North Korea: Comment. On 1 January Kim Jong Un delivered his second annual New Year's address. As usual it was a paean to North Korean advancement. It contained some guidance, but mostly it was an inconsistent and bland jumble of themes.
The most noteworthy point of emphasis throughout the speech was the subordination of the army to the Workers' Party. It is doctrinaire communism that the army is subordinate to the party. Bonapartism is the crime of army usurpation of party leadership. Nevertheless, Kim stressed this relationship repeatedly.
Even the paragraphs that describe army achievements last year and its goals in 2014 mention the army as a servant of the party. The words do not quite match real world events because the army is the only institution that can protect the Kim family, with or without the party. The repetition of party supremacy looks forced and raises suspicions about the stability of the leadership.
The consistency of words with facts is manifest elsewhere in the speech.
Kim did not mention the execution of his uncle directly, but talked about eliminating filth and a threat to the primacy of the party. He spoke of how much stronger the party is now. The party, he said, made a correct decision in eliminating the threat.
Kim does not own his decision to execute his uncle. The few facts available in open sources suggest the army's General Political Department - the commissars -- was important in exposing the so-called threat to the party.
During the past two years, when the party was supposedly weaker, North Korea launched missiles and detonated nuclear devices. It undertook and completed large building projects in Pyongyang and in special economic zones. It developed a plan to develop every province in some special way and made a start at improving infrastructure in the provinces bordering China.
Now that the leadership is unitary and the party is stronger, the major thrust is farming, followed by construction and science and technology. Apparently manufacturing, investment and trade do not count any longer.
Kim ordered that agriculture should lead economic development in 2014.
"This year we should keep up agriculture as a major thrust of our effort in the struggle for economic construction and improving the people's standard of living, and concentrate all our efforts on farming. The agricultural sector should proactively introduce scientific farming methods and do farm work in a responsible manner so as to hit without fail the target of agricultural production set by the Party. It should improve animal husbandry and do greenhouse vegetable and mushroom farming on an extensive scale so as to ensure that larger quantities of meat, vegetables and mushrooms are supplied to the people."
The 2013 harvest was relatively good, according to the UN World Food Program, at 5.03 million tons. That represents a 5% increase over last year. The context, however, is that 5 million tons was considered the normal harvest in the 1980s when the population was smaller. The agriculture sector has been so mismanaged by all the Kims that only small increases are possible and usually not sustainable because of weather conditions.
The incongruity is that last year Kim spent much energy and treasure building a water slide in Pyongyang and a ski resort on the east coast. The major economic emphases in the second half of the year were the development of plans for special economic zones and for obtaining foreign investment. Kim made no mention of those programs. The grand scheme of funding North Korean development by outside investors appears to have died with Chang Sung-taek.
In foreign affairs, Kim warned the US and the Allies to not start a war because it would be nuclear and the US would not be safe. Kim did not mention China or nuclear talks. Language about Korean unification was perfunctory.
Overall the language was uninspiring. The use of metaphors of wind and fire was confused and contradictory. North Korean development in 2014 most likely won't be remotely like most of Kim's speech.
Pakistan: Former president and chief of army staff Musharraf failed to appear before a special court on 1 January for hearings on the charge of treason. Musharraf's counsel informed the court that Musharraf could not appear because explosives were found near his residence.
After discussing security with Musharraf's attorney and senior officials of the Ministry of Interior, the Judge said a summons - instead of an arrest warrant -- had already been issued. He said the court didn't want the humiliation of Musharraf and that he must be presented in the court by today (Thursday, 2 January).The court ruled that it would give a ruling today (Thursday) in case the former president failed to appear in the court.
Comment: Interior Ministry officials testified and 760 police and 278 paramilitary Rangers have been assigned to maintain Musharraf's security and that the route between his residence and the court is safe. The implication is that Musharraf's supporters might have planted the explosives, if there were any, to hamstring the hearing.
The court warned that if Musharraf failed to appear on 2 January, it would issue warrants for his arrest. That would mark the first time a former Chief of Army Staff would have been arrested.
Musharraf insists the charges are part of a vendetta against him. In that respect, he is partly correct because most of the judiciary wants him brought to justice. On the other hand, he did usurp the constitution in declaring an emergency in November 2007 and arrested the Chief Justice and other judges who refused to take an oath of loyalty to his emergency regime.
Iraq: For the record. After Sunni fighters burned the main police station in Fallujah and attacked a police station in Ramadi, in Anbar Province west of Baghdad, and another in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad, Prime Minister al-Maliki ordered troop reinforcements sent to Anbar Province.
This order reverses a promise he made to Sunni leaders on Tuesday to withdraw troops from the province as a good will gesture to reduce violence after a crackdown on protestors in Ramadi, the Anbar province capital. The security situation has deteriorated and is not under control in some areas of the province.
South Sudan: Fighters loyal to renegade leader Machar apparently took back parts of the town of Bor on Christmas Eve. That appears to have been the impetus for two developments. Machar subsequently announced he was ready to send a delegation to attend talks in Ethiopia. It also was the impetus for President Salva Kiir to declare a state of emergency in Jonglei State, of which Bor is the capital, and in Unity state, northwest of Jonglei,
Government and rebel officials confirmed their negotiating teams were either on their way or in the Ethiopian capital, and diplomats said they expected formal talks on a possible ceasefire to begin on Thursday, 2 January. An Ethiopian government spokesman said the talks would focus on "monitoring mechanisms for the ceasefire".
The South Sudan government, however, refused to call it a ceasefire, saying negotiators must first agree on a "mechanisms" for talks to move forward.
Comment: Machar said on Monday that conditions were not appropriate for talks. Apparently recovery of Bor or parts of it, from which government fighters had routed Machar's men last week, satisfied his conditions for talks.
End of NightWatch
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