bombing near a police station in Hangu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, according to the Pakistani police. This is the fourth attack since 2 May "to avenge bin Laden's killing," according to the Pakistani Taliban.

Yemen: Update. The Yemeni Defense Ministry said 28 people died in an explosion at a weapons storage facility in western Sanaa. The opposition said the 28 were killed early May 26 in heavy shelling involving the Republican Guard at a residential area, north of the airport. Nevertheless, flight operations resumed on the 26th.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered the arrest of tribal chief Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar and his nine brothers, the defense ministry said. The continuing fighting prompted the US and UK to order the departure of all non-essential personnel from the Embassy. Qatar also suspended its diplomatic mission until security conditions improve.

Comment: There appears to be no change in the situation yet.

Egypt: The ruling military council issued a communiqué on 26 May concerning the planned "Second Day of Rage" protest, scheduled for the 27th. The military will not fire a single shot against Egypt's people, the statement said.

However, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces warned that demonstrators should be wary of the possibility that "suspicious forces" may attempt to stir up tensions between the people and the military. The council has chosen to keep the military away from the protest in order to avoid tensions, and it will rely on the youths to organize and secure the rally, the statement said.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood said on 26 May that it would boycott the planned rally against the country's ruling military council. The protest aims to "drive a wedge" between the public and the army and to undermine the September parliament elections, according to a Brotherhood statement.

Comment: The protest is in reaction to rumors that President Mubarak will receive a pardon or amnesty. The statement by the armed forces council is a bit misleading in that it says nothing about restraint by the police, only the military.

The Brotherhood's statement exposes them as having bought into the military-backed political system and not wanting the cell-phone activists to do anything to endanger the Brotherhood's new public respectability and political influence.

Sudan: Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit said on 26 May that north and south Sudan would not go to war over the Abyei region. International troops should be deployed in the disputed region, Kiir said from Juba, calling northern forces in Abyei town "invaders" who must withdraw.

Comment: Kiir is buying time and hoping for international intervention to work in favor of South Sudan. His comments tend to be contradictory.

Libya: Spain said on 26 May that it had received a proposal from Libyan Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi for an immediate cease-fire. A spokesman for the Spanish prime minister's office said his country's position is in line with the rest of Europe, adding that everyone is anxious for an agreement.

NATO announced it received no ceasefire proposal. Bombing of Qadhafi's compound in Tripoli continued. One news service reported Qadhafi's forces shelled Misrata.

Libya's ambassador to the European Union and his staff announced their defection to the opposition.

Libya-China: China Economic Weekly reported that Chinese contractors have suffered more than $18 billion in losses since the start of the Libyan insurrection. Their insurance contracts contain clauses that make the insurers not liable for losses from civil war.

End of NightWatch for 26 May.

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