On 10 April, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and other North Korean media published a summary of the Korean Workers’ Party (WPK) Politburo guidance meeting that Kim Jong Un chaired. Kim briefed the members about his meeting with South Korean President Moon on 27 April and the status of US relations. KCNA published images of the meeting.
I’ll spare you the details except to suggest that the description of the attendees indicates the meeting was a joint session of the most senior party and government leaders. They all probably knew what to expect at the meeting, but this looks like the official all-of-government kick-off meeting for Kim’s high-risk personal diplomacy. The summary captures an important event in the history of northeast Asia.
It is the first public information that KCNA has published that Kim has scheduled a meeting with South Korean President Moon and that it will be held in South Korea. Kim will be the first North Korean supreme leader to walk in South Korea since the Korean War. It also is the first KCNA document to mention prospects for a North Korean dialogue with the US.
According to the KCNA summary, Kim did not mention denuclearization or the possibility of a summit with the US President.
North Korean media continue to remain silent about allied Foal Eagle exercise currently underway in South Korea.
Some of you who have read this blog over the long haul will note that I predicted a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula in the Winter 2017-18 year. It was forestalled by the strategy of President Trump and American allies – for the good of the world. Based on what I’m seeing, the North Koreans may be changing the metrics and may even de-nuclearize. It’s too early to know for sure, but the news – and the actions of the Norks follow that concept.
Kim Jong Un is sufficiently westernized that he understands public imagery and apparently something about western attitudes. Old Korea hands appreciated that North Korea could achieve more of its goals by being cooperative than by being pugnacious.
The US and its allies have prepared for another Korean War for the last 70 years. The US and its Allies are not prepared for a North Korean peace offensive.
The Chinese have offered to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPC) into Afghanistan.
The Economic Times reported that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the offer to his Pakistani and Afghan counterparts at China’s Boao Forum for Asia, which convened on Hainan Island over the weekend.
“China and Pakistan are willing to look at Afghanistan on the basis of win-win, mutually beneficial principles, using an appropriate means to extend the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor to Afghanistan.”
The Chinese offer is not altruistic. It reflects a practical appreciation of fundamental security conditions. The Chinese realized that Pakistan is unable to provide adequate security for the right of way of the western branch of the Corridor. That is mostly because the militants and terrorists use Afghanistan as a safe haven. Thus, Afghan assistance with security in the border region is essential for the security and success of the Corridor because it runs close to the Afghan border.
China has experience with development projects in Afghanistan that were still-born because they were not safe. The Chinese proposal is risky, but the risks cut in two directions. Lack of security jeopardizes the CPEC route to Gwardar port, if China does nothing.
Attack on T-4 airbase update.
A Syrian military source confirmed that Israeli F-15 fighter-bomber aircraft conducted the dawn attack on 9 April by firing eight missiles at T-4 Airbase from Lebanese airspace. Syrian (Russian) air defenses confronted these missiles and shot down five of them.
Fourteen people died in the attack, including four Iranian military advisers. One of the Iranians was a colonel who commanded the Iranian drone program.
The Israelis attacked the Iranian facilities at T-4 in February and in the large air raid that retaliated for the downing of an Israeli F-16 during the earlier attack.
The Israelis, as is their practice, did not comment on the attack. The timing of the attack indicates Israeli leaders perceived an opportunity to attack Iran under the cover of US threats to punish Syria over the alleged gas attack in Douma. The Syrians were on alert for an American attack but got an Israeli attack instead.
The Russians continue to defend Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on 9 April that the Russian military in Syria have repeatedly warned of provocations aimed at blaming Damascus for the use of chemical weapons.
The Russian Centre for Reconciliation in Syria said Russian specialists inspected the site of the alleged chemical attack on the 9th and said there was no trace of chemical agents.
The Syrian Red Crescent also issued a statement on 9 April that its medical personnel in Douma had found no evidence that a chemical attack had taken place. The Red Crescent runs a hospital in Douma. It received no patients that were exposed to chemical agents over the weekend, despite claims by the White Helmets that hundreds were wounded from exposure to chemicals.
This is the first report that Russian specialists already visited the site. The Russian visit will change no minds. Many will doubt anything the Russians claim. But unlike the western powers, the Russians at least said they tried get evidence.
Western states have not even done that much.
If the site is accessible to the Russian specialists and to the Red Crescent, it ought to be accessible to western specialists. The Syrians intend to declare Douma a terror-free zone.
The Russians are serious about the threat of “grave consequences” if the US attacks Syrian forces. The Israeli attack has deprived the US of the benefit of whatever reluctance the Russians might have had.
The Israelis have again embarrassed the Syrians and the Russians. They have provided Russia with a strong incentive to retaliate for additional attacks this week. A US attack against the Syrians that went unanswered would devalue the promise of Russian protection and diminish the stature of Russian arms.