North Korea: The North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom, Hyun Hak-bong, gave a rare press interview about current topics. He affirmed that US citizen Kenneth Bae must serve his sentence of 15 years in prison at hard labor. Hyun stated for the record that Chang Sung-taek was executed by gun fire. Most of the interview concerned Hyun's reiteration of North Korea's call for the US and South Korea to halt their annual joint military exercises in the next two months.
Comment: As an English speaker, Hyun's apparent purpose was to clarify the government's position on a number of issues. His statements carefully followed the official scripts published inKorean Central News Agency releases, but with a slightly less rigid presentation. He put to rest the rumors about how Chang died and about the prospects for releasing Kenneth Bae.
The statement about Bae, however, might not be final. Kim Jong Un could release him at any time and probably would for the right price and after North Korean "face" is satisfied.
Pakistan: This week, the Pakistani Taliban welcomed peace talks with the government. In return, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a statement on internal security to the National Assembly on the 29th. Excerpts follow.
"… now that the other party has offered talks, we want to give a peaceful solution another chance by putting aside the bitter experiences of the past. It is necessary for the success of talks that this process should be started with honesty. The first requirement for this would be that acts of terrorism are stopped immediately. Talks and terrorism cannot go together…."
"…From the floor of this house today I announce the formation of a four-member committee in this connection. The committee will include my Special Assistant for National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui; Major, retired, Muhammad Amir, who belongs to a renowned religious family of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Rahimullah Yousufzai, who not only is an expert on the affairs of this region but is also a renowned journalist of national stature, and former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Mohmand, who has been nominated in consultation with the government of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Federal Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan who has been the focal person of the whole talks exercise in accordance with the decision of the All Parties Conference, will assist in the committee's day to day affairs and I myself will directly oversee this whole process."