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NightWatch 20100203

NightWatch

For the Night of 3 February 2010

North Korea-South Korea: Update. North Korea announced two "firing zones" in the Yellow Sea, Agence France-Presse reported 3 February. A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said the two new "maritime firing zones" would be effective for four days starting 5 February. The spokesman said South Korea's military is closely watching for possible artillery fire off South Korean islands near the Northern Limit Line sea border off the west coast.

Thailand-Iran: Update. Iran has denied claims that it was the destination for North Korean-made weapons aboard a Georgian-flagged cargo plane that was impounded in Thailand in December, South Korea's KBS news reported 3 February. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman stated that there is no link between the aircraft and his country, adding that Iran has no need to import such arms.

The weapons cargo was mainly small arms, ammunition and grenades. The pilot continues to insist that he was headed for the Ukraine.

Nepal-US: Nepal News reported that one of the US conditions for military aid to Nepal is "integration of Nepalese Maoists combatants into the Nepal Army" to show the Army's commitment to reconciliation with the one-time rebels.

Other conditions include defense budget transparency and a redefinition of the defense mission to focus on peace and stability and national construction.

Comment: The only significance of this item is that it reports that US policy makers for Nepal have become champions for the Nepalese Maoists. Somehow that seems incongruent with the legacy since World War II of American and allied soldiers who died fighting Maoists all over southeast Asia.

Nepal is a special case, to be sure, and the issues are complex including residual support for the now defunct monarchy, the history of Maoist insurgency and the complexity of the republican government.

About ten years ago the Nepalese Maoists were armed with a few shotguns and edged weapons, such as scythes and sickles. In about a decade they forced the king to abdicate, bested the Nepal Army in combat and came to dominate the government, in a land locked country that produces no weapons.

Apparently the US does not want to appear to be providing guns to the royalists still running the Army, but will provide guns if they allow Maoists to join. Hmmm….

India-Pakistan: The Daily Times reported that talks between the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are to be held immediately after a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit ending on 28 February in Islamabad. The Times article reported that terrorism would be the focus of the talks, which would be a follow up to Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SAARC summit which begins on 26 February.

Pakistan: Security. Three US soldiers were killed in a suicide-murder car bombing in Lower Dir on 3 February, which is adjacent to the Swat Valley in northwestern Pakistan. Two other American soldiers were injured, Dawn News reported.

The bomber attacked a convoy that was carrying the Americans to the opening of a girls' school in Timergara, the main town in Lower Dir. The explosion also killed three and injured 131 others, most of them school girls.

These are the first American soldiers associated with the training mission to be killed in Pakistan. The New York Times reported that 12 American soldiers have been killed in Pakistan since 9/11 in hotel bombings and aircraft crashes.

The first reports described the Americans as journalists. Later a Pakistan Army spokesman confirmed the men were advisors to the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which is responsible for supporting law and order in the border regions. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

The most significant feature of this attack is the excellent intelligence the Pakistani Taliban had on the movements of the Americans and the Frontier Corps convoy protecting them. American military advisors must assume they are under surveillance and are not safe, even though they dress up and pretend to blend with the locals.

This might have been a retaliation for the massed drone-launched missile attacks this week, but that is speculation. Nevertheless, an Islamabad University professor voiced the same opinion. It is important to not underestimate the cleverness of tribal militants, as the British learned to their regret a century ago, or overestimates one's own cleverness.

American soldiers in Pakistan normally would draw considerable public comment, but the tragic deaths of these three men in support of the Frontier Corps has drawn no media criticism about American meddling in Pakistani internal affairs.

Karachi. Update. The Pakistan Rangers now have law and order responsibilities for all of Karachi, the Daily Times reported.

Pakistan-US: The director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency said the United States believes Pakistan can protect its nuclear weapons but that vulnerabilities remain, Reuters reported 3 February. During congressional testimony on the 2nd Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess stated that even though vulnerabilities exist, the United States has confidence in Pakistan's ability to safeguard its nuclear weapons.

The operative words are "though vulnerabilities exist." This is the first time that a senior intelligence official has testified that vulnerabilities exist. The primary vulnerability would seem to be the personnel system for screening guards and workers. Some bright American working with his Pakistani counterpart might consider developing and proposing a program to strengthen the personnel security system of the nuclear weapons program.

Pakistan-Iran: For the record. Iranian President Ahmadi-nejad will visit Pakistan soon to discuss bilateral ties and security issues relating to Afghanistan, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported 3 February, quoting Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki. The visit would be Ahmadi-nejad's first trip to Pakistan.

Iran: Iran test-fired the Kavoshgar 3 satellite carrier sending living organisms onboard into space, Iran's Press-TV reported 3 February. The rocket transfers telemetric data, live pictures and flight and environmental analysis data. Iranian President Ahmadi-nejad said Iran is "two steps away from reaching a point of no return" in the space industry. He made the remarks in a speech at Iran's Space Day Seminar broadcast live by IRINN news network.

A space launch vehicle is a potential ICBM. The hard part is bringing a warhead down from orbit and onto an intended target. The Iranians have a way to go yet.

Somalia-anti-piracy patrol: The European Union Naval Force reported that Somali pirates hijacked a North Korean cargo ship today. The North Korean ship MV Rim was seized in the Gulf of Aden. The 4,800-ton ship is carrying an unknown cargo and is owned by White Sea Shipping of Libya. The MV Rim was sailing outside the internationally recommended transit corridor patrolled by the anti-piracy naval coalition and has not had any communication with maritime authorities.

An American warship and helicopter in the vicinity confirmed the seizure of the ship to the European Union.

The crew was obviously not Korean or there would have been a fight. Loss of a merchant ship for almost any reason is a capital offense in North Korea.

France: For the record. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on 3 February he would sign a decree barring a Moroccan man from receiving French citizenship because of his insistence that his French wife conform to the strictest Islamic practices. Fillon said that the man "has no place in our country."

The French authorities describe the case as being about a religious radical who requires his wife to wear the burqa (the head to toe covering with eye slots); he insists the separation of men and women in his own home, and he refuses to shake the hands of women," Fillon said.

On 2 February, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said that during checks into the man's application for citizenship, he explicitly stated that he would never allow his wife to leave the house without wearing a full veil and that he believed a woman is "an inferior being."

Earlier this week a parliamentary panel called for a law to ban the wearing of full Islamic veils in public institutions such as schools, hospitals and transport. "It's French law," Fillon told Europe 1 radio. "The Code Civile has for a very long time provided that naturalization could be refused to someone who does not respect the values of the French Republic.

A Reader could conclude that political correctness in France favors the Republic's interests over the individual's right of self expression and even personal religious observance. In this case, the Republic places respect for women and women's rights over male dominance prescribed in religious texts. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 3 February.

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