North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim Jong Un made another visit to the coastal artillery Unit 64, which is located on an islet off South Hwanghae Province, in western IV Corps, opposite the South Korean held islands.
"On 11 March, respected and beloved Marshal Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers Party of Korea, first chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission, and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army (KPA), inspected to check the actual condition of the combat readiness of the long-range artillery sub-unit under KPA Unit 641, which is charged with the firepower mission to strike and wipe out the enemies on Paengnyo'ng Island (aka, P-Y Do), who are enthusiastic about provocation maneuvers of aggression."
"He was accompanied by Comrade Choe Ryong Hae, Comrade Kim Kyo'k-sik, Comrade Kim Yo'ng-ch'o'l, Comrade Pak Cho'ng-ch'o'n, Comrade Rim Kwang-il, and Comrade An Chi-yong."
The entourage also visited a fish farm, photos of which ran in Rodong Sinmun, the party daily.
Comment: He visited these islets on 7 March with a similar entourage. He attended an Army art performance on the 12th. The language and images from North Korea are not exclusively warlike, as was the case in the past when the North would go on alert during the US and South Korean Team Spirit exercises. That provides some reassurance that the North is not yet ready for a shooting incident and does not seek general war
The entourage with Kim is fairly routine, but worth a few notes. Comrade Choe is a Vice Marshal who heads the General Political Department of the KPA. He is listed in front of General Kim Kyok-sik who is the Minister of the People's Armed Forces (MPAF).
The Minister is a functionary, who is usually outranked by the Chief of the General Staff and, under Kim Chong-il, by the Chief of the General Political Department and sometimes the Chief of the General Logistics Department.
The chain of command runs from Kim Jong Un as Supreme Commander to the Chief of the General Staff, not through the Ministry of MPAF. The General Political Department ensures party loyalty and obedience in the KPA.
The next Kim is the general in charge of the General Reconnaissance Bureau of the General Staff.
Pak Chong chon is a staff two-star general. Information on Rim is not readily available. An Chi-yong is a one-star general who commands the coastal region.
Not present were the Chief of the General Staff, Vice Marshal Hyon and Colonel General Pyon who commands IV Corps, which covers all of the southwest region that includes the islets visited.
The omissions show that an accident during the visit would not destroy the chain of command.
Along the China border. The Daily NK reported that one of its sources from North Hamkyong Province, on the eastern sector of the Chinese border, learned, "Before the [ROK-U.S. 'Key Resolve-Foal Eagle'] military exercises started on the 11th, orders were handed down telling us to raise the readiness posture one step from 'combat mobilization.'" Therefore, he added, "There will be high level drills for a week, including not just underground training but also some combined drills involving simulated enemy action."
The source said he had heard from military cadres that "sometime today or tomorrow there will be an important announcement." The source predicted that a quasi-state of war could be declared.
"There have been orders to distribute all reserve supplies to the people. The emergency supplies stored in the No. 2 Depot have been sent out to public distribution locations," he said. "They are just waiting for the order to distribute it."
Comment: 'One step below combat mobilization' is semi-state of war, or quasi-state of war, as the Daily NK translated. The specific timing of the announcement of the semi-state of war is unclear. NightWatch judges that it began on the 11th.
Distribution of emergency supplies is an important action in national civil defense preparations. This is high cost behavior that only occurs in anticipation of or during a genuine crisis.
The North Korean media may be expected to depict the North as the victim in any future incident. However, this script was written months ago and the crisis is completely manufactured to advance the North's interest in negotiations towards a permanent peace treaty.
China-Korean Situation: The Foreign Ministry spokesman clarified China's view that sanctions are not a goal in themselves.
"The Chinese side always believes that sanctions are not an end in itself. We hope that the parties concerned will continue to maintain dialogue and consultations, commit themselves to resolving the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue within the framework of the Six-Party Talks, and explore an effective way of achieving lasting peace and stability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large."
Comment: The reference to "explore an effective way of achieving lasting peace and stability" is suggestion to explore negotiations for a permanent peace agreement. Korean unification would also be an effective way of achieving lasting peace.
It is noteworthy that the Chinese do not accept or acknowledge that the Six Party Talks are defunct, despite North Korea's explicit statement that there will be no more nuclear talks of any kind.
UN-Mali-France: The United Nations is likely to vote next month on a peacekeeping force for Mali, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday. "We will move from the current framework... to a new diplomatic set-up, a peacekeeping operation which would probably be voted in April and implemented two months later," he told the National Assembly's foreign affairs committee.
Comment: The French are searching for mechanism to maintain a combat force in Mali that is not composed primarily of French soldiers and supplied by France. The French want to disengage but do not want the conventional UN peacekeeping force. They want a combat reaction force on standby for Mali.
The preference for a ready reserve for Mali probably is a reflection of French concern that al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is not defeated and remains determined to reassert itself in Mali, based on captured documents. It also is a reflection that France is reaching the limit of its willingness or ability to continue the fight with its own resources.
End of NightWatch
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