For the night of 7 September 2014
North Korea: The Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) is to meet for the second time this calendar year on 25 September, according to the Party daily, Rodong Sinmun. No agenda was announced.
Comment: The SPA is prescribed to meet twice a year, according to the constitution, which invests the SPA with supreme state (not party) authority. The first session of the 13th SPA met in April. It provided a rubber stamp of approval for the current government leadership.
When Kim Il-sung was .alive, the second session of the SPA occurred in December and approved serious substantive decisions, such as the state economic plan and the quota system. Under Kim Chong-il, the SPA did not meet regularly, as prescribed by the constitution, but on Kim's whim, at least originally. Kim Chong-il ruled through the Army during most of his time in power.
Kim Jong-Un has tended to rule through the institutions of party and state orthodoxy, letting them function as his grandfather did. Thus the second session of the 13th SPA should deal with state problems, such as economic policies.
China-Pakistan: Last Friday China announced it cancelled President Xi Jinping's visit to Pakistan owing to concerns about security in Islamabad. Xi's security delegation was in Islamabad last Wednesday to review the security situation in light of the protests, and was not satisfied with the arrangement. Instead, it was suggested that Xi should visit Lahore instead of Islamabad. Xi's security team did not give clearance for that either.
Xi is scheduled to visit India between 17 and 19 September.
Comment: If Xi visits India as scheduled, it will be the first visit to India by a Chinese head of state or government ahead of Pakistan, which is a long time Chinese proxy.
The snub to Pakistan tends to reinforce judgments that Xi's foreign policy is unconventionally pragmatic. President Xi and South Korean President Park already have exchanged visits, but Kim has not been to China nor has Xi been to Pyongyang. That is unprecedented.
Chinese foreign policy under Xi appears to be based on a narrow interpretation of Chinese national security interests, and less on historic friendships and ideological connections.
As for Pakistan, the security experts for the Chinese president do not consider the political situation to have stabilized sufficiently for a state visit this month. That is a dark portent for Pakistan.
Afghanistan: On Friday, 5 September, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that the voter fraud audit was completed, within 50 days as it had projected. However, it declined to announce the final result of its work and provided no explanation,
On 6 September, the Commission told the public that the delay in announcing the final results has no link to the presidential candidates' talks and that the election process was moving forward normally.
EC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said that the reason for the delay in announcing the final results is due to the technicalities of the election process. "There are technical works that are being completed, such as entering the checklists into the system," Noor said.
He also said that a decision will be made in regards to the 7,000 polling sites currently going through the vote invalidation process.
Comment: The status of the voter fraud audit is somewhat unclear because the IEC announced its completion, except for 7,000 ballot boxes? The UN overseers of the IEC apparently hope the candidates will resolve their differences and thereby make moot the results of the ballot invalidation process.
The audit has been a waste of time and resources because the parties failed to agree on the criteria for invalidating ballots and because the US Secretary Kerry insisted the election outcome didn't matter.
Peace in Kabul now hinges on negotiations over executive power sharing that make no sense in Afghanistan's political system.
Military update. The government forces are losing in at least four districts in Helmand province. "The situation is deteriorating and the Taliban are almost in the bazaar," the governor of Musa Qala district, Haji-Mohammad Sharif, said Friday night. "If the situation remains the same, the district will soon fall to the hands of the Taliban."
According to press accounts, the fighting has been heavy in Musa Qala during the past 10 days. Meanwhile a simultaneous Taliban ground assault has been underway in Sangin, Nowzad and Kajaki districts.
Comment: The fighting in Helmand Province is a continuation of Taliban operations that began in June in the same districts. The Afghan National Army launched a counteroffensive in July and August to recover the districts centers. In late August the Taliban renewed their attacks. The Taliban appear determined to take and hold ground, now that NATO air support has diminished or stopped.
Afghan authorities are attempting to play down the gravity of the security situation in Helmand and elsewhere. Afghan officials in Helmand said nearly 1,000 people have died in Sangin District since June. They attribute their losses to a lack of NATO air support which they claim to have requested repeatedly to no avail.
If Afghan forces cannot hold districts without NATO's combat air support, the Taliban will take over the country in a matter of months in 2015.
Ukraine: Both the Kyiv regime and the eastern rebels appear to have honored Friday's cease fire for about 24 hours. After the first day, news services began reporting steadily increased fighting around Donetsk and Mariupol.
Comment: Using some curious legalistic reasoning, the parties claim the ceasefire is holding, but with some violations. Actually, it looks like the violations are occurring in the regions the ceasefire was intended to quiet. A ceasefire document exists, but not a cessation of firing.
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