North Korea: Tension is rising, again. On 27 March, one day after North Korea test-fired two medium range ballistic missiles, South Korea fired warning shots at and eventually captured a North Korean fishing boat that had crossed the Northern Limit Line into South Korean waters off the northwest coast.
On 26 March, the spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK), a North Korean government organization, denounced South Korean President Park Geun Hye (Pak Ku'n-hye) for making comments on North Korea's nuclear programs at the 3rd "nuclear security summit" held in the Netherlands. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported,
"Recently Park let loose a string of very reckless remarks against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), groundlessly accusing it over its nuclear issue at the summit (sic)."
"Though she is a faithful servant and stooge of the U.S., she should have properly wagged her tongue on the basis of hard facts or elementary common sense. Had she had the idea of uttering even a proper word at the summit, she should have chided the U.S., among others, for being the first to produce nuclear weapons, proliferating them, bringing horrible nuclear disasters to humankind and stockpiling more nukes than any other countries in the world to pose constant nuclear threat still now…."
"Funny enough, Park, a U.S. nuclear war servant, talked about a "world without nuclear weapons", parroting what her master uttered. But the great irony was that she asserted the building of such a world should start from the "North's dismantlement" of its nukes. This either betrayed the lack of her knowledge about where to start or where to end or revealed that she had the same ulterior motive as the U.S.'s (sic)."
"This time Park took issue even with the DPRK's line of developing the two fronts simultaneously, groundlessly finding fault with its nukes. By doing so, she crudely violated the agreement made at the north-south high-level contact on halting the smear campaign…."
"If Park truly wants to improve the inter-Korean relations, she should be careful about what she says, and have discretion and reason to get a habit of refraining from making reckless remarks. She made a serious blunder."
"Explicitly speaking about the nuclear issue, there may be the denuclearization of the whole Korean peninsula, but no "North's unilateral denuclearization" under any circumstances. She had better not have even a dream about it."
"…We will keep a watch on Park's undesirable behavior."
Comment: The commentary insults the South Korean president by name without honorifics. It is a serious breach of etiquette and intended to demean President Park. The North's propagandists engage inad hominemattacks only when the leadership is seriously upset.
In this case, the South Korean President was like a rock star at an important meeting to which North Korea received no invitation. That alone probably annoyed Kim Jong Un personally. The swings in North Korea's foreign policy bespeak immature moodiness, rather than carefully crafted policy.
The capture of the fishing boat is a retaliation of a sort for the missile launches. However, the South Korean navy said it seized the boat and brought it to port because of deteriorating weather conditions. Nevertheless, tension will rise again unless the North is desperate for South Korean assistance. In that connection, it is a positive sign that the crude denunciation of President Park conveyed no threats or warnings.
Pakistan: For the first time in 10 years, direct peace talks were held on 26 March between the government and the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Five members of the TTP's central Shura and the four members of the government's special committee met at a secret location in Orakzai Agency, in the tribal region of northwest Pakistan.
The talks mainly focused on conditions for extending the 1 March ceasefire. The TTP wanted some 300 non-combatant detainees - women, children and elderly -- released; an end to extra-judicial killings of TTP prisoners in government custody and the creation of a "peace zone" in the tribal area in which government troops would not operate..
The government agreed to release some non-combatants in return for extending the ceasefire and for agreeing to hold additional negotiations. The Taliban also agreed to investigate the activities of the Ahrarul Hind, a splinter Taliban group that rejects talks and has executed several deadly attacks to protest them.
Comment: The fact of the meeting is a breakthrough that keeps a campaign promise made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, real progress towards establishing peace will be made, if at all, in secret talks, which some Pakistani analysts say are also taking place. The meeting was good public relations for both sides.
What really is happening, in the judgment of NightWatch, is that the Pakistan government and the Pakistani Taliban are preparing for the departure of US and other NATO military forces from Afghanistan. The restoration of Pakistani hegemony in Afghanistan is an issue on which the TTP and the Pakistani government agree. Peace in Pakistan, even a ceasefire, always signifies a redirection of fighting into Afghanistan.
It is worth noting that after US drone attacks all but stopped and Western experts became less voluble, the Pakistanis found they could agree finally on a ceasefire and could hold direct talks for the first time in 10 years.
Saudi Arabia: For the record. Prince Muqrin, former intelligence chief and youngest son of the last King Saud, has been named the deputy crown prince, making him the second in succession after Crown Prince Salman.
Turkey: Update. Turkey has moved to block access to YouTube, a day after a court ordered the suspension of a government ban on Twitter. Turkey's telecommunications authority (TIB) said it had taken an "administrative measure" against the site.
Some users found access blocked while others could still use the site.
Comment: Prime Minister Erdogan tried to block the sites because they have posted compromising videos and information about him and his cohorts that he denies and that has not been corroborated. Erdogan's party faces important local elections on Sunday whose outcome could be influenced by what Erdogan considers wire fraud and defamation.
Despite official attempts to block Twitter and YouTube, apparently the companies have arranged work-arounds for Turkish users.
Ukraine: Ultra-nationalist activists belonging to Right Sector attacked the Ukrainian parliament in Kyiv today calling for the resignation of the interior and acting defense ministers over the killing of a Right Sector activist/thug named Sashko Bilyy.
Comment: The killing reportedly occurred during a "special unit operation" which appears to have been the regime's first attempt to disarm and dismantle the right wing ultranationalists in several cities. Right Sector has vowed it will not surrender its weapons. It also announced it will hold a "peaceful" rally on the 28thand every day thereafter until the ministers resign.
Egypt: For the record. Egypt's new armed forces chief and defense minister has been sworn in, a day after Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi resigned so he could stand for the presidency. Interim President Adly Mansour confirmed General Sedki Sobhi's appointment at the weekly cabinet meeting in Cairo.
General Mahmoud Hegazi, whose daughter is married to one of Mr. Sisi's sons, was named the army's new chief-of-staff.
Comment: General Sobhi was al-Sisi's right hand man as army chief of staff. Sisi hand-picked Sobhi as his successor. Hegazi's appointment is further proof that Sisiis keeping the top Egyptian army positions in the family.
End of NightWatch
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