Night Watch

South Korea-North Korea: An agreement between North and South Korea to hold high-level government talks on 12 June collapsed in a dispute over the level of representation. South Korean officials said that the talks, planned for Wednesday, were canceled but that it was still open to dialogue with the North.

The disagreement surfaced after the two Koreas exchanged the lists of their five-member delegates. South Korea had intended to send its Unification Minister, but balked when the head of the North's list was not a member of the North Korean cabinet.

The South then proposed its delegation would be led by a Vice Minister. That prompted the North to cry foul and to cancel the meeting.

Comment: This looks like a set up. Yesterday item four in the North's press release cited agreement that a ministry-level official would lead each delegation. The North clearly reneged on that commitment.

The timing and the difference between the North's agreement on the delegation head compared to the person it proposed strongly suggest the North had no intention of keeping the agreement one day longer than needed for Chinese President Xi to conclude his summit meeting in the US.

From the outset there was a protocol mismatch. An agency of the North Korean government represented the North in talks with South Korean government officials. Even the head of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea is of lower rank than the South Korean Unification Minister.

If the North really needs the cash, this problem will be resolved soon. If it is not fixed soon, the inference would be strong that North Korea was obliging China for the sake of the summit. Stumbling over trivial slights with great indignation is the North's shop worn way of avoiding a commitment it never intended to keep.

Afghanistan: A suicide car bomber detonated near the Afghan Supreme Court in Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least eight people and wounding 20, officials said.

Comment: This was a serious security breach. The message is the government cannot defend its key institutions and the people who work in them.

Iraq: Comment: The tally from the Monday attacks is 94 killed and 289 injured. Attacks occurred in 17 towns including Baghdad.

Night Watch

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