Some of you have asked, “LL do you have a life?” The answer is that no, I do not. While I’m waiting for things to happen as I am at the moment, I sometimes chop these things out because I have a few readers who are interested. I was on the phone from 5:00 am this morning (8 on the East Coast) trying to get some people to move. As of this moment, I’ve been assured that things are happening, but I have yet to get a detailed report. Unfortunately I can’t clone myself 1000 times and be everywhere at once.
Now for the updates
North Korea Update
Kim visited the northeast on an inspection trip. On 16 July, North Korea media published accounts of Chairman Kim Jong Un’s inspection visit to eight facilities in North Hamgyong Province, whose capital is Chongjin.
The facilities included the Chongjin shipyard, a large greenhouse project for growing vegetables, a machine tool factory, a salmon fish farm, a hotel, a power plant and hydroelectric dam and a holiday camp. Most of the visits were morale boosters, with lots of encouragement to work harder for the people. He boarded a patrol boat built at the shipyard and went for a brief cruise. At four locations he was critical of provincial or facility management.
At the Orangchon Power Station, Kim said that it has been under construction for 17 years but is still only 70% complete. He reprimanded the leading officials of the Cabinet for leaving the project to the province only and not paying attention. He also inspected the dam that will serve the hydroelectric power station.
At the Yonmunjin Hotel, he noted that the hotel has been under construction since 2011 and was associated with his father, Kim Chong-il. Kim Jong Un described the location as ideal for use by the people with clean sea waters and a good white sandy shore.
The exterior of the structure is finished, but the interior is not. “The Supreme Leader referred to the fact that the plastering of the inside of the hotel has not yet been finished though six years passed since the completion of its frame project.”
There is no motivation to complete anything because there is no profit. Capitalism works. Communism doesn’t and this is emblematic of a system that has no future.
Kim directed that more central supplies and help be provided to the hotel project. Its incomplete status embarrassed his father’s memory. It’s a world where executions bring short term motivation.
At the Chongjin bag factory, Kim found the factory working poorly. He criticized the provincial party committee.
“The Supreme Leader pointed out that the Provincial Party Committee is working in a perfunctory manner, disregarding an important policy to be prioritized by it and that its attitude toward the acceptance and implementation of the Party policy is very wrong and the committee has no revolutionary spirit and responsible attitude of working hard to implement the Party policy.”
“He charged that there is a problem in the work of the Provincial Party Committee as it has not yet built a design room, paying no attention to a poor products show room.”
Kim inspected the Onpho Holiday Camp late at night, which apparently caught the mangers by surprise.
“Looking round the bathroom of the camp, he pointed out its very bad condition, saying bathtubs for hot spring therapy are dirty, gloomy and unsanitary for their poor management.”
He had other criticisms and ordered the camp to be completed in 2019 by the Korean People’s Army.
All the locations were civilian. The Chongjin shipyard was the only military-related visit. The late Kim Chong-il almost always visited military facilities as part of his songun – military first – policy. Kim Jong Un visited military bases during the first years of his leadership tenure, in and after 2012. North Koreans pay attention to the Supreme Leader’s visits as a signal of his priorities.
Kim fired no one nor punished anyone but ordered everyone to work harder. He apparently is reshaping his image and reputation for summary, harsh punishments. The Daily NK reported that the security apparatus has lifted the tight security measures in effect prior to the summit with the US President.
Kim is doing internally the economic tasks he promised to do in his three visits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and in the summit with the US President. At some locations, Kim sounded more like Chinese President Xi than a Kim scion.
Turkish President Erdogan concerned about Idlib. According to Reuters, Turkish President Erdogan told Russian President Putin that the de-escalation agreement covering Idlib could be jeopardized by a potential Syrian army offensive in Idlib.
Erdogan said that if the Syrian government targeted Idlib in the same way they did in Dara’a, the essence of the Astana agreement would be destroyed.
President Erdogan apparently now senses that Syrian President Assad is serious about liberating all of Syria and about the withdrawal of foreign forces. What might have worried the Turks is the Russian advice to the rebels in Dara’a to not evacuate to Idlib because the Syrians are heading there in September.
After the summit between Presidents Putin and Trump, Turkey should be concerned because Putin reaffirmed Russian support for the Syrian government.
The Russians in Syria do not trust the Turks. President Erdogan remains determined to overthrow the Assad government and has converted Turkish-occupied Syria, including the Idlib de-escalation zone, into a base to support future operations against Assad. Come September, Turkey could be on a potential collision course with the Syrians and the Russians, if it insists on protecting the Islamists in Idlib.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the Israeli attack near an airport on the outskirts of Aleppo on 15 July killed nine Syrian soldiers.
Six of those killed in the attack held Syrian citizenship. There is no information regarding the other three soldiers killed. According to the report, the attack targeted a site near the Al-Nayrab airfield. The Syrian state news agency (SANA) quoted a Syrian military source as saying that the attack caused only material damage.
Other sources said the attack targeted arms depots belonging to the Syrian army and Iranian militias were kept, claiming that 22 soldiers were killed, including nine Iranians.
This is the only report to assert that Iranians were killed in the Israeli attack.
The hysterical Western press reaction to the US-Russian summit contrasts sharply with the measured statements by President Putin at the joint press conference.
Putin’s adjectives to describe the meetings were “frank”, “businesslike” and “very fruitful.” He did not describe President Trump as his new best friend. He said nothing about a personal relationship but said he hoped trust could be built.
Putin mentioned the main issues between the US and Russia. They are strategic nuclear weapons; anti-terrorism’ regional crises including Syria, Iran, North Korea and Ukraine; economic business relations; interference in US elections and cyber-security and humanitarian and cultural exchanges.
The two presidents agreed that the Cold War is ended and the two countries should cooperate more. Putin’s denials of meddling in US elections were disingenuous plays on words about the meaning of “state” action. The US meddles, Russia meddles, China meddles, everyone meddles in everyone else’s business. Even the British service worked to try and get Hillary Clinton elected…
Putin summed up the summit, “In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting, because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international fora. We had a good conversation with President Trump, and I hope that we start to understand each other better…. Clearly there are some challenges left when we were not able to clear all the backlog, but I think that we made the first important step in this direction.”
Nothing Putin said suggests he was exuberant about a diplomatic breakthrough with the US, regardless of anything the US President said or tweeted.
This summit was similar to the Singapore summit in that the heads of state took the measure of each other. Putin and Kim Jong Un both described their summits as first steps. The major concession for the parties was to meet, which is always the first step in making deals.
The Israelis were delighted with Putin’s support for restoring the 1974 separation of forces agreement along the Golan Heights. Syrian President Assad also said he was committed to that, in a statement on the 16th. Western media did not bother to mention that Russia, thereby, reaffirmed that it will not defend Syria against Israeli attacks. The Israelis understood the message.
Russian support for Syria as it was before the civil war will not please Turkish President Erdogan.
Concerning Iran, Putin’s support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iranian nuclear deal, was a point of disagreement. Iran will be pleased by Russian support. Putin did not mention Iranian personnel in Syria, though the US President pressed him that the Iranians must withdraw.
They also disagreed about Ukraine but supported the need for peace there.
Chinese media have not commented on the summit. The Chinese leadership under Xi Jinping will support any action that promotes international stability. This summit does that by opening communications between the US and Russian leaders.
The summit also would seem to afford Putin greater flexibility in international affairs. That means he can be less reliant on the Chinese relationship in achieving strategic goals. To the extent that a relationship with the US President weakens Russia’s relationship with China, the summit is good for US interests.
A careful reading of the press statements shows that both Presidents were straightforward in stating their positions and in acknowledging disagreements. Neither yielded to the other. On most issues, they agreed to disagree, except for counter-terror and on restoring the Golan Heights separation of forces agreement. Putin’s language in the press statement suggests he remains wary of the US President.
They said all the right words about cooperation, but, in the end, they agreed to support peace between Israel and Syria, to keep communications open and to maintain existing counter-terror cooperation.