For the Night of 5 June 2018
Air China will resume regular flights between Beijing and Pyongyang. A company official said that scheduled flight service will resume on 6 June.
Comment: Air China suspended flights in November because the market was poor. That also coincided with the severe strain in Chinese relations with North Korea. The airline plans flights on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.
Officials expect increased patronage because of improved relations between Chinese President Xi and North Korean Chairman Kim. Restoration of Air China flights will be a relief for foreign diplomats, officials and tourists.
Air Koryo, the North Korean flag carrier, has improved since we last flew it. It has a good safety record, but in-flight and ground service is … different and a challenge. In order to fill the cabin seats, the ground crew will remove luggage to keep the aircraft within weight limits. On a short visit, a passenger’s luggage can arrive in Pyongyang on the same aircraft on the same day that the passenger is taking to depart Pyongyang.
Correction: In last night’s edition the US elections in 2000, vice 2004, changed the US administration and the policy towards North Korea that ultimately terminated the Agreed Framework. Thanks to feedback for catching the oversight.
Iran is preparing to enrich uranium. On 5 June, Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that preparations to produce enriched uranium have begun, according to the spokesperson of the Iranian atomic energy organization, Behrouz Kamalvandi.
On 4 June, Supreme Leader Khamenei ordered, “The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is duty-bound to prepare the ground for achieving 190 thousand SWUs.” He said that the increase would be “within the framework of the JCPOA for the time being.”
Comment: Khamenei’s enrichment preparation order was included in his address on the 29th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei on 4 June.
Notes: Separative work unit, abbreviated as SWU, is the standard measure of the effort required to separate isotopes of uranium (U235 and U238) during an enrichment process in nuclear facilities. 1 SWU is equivalent to 1 kg of separation work. JCPOA is the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the official name of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Khamenei gave a rousing speech on the 4th. He vowed that Iran would never agree to limits on its “defensive” missile program and that it would continue support for “oppressed nations.” He said if Iran is attacked, it will strike back ten-fold. He also called on Arab youths to take action and determine their own future.
Salehi made a clarification. In a 5 June televised press conference, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, clarified that the enrichment order he received from Supreme Leader Khamenei was to prepare to expand Iran’s enrichment capacity within the framework of the JCPOA. He wanted to reassure the international media that Iran has not ordered uranium enrichment, as some reported, or left the JCPOA.
Salehi, said, “We can start preparing for a future where the JCPOA has ended.” He said he delivered the letter to the IAEA that Iran had begun the preparations ordered by Khamenei. He said it would take two years to achieve 190,000 SWUs.
He also said that Iran has the ability to accelerate the production of centrifuges which are used to enrich uranium.
“If the JCPOA collapses – please pay attention, if the JCPOA collapses – and if we decide to assemble new centrifuges, we will assemble new-generation centrifuges. However, for the time being, we move within the framework of the JCPOA,” Salehi said.
Salehi also emphasized that “if we decide to start assembling centrifuges, we will pay attention to modern centrifuges, not IR-1. Modern centrifuges are IR-2M, IR-4 and IR-6, while the IR-8 is being tested.”
Comment: Most analysts judge that Iran is putting pressure on the European signatories to the JCPOA to honor their commitments. Salehi denied that the Supreme Leader’s order signified a breakdown in negotiations with Europe. He warned that Iran’s decision aims to make other parties understand that “we cannot implement the JCPOA and tolerate sanctions.
Iran is negotiating in public. The Iranian statements of the past two days do not signify that it has decided to leave the JCPOA or activate its uranium enrichment program. They do suggest that Iranian leaders are looking for reasons to justify remaining in the JCPOA. The European signatories are in a position to provide reasons.
Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates are within 10 miles pf Hodeidah. Forces in the Saudi-led coalition ae approaching the town from the north and the south.
Comment: Since late May, forces in the Saudi-led coalition moved faster to Hodeidah than they expected. They reportedly shocked the Houthis.
One knowledgeable analyst judged the coalition forces could have seized major portions of the city had they exploited their opportunity and continued their advance. Their leaders ordered them to pause for political reasons, supposedly to avoid civilian casualties and disruption of UN humanitarian efforts. A quick end to the fighting would have helped minimize civilian casualties.
The Houthis want to internationalize Hodeidah. Houthi leaders conveyed to the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, their willingness to withdraw from Hodeidah under conditions.
The conditions include that the UN manage the port of Hodeidah; that Yemen pay government salaries to employees living in Houthi-controlled areas, and that Yemen and its allies agree to a ceasefire for holding peace talks.
Comment: The object of the UN talks is to avoid a blood bath and keep humanitarian relief flowing in the northwest. The Houthis want to use the negotiations to prevent Hodeidah’s capture by Yemen and its allies. UN control is preferable to Yemeni control.
Houthi conditions will be rejected. They are not serious terms, and the Houthi bargaining position is weak. Coalition attack preparations are too far advanced.
Southeastern Niger remains threatened. Three suicide bombers attacked a mosque on 4 June in the southeastern city of Diffa. They killed 6 and injured 37 worshippers, who had gathered after breaking their Ramadan fast, according to an army spokesman.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Comment: This was the first terrorist attack reported in the southeast since January. It has the style of a Boko Haram attack. Two years ago, Boko Haram tried to add southeastern Niger to its holdings in northeastern Nigeria, but Chadian and allied forces defeated them.
Recent Boko Haram attacks have occurred in northeastern Nigeria, near Maiduguri. This attack shows the Islamic extremists have recruited successfully in Niger or Nigeria. An active bomb-making cell is at work. The extremists remain a threat in southeastern Niger as well as in the area north of Niamey, on the Mali border.
End of NightWatch for 5 June.