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NightWatch 20100328

NightWatch

For the Night of 28 March 2010

South Korea: Update. On Monday, 29 March, military divers confirmed the location of the rear part of the South Korean ship that sank last Friday night, an officer said. "Divers confirmed the location of the rear part and installed a buoy there," said Lee Ki-shik of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a press briefing. "We are expecting to see some positive results as the body of the ship are now found ... We will be sending down underwater cameras shortly and believe all marines are still alive."

The U.S. Forces Korea in a statement Sunday said, "We have detected no special movements by North Korean forces." However, KBS 1 TV reported on Saturday that South Korean air defense radar detected two North Korean aircraft conducting reconnaissance of the area where the ship sank. North Korean fighters seldom fly at night, suggesting the North was aware of the incident and attempted to find out what happened as well.

On Saturday, in a briefing by the Navy's Second Fleet Command in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, a navy lieutenant said there was no possibility whatsoever that an internal explosion or collision with a reef caused the ship to sink, The Korea Herald reported. He added that another cause could be an attack from outside forces. In another briefing session, Commander Choi Won-il, the captain of the sunken ship, said the explosion appears to have been caused by "internal or external shocks (sic)."

Thailand: Update. Prime Minister Abhisit held talks on Sunday, 28 March, with four leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, or "Red Shirts" opposition group, but refused to agree to their demand that elections be called immediately, Agence France-Presse reported. The talks were conducted at King Prajadhipok's Institute with Red Shirt leaders Veera Musikapong, Jatuporn Prompan, Nattawut Saikua, and Weng Thojirakarn.

More demonstrations to follow.

India-Jammu and Kashmir State: Indian security forces gunned down at least nine militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba on 27 March, foiling two separate infiltration attempts, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI). Both attacks in Rajouri and Kishtwar districts were ongoing, according to the latest reports reaching New Delhi.

At one of the attempt locations, police found a high-end GPS system. "Militants are using GPS for finding infiltration routes and tracks for movement within Jammu and Kashmir. The satellite-based navigation system is being used by militants as a guide in the mountainous terrain," Superintendent of Police (Noushera) R.K. Bhat told PTI.

A Taiwan-made 'Garmin GPS' was seized from two LeT militants who recently infiltrated from across Line of Control and were killed in the Dharamshal area of Rajouri district on Saturday, Mr. Bhat said. As the militants were increasingly finding it difficult to get guides to help them move from one area to another, they were now using the GPS, he added.

Comment: Despite talks and promises, spring infiltration from Pakistan appears on schedule as usual. The use of GPS has not been reported previously in the press.

Pakistan-India: Pakistan has deployed more troops on the eastern border with India. Confirming the report, Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said that India had increased pressure on the border by building several new military cantonments close to the sensitive frontier, and Islamabad can not remain "subservient" to the move.

"The government has had to send some troops down there because we don't want to leave ourselves exposed. This is taking away from our defence capabilities on the Afghan border. We really wish the international community would intervene, but nobody has said anything to the Indians," a British newspaper quoted Hasan, as saying.

Experts and diplomats, however, have described the troops reinforcement as more of a political and diplomatic move rather than a strategic one.

Note: No press source has confirmed new Indian cantonments. This is a ruse to deflect US pressure for additional operations to suppress domestic terrorists. Without confirming the facts, the anti-Indian Pakistani press denounced the Indian military moves.

Pakistan-US: Xinhua reported on Saturday the United States has agreed to provide another 14 F-16 jet planes to Pakistan until December 2010. U.S. authorities are scheduled to begin delivering the planes as well as Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles in June 2010.

Comment: Pakistan has no need of BVR missiles except in a war with India. There is no fundamental change in the mindset that India poses the greatest threat to Pakistan. Old hands know that provision of modern US weapons invariably are misinterpreted as US support for Pakistan in a war against India.

Aside from high minded sound bites the press coverage of last week's "strategic" discussions in Washington provided no insight about what promises the US obtained in return.

Iraq: Prime Minister al-Maliki's State of Law coalition said 28 March it formally would challenge the results released by the Independent High Electoral Commission and will provide several documents and evidence to the commission in the coming days, AK News reported. A representative of the coalition also said it has negotiated with the Iraqi National Union list and the Iraqi Accordance list on forming an alliance, and is continuing talks with the Kurdistan Alliance.

Comment: According to the New York Times today, Maliki also has obtained a declaratory judgment from the Supreme Federal Court defining the term the "parliamentary bloc with the most members" that favors his bloc and reportedly is prepared to have the election commission disqualify more than 50 members-elect, many of whom are from Allawi's bloc. That would give al Maliki a plurality, making it the bloc "with the most members."

Maliki, like so many other leaders in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America in the past year, refuses to give up power just because of an inconvenient election result. A US official in Baghdad commented "they are all politicians." Expect more bombings and murders. This is a study in democracy and the rule of law.

Somalia Anti-Piracy Patrol: Too good to omit. Agence France-Presse reported on 29 March that the Dutch frigate Hr Ms Tromp, responding to a sighting from a German patrol plane, encountered a pirate "mother boat" and two smaller motorized attack boats off the Somali coast and disarmed a dozen pirates who thought the frigate was a merchantman.

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"When the Tromp came within eight nautical miles of the pirates, two attack boats stormed the Tromp on the assumption that the frigate was a merchant vessel," said a statement from the Dutch Government.

"When they realized they were trying to storm a warship, they abandoned the attack and made haste trying to get away", throwing overboard a number of weapons and ladders normally used for boarding hijacked vessels.

Warning shots fired from the frigate forced the three pirate boats to come to a halt, and marines found 12 people on board, the statement said. "The marine frigate destroyed the two attack boats, and all the pirates were put on board the mother boat with sufficient food, water and fuel and sent back to Somalia."

The marines did not arrest the group because of a lack of physical evidence.

End of NightWatch for 28 March.

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