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NightWatch 20130430

NightWatch

For the night of 29 April 2013

North Korea: The lead items in North Korean media featured normal government business and visits by Kim Jong Un to various civilian and military venues. The top story was a plenary cabinet meeting chaired by Premier Pak Pong Ju. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported the attendees and agenda.

"Senior functionaries of the agencies that are under the direct supervision of the cabinet; directors of the Management Bureaus; chairmen of the People's Committees of the provinces, municipalities, and counties; chairmen of the Rural Economic Committees of the provinces; chairmen of the District Planning Committees of the provinces; directors of the Food and Daily Necessities Industrial Management Bureaus of the provinces; and managers of major plants and enterprises attended the meeting as observers."

"The meeting discussed the first agenda "On thoroughly implementing the strategic line on simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear armed force, which respected and beloved Marshal Kim Jong Un put forward at the March 2013 plenary meeting of the Party Central Committee;"

" the second agenda "On thoroughly accomplishing the programmatic tasks that the respected and beloved Marshal Kim Jong Un set forth in his conclusion at the national meeting of the light industry; and"

" the third agenda "On the summation of the fulfillment of this year's first quarter people's economy development plan and on measures for the fulfillment of the second quarter people's economy development plan."

Comment: This is the first cabinet meeting since Kim announced the new strategic line of pushing economic construction and building a nuclear armed force. The order of the topics is significant and conveys that economic construction has higher priority.

The expanded membership indicates that this is the kick-off meeting for implementing the new strategic line. Attendees will receive guidance and assignments.

In the Rear. Defector reports indicate that all is not quite normal in that the North Korean leadership has implemented tighter security along the border with China. Soldiers also have been destroying villages near the best spots for crossing the border rivers into China. They have erected new fences and installed new "high tech" sensors on them.

The leadership apparently has concluded that stopping defections will enhance its authority, according to one source in the border region.

Cumulatively, North Korean leadership actions look disjointed and lacking in coherent purpose, consistency or coordination.

Kaesong update. North Korea on Monday allowed all but seven South Koreans to depart the industrial complex.

The last batch of 50 South Koreans originally were scheduled to return to South Korea on the 29th, but seven had to stay behind to settle accounting and other unresolved matters, according to a Unification Ministry official. The seven who stayed back include five from the joint body that ran the factory zone and two who handle communications with Seoul.

"The North has asked for pay due for its workers for March, some overdue wages, unpaid corporate taxes by the 123 companies that have factories at Kaesong and outstanding communication service-related fees," the official said.

He said that while Seoul's stance remains firm on which side is to blame for the current situation, it intends to fully meet legitimate obligations raised by the North. The official said the amounts the North is claiming are not excessive. The seven are expected in Seoul on 30 April.

Comment: The Unification Ministry official noted that South Korea supplies the 100,000kw electricity supply for the 123 factories from the South Korean grid. It also built the water processing plant that can supply 60,000 tons of water to the zone. North Korean workers earn $134 a month, but only get to keep a portion of it.

Missiles. There has been no new missile sightings or activity reported.

North Korea-US: News media reported that the United States on Monday urged North Korea to free a US citizen on 'humanitarian grounds' as it sought to pin down the charges against him ahead of a planned trial.

KCNA reported on Saturday that Pae Jun-ho, known in the US as Kenneth Bae, had admitted trying to overthrow the communist regime in North Korea and would face 'judgment' soon.

Comment: Bae was on a tour of a city in northeastern North Korea when he was arrested last November. Supposedly he has admitted to trying to overthrow the government. Former governor Bill Richardson traveled to North Korea in January to try to obtain Bae's release, but had no success.

When Kim Il-sung and Kim Chong-il were in office, a few Americans were detained at various times. They eventually were released after bribes were paid and after they made public apologies. Bae is the first American arrested during Kim Jong Un's tenure. Thus far Kim has not followed the precedents of his grandfather and father so they are not good guides as to how he will handle Bae's sentence.

What is apparent is that Kim has put his country and population under significant stress and has little to show for it, whether measured in increased national readiness, increased personal loyalty or US recognition as a nuclear armed state. UN Sanctions remain in place. Kim refuses South Korean aid and international aid has dried up in a donation weary world. Kim still seems to need a victory.

The conviction of Bae gives Kim another chance to show his defiance of the US and an opportunity for the US to engage him in some fashion.

China-India: Update. Indian media reported that Chinese soldiers raised a fifth tent at their location, which is some 19 kilometers inside Indian-claimed territory in eastern Ladakh region which borders China. The Indians said the Chinese are receiving resupply by trucks and light vehicles from China. Three meetings between local military commanders have produced no change in the situation. A larger border meeting is set for 1 May.

Comment: The government of Prime Minister Singh has taken a beating from the opposition in parliament for being soft on China and for treating the incursion as "a local issue." Nevertheless, the government remains firm in its decision to not fight China over the incursion.

Jordan: For the record. Three people were killed and 25 injured during armed clashes between students at King Hussein bin Talal University's campus in Maan, Jordan, on 29 April 29, Jordanian Interior Minister Hussein Majali said.

Comment: The clash was not anti-government or anti-US. It reportedly was a tribal dispute.

Mali-France: A French soldier was killed Monday and two others were injured during a reconnaissance mission in northeastern Mali, the French government reported. Their vehicle was destroyed by an IED.

Comment: This is the sixth soldier killed in Mali since France began its military intervention in January.

End of NightWatch for 29 April.

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