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NightWatch 20110601


For the Night of 1 June 2011

North Korea-South Korea: The National Defense Commission disclosed on 1 June that  South Korea proposed a series of summit meetings when representatives met secretly on 9 May. The talks ended without agreement, mainly because South Korea insisted that North Korea apologize for last year's attacks.

The National Defense Commission claimed that the South proposed holding three summit meetings. The first was to be at Panmunjom in late June; the, second in Pyongyang in August and the third in Seoul in March 2012 on the sidelines of an international security summit, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The North said the secret meeting ended without agreement. "The DPRK side clarified its steadfast stand that such summit talks cannot take place as long as the South side insists on the hostile policy towards the DPRK, persistently claiming that the North should 'dismantle its nukes first' and calling for 'an apology for the two cases," the North said.

Comment: The statement above is unusual for two reasons. The National Defense Commission rarely engages in public disputation with South Korea. Second, the exposure of the substance of secret talks is an intentional affront whose purpose always is to outrage and embarrass so as to frustrate engagement.  Whatever was said in the secret talks, the North is not ready to deal.

The events since Kim Chong-il's China trip last month suggest the leadership is not as steady as it attempted to project. The North published no official editorial after the trip, which means the trip did not go well. Editorials instruct the party cadre about how to spin the indoctrination of the Party rank and file and the people about the event. 

Secret contacts between the North and South at some level are routine. The exposure of the high level talks always means the North is closing down and is unable to engage in productive contacts with the South. That usually occurs in times of leadership discord. That implies further that the North will be prickly about perceived slights. North-South tension is set to increase again.

Bahrain: For the record. On 1 June the King lifted martial law. Pro-reform protests followed almost immediately, which were, in turn, followed by clashes with security forces. The government announced the Peninsular Shield Force will stay as long as it is needed.

Syria: President Bashar al Asad announced the formation of a committee that will create a timetable for national dialogue and specify the work mechanisms for that dialogue, SANA reported. The committee comprises Vice President Farouk al-Shara, Sufwan Qudsi, Haitham Sataihi, Yaser Houriea, Hanin Nimr, Abdullah al-Khani, Waild Ekhlasi, Muneir al-Himsh and Ibrahim Daraji.

Comment: Syria also released the first 500 prisoners detained for political activism. The speed at which Syrian violence drops from the headlines of international media, if it does so at all, will measure the success of Asad's conciliatory stratagem.

End of NightWatch for 1 June.

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