NorthKorea: The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins reported today that commercial satellite imagery from 19 September shows hot water being released into the river next to the Yongbyon reactor, as part of its secondary cooling system. The institute judges that the release of hot water indicates the reactor is in operation and that the turbines are generating electrical power.
Comment: In the multiple crises involving the status of the Yongbyon reactor in the past, one of the most reliable indicators that the reactor was operating was the steam cloud from the pipe emptying into to the river. As noted in last night's NightWatch edition, the North's dual development strategy means that active economic projects are a tipoff that nuclear projects are also active.
Pakistan: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has established formal contacts with the Taliban leadership through ulema (the body of Muslim legal scholars) from Wafaq-ul-Madaris and those commanding respect in various Taliban factions operating in the country's restive tribal areas. (Note: Wafaq ul Madaris Al Arabia is the largest federation of Islamic schools in Pakistan.)
Sources in the government confirmed having started the process of contact with the Taliban, while modus operandi of the dialogue would shape up in the coming days.
A delegation of ulema belonging to Wafaq-ul-Madaris had a detailed meeting with Federal Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan and stakeholders on Tuesday and discussed the framework for holding peace talks. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned from New York Tuesday night, received a detailed briefing from the interior minister on the meeting with the ulema.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan [TTP], said the Taliban welcomed the ulema's appeal for a ceasefire. Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman, said "if the government takes the lead and announces a ceasefire then we will ceasefire as well."
He warned, however, that if the government took any action against the Taliban during the talks they reserved the right to defend themselves. He said the government should show its authority and get the drone strikes stopped before the talks because the whole process would become meaningless if the talks and drone strikes go on simultaneously.
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