Night Watch

North Korea: On 1 April the government convened the seventh session of the 12 Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) in Pyongyang, pursuant to the Central Committee's directions on 31 March for legislation to institutionalize the nuclear armed forces, to develop the economy and to approve various appointments. The centerpiece of the meeting was "a law on consolidating the position of nuclear weapons state for self-defense (sic). "

"An ordinance of the Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in this regard was promulgated on Monday, 1 April."

"The DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear weapons state capable of beating back any aggressor troops at one strike, firmly defending the socialist system and providing a sure guarantee for the happy life of the people…."

"The Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK decides to consolidate the position of the nuclear weapons state as follows:

1. The nuclear weapons of the DPRK are just means for defense as it was compelled to have access to them to cope with the ever-escalating hostile policy of the U.S. and nuclear threat.

2. They serve the purpose of deterring and repelling the aggression and attack of the enemy against the DPRK and dealing deadly retaliatory blows at the strongholds of aggression until the world is denuclearized.

3. The DPRK shall take practical steps to bolster up the nuclear deterrence and nuclear retaliatory strike power both in quality and quantity to cope with the gravity of the escalating danger of the hostile forces' aggression and attack.

4. The nuclear weapons of the DPRK can be used only by a final order of the Supreme Commander of the Korean People's Army to repel invasion or attack from a hostile nuclear weapons state and make retaliatory strikes.

5. The DPRK shall neither use nukes against the non-nuclear states nor threaten them with those weapons unless they join a hostile nuclear weapons state in its invasion and attack on the DPRK.

6. The DPRK shall strictly observe the rules on safekeeping and management of nukes and ensuring the stability of nuclear tests.

7. The DPRK shall establish a mechanism and order for their safekeeping and management so that nukes and their technology, weapon-grade nuclear substance may not leak out illegally.

8. The DPRK shall cooperate in the international efforts for nuclear non-proliferation and safe management of nuclear substance on the principle of mutual respect and equality, depending on the improvement of relations with hostile nuclear weapons states.

9. The DPRK shall strive hard to defuse the danger of a nuclear war and finally build a world without nukes and fully support the international efforts for nuclear disarmament against nuclear arms race.

10. The related institutions shall take thorough practical steps for implementing this ordinance."

The Assembly also amended the constitution, passed a law on space development, and approved necessary organizational changes. It replaced two members of the powerful National Defense Commission.

Comment: The convening of the Assembly is itself a strong sign that the North considers the crisis about over. The agenda of the SPA meeting was normal business. The first week of April is the normal time for the SPA to convene, annually. This was a normal session of the Assembly and preparations and travel had to have been underway during most of March.

The first order of business was to amend the North's constitution to ensure perpetual veneration of the deceased elder Kims. After enacting laws on nuclear weapons and space, the Assembly reviewed the budget, made the personnel changes approved by the Central Committee on Sunday, and approved the work program for the Cabinet for the year.

The nuclear weapons consolidation law is significant for two reasons. First, it makes nuclear weapons non-negotiable without a change of law. That simply will never happen as long as an independent North Korea exists. Item 10 implies that it will be a crime for a North Korean diplomat to consent to nuclear negotiations of any kind.

The second point is related in that the expenditures on nuclear weapons can now be addressed in the normal business of the state and as a factor in the evolving plan for economic construction. With nuclear weapons openly and legally committed to securing national defense, Kim can spend less on the armed forces and use any savings on economic projects. In Sunday's Central Committee meeting, he made the point that boosting the nuclear armed forces will not increase defense spending.

This is another implication of the linkage of nuclear weapons with economic construction. It also is another reason why nuclear weapons are now beyond diplomacy. They are enablers of economic improvement.

The personnel changes that were announced included the recall from the National Defense Commission of two senior military officers who apparently resisted these measures. The Assembly also elected their replacements to the National Defense Commission. They are two officers who have accompanied Kim Jong Un in many of his recent public appearances.

This action would seem to legitimate and complete the purge of a former Minister of the People's Armed Forces and a Minister of the People's Security.

The people almost certainly behind Kim's slick ideological gymnastics are Chang Song Taek, Kim's uncle, and Kim Kyong Hui, Chang's wife and the sister of the late Kim Chong-il. The evidence for this is the naming of Pak Pong Ju as the premier.

Pak once was a deputy to Kim Kyong Hui in the Light Industry Ministry. He also is an associate of Chang and reported to be a member of his group of economic technocrats. Six or so years ago as premier, Pak is reputed to have pushed for an hourly wage system in North Korea and for laws protecting the rights of corporations. Kim Chong-il sacked Pak in 2007 and sent him to manage a cement plant. He has been on the way back to good standing since 2010.

In the rear area. More signs that tension has eased. Sources available to the Daily NK report that in the provinces bordering China, conditions are returning to normal. One noted that the high point of the exercises was the period 26 to 28 March, the period when full combat readiness was in effect. During that period there were lectures, meetings and rallies for soldiers and civilians. Since then there has been nothing special, no exercises or emergency summonses; everything has been quiet."

(Note: intense indoctrination of soldiers and civilians - lectures, meetings and rallies - is standard practice during periods of increased combat readiness.)

Another source said, "The soldiers here have returned to barracks following the end of a spell spent underground. They are now reviewing the year's winter training, while soldiers are also being permitted to go outside their bases….The market here is operating normally, with rice hovering at around the 6800 won level. Farmers are also out there preparing to get started on agriculture, without evacuation or tunnel exercises getting in the way."

Comment: The order to go to full combat readiness was the culmination of the Winter Training Cycle. The reports from the rear indicate the Winter Training Cycle ended last Friday. The review and evaluation period is in progress.

The tension provided cover for North Korea to take steps to ensure that it must be treated as a nuclear armed state. The high military readiness was in part a precaution against the possibility that the US might attack North Korea for its defiance of the UN and the US while it openly declared itself a nuclear weapons state. It also will be useful to show the need for a permanent peace.

The practice of using the threat of war to achieve political or operational gains. The North has done this before. It threatened war when it and China withdrew from and dismantled the Military Armistice Commission in 1994. It also has gone to semi-war state of readiness to cover its activities at Yongbyon, such as refueling the reactor without international supervision. Once Kim Il-sung threatened war to establish the North's right of transit for maritime ships from the port of Haeju to sail between the South Korean held islands off the west coast en route the Yellow Sea.

All three Kims now have used the threat of war to cover their achievement of controversial domestic issues without US interference, as well as to advance international issues. The leadership's willingness to pay such costs measures its continuing inability to gauge accurately Allied reaction, after 60 years.

The North's manipulation of combat readiness measures does not mean it was bluffing. The cost of the civilian mobilization and the increased military readiness steps establish that the North genuinely was prepared to go to general war, but had not made the final decision. Uncertain about the US response, they prepared for the worst.

The situation still is dangerous. There is no armistice. The state of war still exists, as it has for 60 years, and the North's leaders know they can bluff. However, they made the people pay a heavy price for "the new line." The limited information from the rear suggests the country, including the army, is exhausted.

Mali: Al-Qaida's local chapter took responsibility for the incursion into Timbuktu this weekend. On 1 April, French and Malian forces continued to hunt down the jihadists, searching house-to-house.

Comment: The claim of responsibility and the boldness of the attack reinforce the al-Qaida claim that its fighters are not beaten and they intend to return.

End of NightWatch

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