South Korea-North Korea: South Korea rejected North Korea's offer to take a series of steps to ease tension that included canceling Seoul's regular military drills with Washington. The North countered that on 14 February that Pyongyang must take nuclear disarmament steps first.
The North's National Defense Commission on Thursday proposed the two states halt military actions and mutual vilification to build better relations. The North indicated, however, it would maintain its nuclear weapons program .
South Korea's delegation said it would press ahead with the annual exercises which it said are defensive in nature. The South demanded that North Korea take "practical" actions for nuclear disarmament if it truly wants peace on the peninsula.
"North Korea should keep in mind that trust between South and North Korea is something that can be demonstrated with action, not by words," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do told reporters.
Comment: If the North is serious about the proposal to halt military actions, then South Korea should demand a sign, such as an early termination of the North's Winter Training Cycle, not just the same old demand for denuclearization. The Winter Training Cycle runs through the end of March for the ground forces.
The Korean People's Army supports at least a third of the civilian population through supply chain and family effects. Every full time soldier supports at least three other family members. Cancelling the final month of winter training would be a high cost sign of North Korea's commitment to better relations and worth reciprocity by the Allies.
The North's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile forces are a lot like the Frenchforce de frappe- one salvo in vengeance right before total annihilation of the homeland. However, the winter training cycle of the non-missile conventional forces has enormous linkages into and impact on the civilian workforce, the non-military economy and the civilian family members of the soldiers.
After the annual harvest festival, the extra civilian exertions and preparations are essential for a successful winter military training surge. For the civilians, the result is extra pay, rations or benefits. For the army, the result is adequate rations, clothing and creature comforts and high use consumables for successful military training.
Much of the North Korean economy would collapse if the Korean People's Army failed to train in the winter, especially before the winter wheat harvest. If the North is offering to halt its training, the South should call it on that offer.
Russia-Egypt: Update. During Egyptian Field Marshal el-Sisi's visit, news accounts reported remarks by President Putin,
Putin said: "I know that you, Mister Defense Minister, have decided to run for president of Egypt. I wish you luck both from myself personally and from the Russian people."
Field Marshal Sisi said: "Our visit offers a new start to the development of military and technological co-operation between Egypt and Russia. We hope to speed up this co-operation."
Comment: El-Sisi has not announced in public his intention to run for the presidency. Putin's intelligence gave him a poor briefing on this topic or Putin decided to press the case.
What is important is El-Sisi's comment. It represents an invitation to the Russians to counter Egypt's reliance on the Americans. Extension of rights to a competitor or adversary is the definition of a non-violent threat to US policy or an outright policy failure.
To put el-Sisi's visit in perspective, since the Camp David accords in 1978, Egypt has received more US military aid than any country in the world except Israel. El-Sisi's visit is a watershed event, even if little immediate benefit results. In a negative reaction to US pressures, Egypt has invited Russia back.
This is the second major foreign policy breakthrough for the Russians in the Middle East. The first was the Syrian chemical weapons deal. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is an impressive statesman.
Venezuela: Three persons, including one policeman, were killed in Caracas on 12 February after the conclusion of a large student and opposition-led demonstration against the Maduro government. The government and the opposition blamed each other. The government said the demonstrators were trying to stage a coup.
Comment: Hugo Chavez and Maduro have pursued socialist, egalitarian policies that have impoverished one of the richest countries in South America. Shortages of basic commodities, including toilet tissue, are now chronic. Inflation is 56%. Unemployment is over 11%. Venezuela has gone the way of Cuba, in many respects, with the same condition of overall underachievement.
Nevertheless, the government is in no danger of overthrow. The security and military forces remain loyal to the central government. The government's policies are popular in the rural countryside.
The opposition and students can gather flash mobs, but have shown no ability to sustain pressure against the government comparable to the camp sites in central Kiev in the Ukraine. Their anti-government movement has little traction outside universities and a few cities. It has no purchase among those who benefit from government's socialist policies.
When anti-government demonstrations begin on the peripheries, sustain themselves and move towards or link up with the center, then the government will be under threat of overthrow.
End of NightWatch
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