*John Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida issued a joint statement today, offering a new round of diplomatic negotiations with North Korea if Pyongyang makes good on “its commitment to earlier deals regarding its nuclear and missile programs and on returning kidnapped foreigners.”

[ht AP]

*An AP analysis of Kerry’s discussions with the Chinese yesterday concludes that Beijing really wants the U.S. to talk directly to the North Koreans.

But even if the Obama administration did agree to approach Kim Jong Un, tensions between the South and North might prove to be an impediment. Pyongyang sees the South as adopting a hostile stance “and said it won’t talk unless Seoul abandons its confrontational posture.”

The AP report also noted that Chinese officials aren’t the only ones who think President Obama should make overtures to Kim Jong Un.

Flamboyant former NBA player Dennis Rodman made the same point following a bizarre trip to Pyongyang and meetings with Kim in March.

Both Kim and President Barack Obama love basketball “and there is even more they could talk about if Obama would just pick up the phone and call him,” Rodman said following the trip.

Read the Political Animal report on Rodman’s interview here.

*A Scottish man who just finished teaching English in Korea for a year, writing for the Guardian, said that Westerners there are far more worried about the prospect of war than Koreans – something I heard from a friend who has also spent much of the past few years teaching English in South Korea.

They did not seem afraid and dealt with the increasingly belligerent rhetoric with a serene apathy – or perhaps a mild disdain. As we ate dinner together, I bored my Korean co-teachers with my questions and concerns, but they were either disinterested in the topic or were dismissive of the north and its supposed firepower. My concerns were laughed off.

*In education news:

A high school English teacher in New York state who had students pretend to be Jew-hating Nazis in a writing assignment has been placed on leave.

[ht AP]

Boy, I did Nazi that one coming.

The teacher at Albany high school caused a storm of criticism after having students practice the art of persuasive writing by penning a letter to a fictitious Nazi government official arguing that “Jews are evil”.

Perhaps she should have ordered her students to write to a fictitious school official arguing why a writing assignment that encourages antisemitic rhetoric isn’t grounds for censure.

*Recent celebrations of security gains in Somalia may have been premature.

Reuters is reporting that a fresh wave of carefully planned violence gripped Mogadishu today.

At least 16 people were killed as two car bombs exploded outside the law courts in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu and gunmen stormed the building on Sunday, before a gun battle erupted with security forces besieging the compound, witnesses said.

A large blast hit an area near Mogadishu airport hours later, residents said.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attacks, but al Shabaab militants linked to al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for a number of suicide bombings in Mogadishu this year.

“About seven well-armed men in government uniform entered the court today as soon as a car bomb exploded at the gate. We thought they were government soldiers,” said Aden Sabdow, who works at the mayor’s office adjacent to the court.


Later, a car bomb exploded at a building housing Somali intelligence along the road to the airport as Turkish and African Union (AU) vehicles were passing, police and witnesses said. Government forces then opened fire and blocked the road.

“The car bomb exploded near the gate of a building housing the Somali security. AU and Turkish cars were also passing there. We are still investigating the target and casualties,” Qadar Ali, a police officer told Reuters.

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Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.