South Korea-North Korea: Today's sixth round of inter-Korean working-level talks ended without agreement on normalizing operations at the Kaesong industrial complex. The North wants the factories to resume operations as quickly as possible without conditions. The South wants assurances that the North will not shut down the plants again. Negotiators set no date for another round of talks.
After the talks ended, North Korea threatened to deploy military forces at the factory complex.
Comment: Today was the last date for progress this month because over the weekend North Korean energies will be devoted to festivities related to celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. Preoccupation with hosting many foreign guests, including a rare delegation from the Indian government and parliament, will preclude talks with the South. The North celebrates the Armistice as the date of its victory over the Allies.
After that preparations for and execution of Allied exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian (20-31 August) will raise tension again with the North. Talks might resume about the time of the harvest festival, Chusok, at the time of the autumn equinox around 18 and 19 September.
China-North Korea: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met visiting Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao in Pyongyang on 25 July to discuss relations between their two countries.
According to the Chinese news service Xinhua, Li arrived earlier in the day to pay a visit to the North Korea and to attend activities marking the 60th anniversary of the Korea War Armistice on 27 July.
"Li said that, as a neighbor of the Korean Peninsula, China persisted in the realization of its denuclearization and the maintenance of its peace and stability. China insisted problems should be solved by dialogue and negotiation."
"Li said China would like to push the resumption of the Six-Party Talks and devote itself to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula together with all related parties, in a bid to achieve peace in the region"
Kim Jong Un said that his country "was dedicated to developing its economy and improving its people's lives, which required a stable outer environment. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea supported China's efforts to restart the Six-Party Talks, and would like to make efforts with all parties to protect the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula."
Comment: Kim sidestepped the issue of denuclearization, but dutifully seconded the Chinese insistence on the need for dialogue and negotiation. What was missing from the script was the pro forma reference to relations being as close as teeth and lips. Those days are gone. Relations are proper, not cordial and that is a major strategic shift.
Curiously, the most senior official with whom the leader of North Korea has met and talked is the Vice President of China. South Korean President Park has enjoyed a state visit to China. The contrast speaks for itself.
Egypt: Competing demonstrations are expected in Cairo after Ramadan evening prayers. A military official said the army had given Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood a Saturday deadline to end its resistance and join a military-set road map to fresh elections, signaling a turning point in the confrontation. "We will not initiate any move, but will definitely react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from Brotherhood leaders or their supporters," the army official said.
A spokesperson for the Tamarrud (Rebel!) movement called on Egyptians to support the Army's call for rallies and for the expulsion of the US Ambassador.
Comment: The Brotherhood appears determined to challenge the army on Friday, which means clashes are unavoidable. The use of explosives by either side in an urban demonstration most likely will prompt a declaration of an emergency. Insurgent attacks in north Sinai will be another useful measure of security conditions.
The Egyptian Army leadership has almost invited the Brotherhood to commit an act of organizational suicide by opposing the Army's call for rallies. The Brotherhood seems to know no other way to behave.
Tunisia: Prominent Tunisian opposition politician and Member of Parliament Mohamed Brahmi was shot and killed on Thursday, setting off violent protests against the Islamist-led government in the capital and elsewhere.
Thousands of people protested outside the Interior Ministry in Tunis and a hospital in the Ariana district where Brahmi's body had been taken. "Down with the rule of the Islamists," they chanted, and demanded that the government resign.
Big crowds accompanied Brahmi's body when it was taken later for autopsy to another Tunis hospital. Despite the presence of hundreds of soldiers and police, protesters smashed cars and broke some windows of the hospital in Ariana, witnesses said.
Demonstrations erupted in the southern town of Sidi Bouzid, the cradle of the Tunisian revolution, where protesters set fire to two local Ennahda party offices. "Thousands have taken to the streets. People have blocked roads and set tires alight," said a resident of Sidi Bouzid. "People are very angry."
Police fired teargas to disperse protesters who stormed a local government office in the Mediterranean port of Sfax, 170 miles southeast of Tunis.
Tunisia's biggest labor organization, UGTT, called for a general strike on Friday in protest at Brahmi's killing. The assassination occurred on Tunisia's Republic Day
"This criminal gang has killed the free voice of Brahmi," his widow Mbarka Brahmi told the press.
Brahmi's sister later accused the ruling Islamist Ennahda party of being behind the killing. "Ennahda killed my brother," Souhiba Brahmi said.
Comment: Brahmi was a critic of the Ennahda-led ruling coalition and a member of the Constituent Assembly that has drafted a new constitution. He belonged to the secular, Arab nationalist Popular Front party, whose then-leader, Chokri Belaid, was killed in similar fashion on 6 February 2013. His death ignited the worst political violence in Tunisia since President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fell in 2011.
Like the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda party knows how to agitate, but not how to govern. Expect anti-government protests on Friday.
End of NightWatch
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