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NightWatch 20100221

NightWatch

For the Night of 21 February 2010

North Korea-South Korea: Yonhap reported on 22 February that North Korea has requested working-level military talks with the South on 2 March to discuss cross-border traffic, communications and customs clearance for South Korean firms operating at a joint industrial park in the North.

According to Yonhap, South Korea had proposed holding inter-Korean military talks on 23 February at Panmunjom, in the Demilitarized Zone, to discuss restrictions hindering communications and free passage in and out of the joint industrial park at Kaesong in North Korea.

In a counter proposal sent to Seoul by fax, Pyongyang requested that their military officials meet on 2 March in Kaesong. This is the first time North Korea has requested that inter-Korean military talks be held in Kaesong, according to Seoul's defense officials. The last military talks were held in October 2008.

North Korean invitation is good news. Still it is significant that the alternation of cooperative openings and belligerent postures continues. In the absence of clarity between contradictory courses of action, the general rule is to choose the course most advantageous to one's own interests. Thus, ignore the belligerent posturing and pocket the cooperative gestures.

Netherlands-Afghanistan: The collapse of the Balkenende government over extending the Dutch contingent in Afghanistan past August 2010 will require NATO to find some 2,000 combat soldiers to maintain the government position in Oruzgan Province in southern Afghanistan. After marathon talks, Christian Democratic Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the Labor Party was quitting the government because it refused to support any extension.

BBC analysts correctly suggested that this decision is troubling on several levels. The Dutch were among the few NATO members whose troops had rules of engagement that allowed combat. That partly explains why they were in Oruzgan, which is periodically one of the hottest combat areas of the south. No other country is likely to volunteer for that duty. Since 2006, 21 Dutch soldiers have been killed.

The second consequence is the likelihood of ripple effects in other NATO countries. Afghanistan service is unpopular in most NATO countries, not just the Netherlands. Many consider it an unlawful and unjustified extension of NATO's mission. Netherlands is the first to pull out and others are likely to follow.

Pakistan: Politics. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry reprimanded National Accountability Bureau chief Naveed Ahsan on 19 February and directed him to implement the Supreme Court's December 2009 verdict on the National Reconciliation Ordinance, Aaj TV reported. Chaudhry said the court had ordered that the prosecutor general and other prosecutors be replaced but found they were still working. The Chief also said Ahsan's salary would be withheld if he did not comply with the court's orders.

The Chief Justice is getting impatient with foot dragging by the Prime Minister who promised to abide by and implement the directives of the Supreme Court, but continues to find reasons not to order the National Accountability Bureau to disqualify hundreds of serving officials, enabled by the National Reconciliation Ordinance.

The Supreme Court invalidated Musharraf's National Reconciliation Ordinance and thereby disqualified hundreds of serving officials including President Zardari. The Chief Justice is ratcheting up the pressure. Once the National Accountability Bureau complies, the protection enjoyed by the disqualified officials will vanish and they must resign or face prosecution.

Bulgaria-Russia: For the record. Sofia confirmed on 19 February to Russia that there have been no formal talks with the United States on deployment of missile defense forces in Bulgaria, the Sofia Echo reported, citing the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry added that acquisition of nuclear weapons and weapons possibly in violation of non-proliferation agreements, including missiles held by militant groups, pose serious threats to collective security. The Foreign Ministry added that Sofia will continue to follow NATO agreements on security, including missile defense.

Romania also has strained to reassure the Russians that it has not reached an agreement with the US to build a base for missile defense forces.

Venezuela-Honduras: President Chavez told the press on 21 February that Honduran President Lobo was illegitimately elected and Venezuela would not recognize him. Chavez said Honduras needs to return to democracy, as he was departing for the Rio summit. One might wonder how he would know. No doubt citizen Zelaya is grateful for the support, from his position in exile.

Public Service Note: If any Readers intend to fly to Germany, be advised that Lufthansa pilots are on strike.

End of NightWatch for 21 February.

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