North Korea-South Korea: One day after agreeing to resume family reunions in late February, North Korean authorities linked the reunions to upcoming US-Republic of Korea joint military exercises. The North announced that "dialogue and wartime invasion exercises, reconciliation and agitating for confrontation; these can never go hand in hand."
"It would be nonsense to hold reunions of families scattered by a previous war in the midst of treacherously dangerous nuclear war exercises," according to a statement from the National Defense Commission (NDC). "The South Korean authorities must rid themselves of their confrontational character and act decisively to meet the expectations of the people."
The statement also claimed that an American B-52 bomber took part in exercises yesterday. The statement asked, "How can South Korea shout about building trust and improving relations while they are throwing open their sovereign airspace to allow American nuclear-capable bomber formations to crawl in?"
Comment: Today's National Defense Commission statement tends to confirm the NightWatch hypothesis that the "one nation" theme is a propaganda ploy. Kim Jong Un and his advisors are acting out the old reunification script that leads nowhere. Based on yesterday’s statement, 100 South and North Korean families are not likely to meet this month, despite government promises and agreements.
The South needs an aggressive counter-propaganda strategy that questions why the North has to train so much to invade South Korea, if its intentions are so benign. To repeat, the North's Winter Training Cycle is completely inconsistent with dialogue, reconciliation and national unity.
Pakistan: Peace talks between the Pakistani government and representatives of the Taliban began on Thursday. "Today, we started the journey for peace, and both sides have agreed to complete it as soon as possible," the chief government negotiator said.
After four hours of talks, the two sides issued a joint statement in which both sides called for avoiding any steps that could disrupt the peace process. The statement listed the government's five conditions for a permanent agreement. The representatives of the Pakistani Taliban offered no terms.
The government conditions follow:
•All talks to be held within the framework of the Pakistani Constitution;
•The scope of the talks should remain confined to areas affected by violence, not the whole country;
•All hostilities should cease during talks;
•The Taliban should clarify the role of a separate nine-member committee that they have established;
•The talks should not be protracted.
The Taliban team had no authority to agree to the five government conditions for an agreement. The team agreed to travel to Miram shah in the north-west to present the government's terms to the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. It also pledged to report back to the government committee as soon as possible.
The chief Taliban negotiator proposed an exchange of meetings. He asked the government negotiators to arrange a meeting between the Taliban team and the prime minister, army chief and head of the intelligence agency so that issues could be discussed with them directly.
In return, the government team also said it wanted a direct meeting with the Taliban leadership. The Taliban chief spokesman said he would relay the government's request.
Comment: These talks might serve the government's political purposes, but they were not substantive. Nothing substantive happened because the Taliban sent no plenipotentiary representatives. They sent proxies who had no authority to make binding commitments.
Consequently, the government negotiators did not talk with the Pakistani Taliban. The men who purported to speak for the Pashtun rebels are well-known Islamic fundamentalist clerics who have no direct ties to the Pakistani Taliban, but share the intention to establish a strict interpretation of Sharia in Pakistan.
The talks have almost no chance of long term success because the Taliban already have rejected most of the government's five conditions, including respect for Pakistan's Constitution. Nevertheless, the talks serve the interests of the negotiating parties, for now. Both can say they tried the path of diplomacy.
End of NightWatch