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NightWatch 20130617

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NightWatch

For the night of 17 June 2013

North Korea-China: First Vice Foreign Minister and top North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan is to visit China later this week, the Chinese government has disclosed.

Kim is due to meet Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui, in Beijing on Wednesday, ministerial spokesperson Hua Chunying revealed today. Hua described the scheduled meeting as a "strategic dialogue."

Comment: Kim Kye Gwan's responsibilities as First Vice Foreign Minister are broader than when he was a nuclear negotiator. He is also North Korea's top US handler since Kang Sok Ju, the previous First Vice Foreign Minister, was promoted to Vice Premier in 2010.

The timing of the visit indicates North Korea's leadership wants a back briefing from Chinese President Xi's talks with the US President and might want China's advice about the North's proposal for talks with the US. Zhang Yesui was formerly China's ambassador to the United States and now is China's top America handler in the Foreign Ministry.

Afghanistan: For the record. Afghan National Security Forces will take the lead for security nationwide this week. It is being kept low-key apparently to avoid attracting attacks by Taliban, Hekmatyar or Haqqani fighters. Nevertheless, NATO considers this an important milestone. President Karzai is expected to make an announcement on the transfer of responsibility sometime this week.

Fighting reports indicate that the anti-government groups are sustaining at least 100 attacks and clashes per day this week. That is a normal level for an energetic fighting season. The Taliban offensive began in late April. The level of fighting has fluctuated, but most often remained around 80 attacks and clashes per day.

Iraq: Update. The final tally from Sunday's violence was 54 dead and 174 wounded from attacks in 14 cities.

Turkey: Two of the four trade unions have called another strike to support anti-government protestor. Protests occurred in five cities, but the most reported were in Istanbul and Ankara.

Deputy Prime Minister Arinc told a news outlet that the state would use "all its powers" and the armed forces if necessary to "establish peace". He later clarified that his remarks did not mean that the government would call in the army or declare a state of emergency, as had been reported by international news.

Comment: Arinc complained to the BBC that his comment had been taken out of context. Nevertheless most international news services have misquoted Arinc and misinterpreted his remark.

The unrest does not threaten the government or the security situation so that the army would be necessary. The police and the Gendarmerie appear capable of handling the protestors. The government warned the unions against joining the protests or face serious consequences.

Syria-Russia: Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said today that Russia would not allow establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria. "All these maneuvers about no-fly zones and humanitarian corridors are a direct consequence of a lack of respect for international law," Lukashevich said.

He said Russia did not want a scenario in Syria that resembled the events in Libya after the imposition of a no-fly zone which enabled NATO aircraft to help rebels overthrow Muammar Khadafi.

Comment: The Russian leadership has been very clear in communicating that its support for Syria is in part payback for NATO's intervention in Libya.

Brazil: The largest anti-government demonstrations in 20 years, according to news analysts, have continued for five days in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and eight other cities. News reports said 65,000 people demonstrated in Sao Paulo and over 100,000 marched in Rio. Social networking enabled coordinated marches in Sao Paulo, Rio and Belo Horizonte. Most of the demonstrations have been peaceful.

President Dilma Rousseff said in a brief statement, "Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and part of democracy. It is natural for young people to demonstrate."

No deaths have been reported. About 200 people have been injured around the country.

Comment: An increase in the cost of public transportation in Sao Paulo sparked the first demonstrations, which flash mob tactics swelled. As the demonstrations spread, demonstrators said they were protesting government corruption, poor economic conditions, criminal violence and lack of public safety, official spending for the Olympics in 2016 and the World Cup in 2014 and rising prices.

The government response has been much more restrained than that of the Turkish government and the violence has been much less. Nevertheless, the phenomenology looks very similar.

The police said they would not intervene to stop the demonstrations provided they did not result in property destructions. A small group of protestors in Rio set a car on fire. The car fire prompted the clash with police, which dominated international media coverage and misrepresented the peaceful nature of the demonstrations.

End of NightWatch for 17 June.

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