For the Night of 9 December 2009
North Korea: Update. On Monday banking officials began meetings to deliberate price adjustments, now that the money was devalued and replaced. Acts of civil disobedience that were tolerated during the currency replacement period that ended 6 December appear to have ceased. However, on Friday, 4 December, two money changers were executed for gaming the system by using proxies to exchange amounts in excess of official guidelines.
North Korea-US: The official party daily Rodong Sinmun published an item stating that the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula was "a totally bilateral issue" between North Korea and the United States," Xinhua reported 9 December. Rodong Sinmun said the issue had nothing to do with relations between the two Koreas, adding that the issue had been an outcome of the hostile U.S. policy toward the North. The daily said the issue would be solved as long as the United States dropped its anti-North Korea policy, "eradicated" the military threat, and stopped the provocations for nuclear war.
Comment: With this authoritative statement the North dropped the other shoe. This statement exposes the North's assessment that the Six Party Talks venue becomes superfluous if the North and the US reach an agreement.
This statement is a manifestation of the North's practice of applying wedge driving tactics to its enemies. The article presents the US with the prospect of progress in nuclear non-proliferation but at the cost of abandoning, even betraying, the other members of the Six Party Talks.
North Korea- US: A senior US State Department official said the US might hold another round of direct talks with North Korea if the first session now taking place in Pyongyang fails to lead to the North's return to Six Party Talks on its nuclear programs, The Associated Press reported 9 December. The anonymous official said it wouldn't be a surprise if the meeting might be indeterminate and the North Koreans might need a second meeting to clarify what they are prepared to do.
The US and North Korea appear to be engaging in a dialogue of the deaf. Having agreed to bilateral talks, supposedly as a condition for resuming Six Party Talks, the US appears to have underestimated the cleverness of the North Koreans. The North never promised to return to Six Party Talks unconditionally. With the opening of direct negotiations, the North has changed the end state and is attempting to alter the negotiating terms. This is a form of bait and switch.
If the US negotiator stands for this, the North wins this round. Time to go to Sunan and wait for the next Chinese MD-11.
Pakistan-India: For the record. Pakistan's Federal Minister for Interior Affairs Rehman Malik said security forces caught as many as four Indian trucks laden with arms and ammunitions, Geo News reported 9 December. He said forces also recovered heavy amounts of Indian-made weaponry from Bara. Malik stated that Pakistan levels the allegations based on "concrete evidence," adding that the issue has been raised with the Indian foreign ministry.
Blaming India reduces internal stress on the shortcomings of Pakistani intelligence and security services in coping with an internal enemy.
Pakistan-Shanghai Cooperation Organization: President Asif Ali Zardari is seeking Pakistan's admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regional security bloc, RIA Novosti reported 9 December. At a meeting with SCO Secretary General Bolat Nurgaliyev in Islamabad, Zardari said that Pakistan seeks full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization so that Pakistan could be more actively involved in the activity of the organization in keeping peace and maintaining economic development in the region. He added that membership was important due to the spreading threat of extremism and terrorism.
Zardari is attempting to refute accusations that he is a pawn of the Americans by courting the Chinese and Russians who dominate the SCO. Coordination in fighting terrorism and organized crime across borders is one of the goals of the SCO.
Somalia-Syechelles: On 7 December one of the Seychelles' two coastguard vessels seized 11 suspected Somali pirates following a brief exchange of fire, according to the Times of India.
The sprawling archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from the Africa to the west and the Maldives to the east, is strengthening its anti-piracy capabilities. It recently sent troops to some of its outer islands and set up a special forces unit dubbed "Tazar".
With 115 islands scattered over an area three times the size of France, an armed force numbering about 500 and a population that would fit in Wembley Stadium with room to spare, the Seychelles is often considered indefensible. Nevertheless, it has become a front line state in the fight against Somali piracy.
Israel-Palestinians/Hamas: There is no current deal between Israel and Hamas regarding an exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, according to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 9 December, reported Reuters.
As mentioned in previous editions, there have been too many false alarms to take any statements seriously, either positive or negative. Nevertheless and cumulatively, the exchange of statements signify that the hapless soldier remains alive and that is good news
Egypt: With US Army engineering assistance, Egyptian authorities have begun constructing a huge metal wall along the border with the Gaza Strip as part of its strategy for stopping arms smuggling from Egypt into the Strip, according to the BBC. When it is finished the wall will be 10-11km (6-7 miles) long and will extend 18 meters below the surface. The wall will take 18 months to complete. BBC posted a photo of a portion of the wall.
Peru: Defense Minister Rafael Rey said the military is close to a deal to buy tanks from China, The Associated Press reported today. Rey said the army is testing Chinese MBT-2000 tanks, but wants a better-equipped model of the tank.
The Lima newspaper La Republica reported that Peru plans to buy 80 to 120 tanks and has evaluated Chinese, German, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish models. The defense minister said Peru also is planning to look at navy and air force purchases as well.
The ostensible enemy is Chile with whom Peru has a longstanding border dispute. The Chinese will sell anything to anyone, ask the Zambians. Still the Chileans outclass the Peruvians in military capabilities. This is a colossal waste of limited resources, but apparently it is good politics in Lima.
End of NightWatch for 9 December.
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