Night Watch

South Korea -- North Korea: South and North Korea agreed on Monday, 3 February, to hold a working-level meeting this week to discuss resuming family reunions, Seoul's unification ministry announced.

"North Korea agreed to hold the inter-Korean Red Cross talks in the morning of Wednesday, 5 February, at the border village of Panmunjom."

Comment: North Korea's agreement to the talks is a delayed response to South Korea's proposal to resume the reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort in eastern North Korea between 17 and 22 February. The North's agreement statement contained no details or terms, which is suspicious.

A South Korean analytical commentary suggested that the North might intend to counter-propose a date that would correspond to the start of annual Allied joint exercises in South Korea, which will begin in late February and continue into April. In that analysis, the North would be setting up the South as the party unwilling to support national unification so as to justify another dramatic, last minute cancellation and cause the Park government to lose face.

Reinforcing that analysis, the North Korean ambassador to the United Kingdom told a British news service over the weekend that the military exercises "would gravely damage improved ties with the South and would jeopardize family reunions." He said the exercises "will make the situation tense and bring the situation to the brink of war."

This looks like another North Korean attempt to set-up the South Korean government as mishandling intra-Korean affairs. If so, it is a tiresome, shopworn, transparent tactic.

China: A Chinese news outlet carried an item that purported to refute a Japanese news report that China intends to establish an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea and that planning began in May 2013.

"China on Saturday dismissed allegations by some Japanese reports that it is to set up an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea and expressed optimism over the regional situation."

" 'In a general view, the Chinese side has yet to feel any air security threat from the ASEAN countries and is optimistic about its relations with the neighboring countries and the general situation in the South China Sea region,' Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said in a press release Saturday."

Night Watch

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