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NightWatch 20091217


For the Night of 17 December 2009

Japan: The Japan Democratic Party coalition government on 17 December abandoned a plan approved by its predecessor to deploy the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile defense system in fiscal 2010, starting in April.

The government also decided not to appropriate funds for a proposed increase in Self-Defense Forces troops. The Defense Ministry had sought to raise the number of SDF personnel by 3,500 in its fiscal 2010 budget request, but the plan was rejected by the Government Revitalization Unit as part of its task of reviewing government agencies' budget requests for the year.

In the basic policy on the defense budget for the year, which was adopted at today's cabinet meeting, the government said it only will make improvements needed to maintain the current PAC-3 missile defense capabilities. It also said it will curb defense-related spending for fiscal 2010 as much as possible.

The new government is placing its own distinctive imprint on policies related to supporting Alliance interests. Kyodo World Service reported a statement by the Minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern Territories today that put the best face on the continuing disagreement with the US about relocating the Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station. Minister Maehara said the US Ambassador disagreed with the government's position, but understood Japan's intention to find a new location in several months.

North Korea-South Korea: The Korean Central News Agency published an official protest over what it claimed was a South Korean provocation off the west coast. "The bellicose forces of the South Korean puppet army committed a military provocation, getting on the nerves of the DPRK in waters of the West Sea (Yellow Sea) on the extension of the frontline on 17 December."

"At about 1420 ( 0520 GMT) that day, they staged an underwater explosion exercise three times close to the waters of the north side southeast of Kuwol Hill, Kangryong County, South Hwanghae Province. The exercise conducted under the very nose of the North is a threat to it and an unpardonable criminal act against it. The DPRK considers this as not a simple explosion exercise but cannot but interpret it otherwise than a premeditated provocation aimed to strain the situation in the militarily sensitive waters of the West Sea."

The North's navy would like a grudge match for the drubbing the South Korean Navy inflicted on it on 10 November. The South Korean Joint Chiefs said the activity was routine firing by coastal artillery on Yeongpyeong Island (Y-P Do).

Too good to omit. Today South Korea delivered a supply of vaccine to North Korea to help it contain an outbreak of the H1N1 virus. The North has no medicine for anyone outside the political elite in Pyongyang; often not even aspirin is available in the countryside. Today South Korea announced it was investigating reports that North Koreans hacked into the South Korean defense computer system to steal the joint US-South Korean defense plan.

In North Korea political logic, it makes perfect sense to respond to an emergency medical shipment from the South by stealing the South's defense secrets. Both show how much more clever the Stalinists are over the capitalists. Hmmm…

North Korea-China: Update. The Korean Central News Agency reported that talks were held between Ju Sang Song (Chu Sang-so'ng), Minister of People's Security of the DPRK, and Meng Jianzhu, Minister of Public Security of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 16 December. The Korean Central Broadcasting System added that the talks were held in a friendly atmosphere. The two ministers signed an agreement for "aid materials" between the DPRK Ministry of People's Security and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

Minister Ju is the North's top cop, successor to the late, legendary Vice Marshal Paek Hak-nim, who knew where all the skeletons of the Kim family are buried. It is highly unusual for the People's Security Minister to travel outside North Korea. It is even rarer for him to request equipment -"aid materials" -- from the Chinese Public Security Ministry.

North Korea already has or anticipates a serious security problem and wants the world to know that China is supporting the North's handling of it. That also is unusual.

Thailand-North Korea: Bloomberg published an official Thai denial of a report that security officials found ICBM parts among the air cargo confiscated on 12 December at Don Muang International Airport. Earlier today Reuters quoted an unidentified Thai security official who claimed that Taepo Dong 2 ballistic missile parts were found among the 145 boxes, which weigh 40 tons.

What the Thai did find was not reassuring. An official told the press the misidentified heavy equipment might belong to M1985 or M1991 multiple round rocket launcher systems, made in North Korea. Both fire 240mm rockets. The M1985 can fire 12 rounds in a volley; the M1991 can fire 22 rounds.

With conventional explosive warheads, a volley from either system can saturate a 1 km grid square out to more than 35 miles. Iran has been producing the M1985 as the Fajr-3, probably under license from North Korea, since 1986. That makes it odd for the North to be airlifting these systems, unless Iran intends to move up to the more powerful M1991 or the Iranian factory needs machine parts. Still it seems an odd cargo to ship by air.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit opined that Thailand would find the weapons useful for its own armed forces, but the Foreign Minister issued a correction that Thailand is required to destroy them under the terms of the UN sanctions resolution.

India- Terrorist threat: For the record. Pakistan-based militants intend to spark "spectacular violence" in the Indian state of Goa, Indian Home Minister Ravi Naik said today, as reported by the Press Trust of India. Naik said the government has received intelligence that various Pakistan-based militant groups intend to launch attacks in the state, which is becoming an important target because of the presence of tourists from Israel and Western countries.

The Indians will never let Pakistan forget the Mumbai attackers came from Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan-based terrorists, in fact, pose the most serious terrorist threat to India.

India-Russia: The latest "final" price for the aircraft carrier Gorshkov apparently will now be $2.3 billion, IANS reported 17 December. The price that was agreed to prior to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Moscow included Russia supplying extra items that were not included in the original cost.

Officials from the two countries have announced at least three prior "final" prices for the refurbished and upgraded Gorshkov. Each time, the final price is higher but the Indians always put the Russians through the wringer before they agree. The one recurring noteworthy point is that work continues on the ship to meet Indian naval specifications.

Pakistan: Politics. Lead opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz called today for the resignation of President Zardari, after the Supreme Court found the National Reconciliation Ordinance unconstitutional, Khaleej Times reported. A party spokesman said all of the ministers must turn in their resignations.

Minister for Defense Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar late on Thursday was prevented from leaving Pakistan to make an official visit to China because his name is on the Exit Control List (ECL). Mukhtar, heading a senior delegation, was scheduled to leave the country on PIA's flight PK-852 for China on a three-day official visit. A spokesman for the state anti-graft agency said on Thursday the names of about 248 people had been placed on the ECL.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ordered immediate action on all the cases suspended since 7 October 2007. That directive required an immediate travel ban on defendants in criminal cases to prevent them from fleeing.

Comment: A close reading of the Court's "short order" shows it is a sweeping, almost personal indictment and repudiation of Musharraf. Musharraf dismissed the Chief Justice and put him and fellow justices under house arrest in 2007, also unconstitutional under Wednesday's ruling.

The Court reviewed the history of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which the US and the UK strongly backed so that Benazir Bhutto could return without fear of incarceration for her and Zardari's reputed massive graft. It noted that Musharraf declared the emergency during the pendency of its deliberations on the constitutionality of the Ordinance in November 2007. The Court ruled that every decision Musharraf made based on or derived from the Ordinance never occurred as a matter of law, including the emergency declaration.

Writing for the 17-judge panel, Chief Justice Chaudhry said that the Court extended the Ordinance this summer for up to 120 days to give the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies time to enact properly the Ordinance and 37 other ordinances Musharraf decreed. All five legislative bodies declined to do so.

The travel ban is just the beginning of the coming political and governmental turmoil. It is likely to include resignations by cabinet ministers and government officials; disruption of routine government business; incarceration of people who had been released under the Ordinance; immediate resumption of all foreign criminal prosecutions at the initiative of the government of Pakistan and mounting pressure on Zardari to resign. This threatens to bring government at the national and provincial levels to a standstill.

Zardari will not be capable of withstanding the pressure for long because no other business of the government can be conducted until the ripple effects of the ruling finally settle. A movement to have him impeached would seem unavoidable, just a matter of time. As the full effects of the ruling begin to have impact, the Pakistan front in the war against terrorism will collapse for all intents and purposes.

The military halted all significant military operations during the turmoil when Musharraf issued the National Reconciliation Ordinance in October 2007, followed by the state of emergency that November. Prudence will compel the Army to do the same upon its demise. This political crisis is just beginning.

For Prime Minister Gilani's government, one silver lining is that the ruling implies, but does not state, that Musharraf is a constitutional criminal. Any plans he might have had to stage a political comeback are dead.

Afghanistan: Political and intelligence sources in Afghanistan said the October 2009 suicide bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul was the work of Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) in collaboration with a Taliban faction controlled by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, India's Business Standard reported.

Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta said his government had evidence the bombing was planned by the "same sources" behind the bombing of the Embassy in July 2008. The Afghan and Indian investigations of the 2008 bombing also implicated Pakistani intelligence.

Israel-US-China: For the record. Haaretz reported today that senior Israeli officials said U.S. President Obama warned Chinese President Hu Jintao that the United States would not be able to keep Israel from attacking Iranian nuclear installations much longer.

"Sources" said Obama warned Hu as part of his attempt to convince the Chinese to support strict sanctions on Tehran. Israeli officials said China refused a Saudi-American initiative designed to end Chinese dependence on Iranian oil, which would allow China to agree to sanctions. The Israelis said Russian President Dmitri Medvedev shows greater willingness for sanctions on Iran, despite hesitations by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

This report does not seem to ring true, as reported at least. If it is accurate, the message to the Chinese would be extraordinary.

End of NightWatch for 17 December.

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