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NightWatch 20100420

NightWatch

For the Night of 20 April 2010

South Korea: Two North Korean agents have been arrested for plotting to murder a high-ranking North Korean defector. The men under arrest were working for the Reconnaissance Bureau of the North Korean Ministry of the People's Armed Forces, according to the Seoul Central District Prosecution.

The men are accused of attempting to assassinate Hwang Chang-yo'p, a former secretary of the North's ruling Workers' Party, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly and babysitter/tutor for Kim Chong-il. Hwang is the highest ranking official to defect from the North. Plus he is an ardent advocate for the end of the regime as it has evolved under Kim Chong-il.

Hwang defected to South Korea in 1997, and has been under constant threat of his life as he persistently has campaigned for the collapse of the Kim Chong-il regime. In the latest threat, Uriminzokkiri, the official Web site of a North Korean reunification organ, said early this month the 88-year-old is "an ugly traitor" and warned he "will never be safe."

The North Korean agents joined the Workers' Party in 1998, and trained as spies from 2004, the prosecution said. They secretly entered Thailand from China last December with an order to kill Hwang while disguising themselves as defectors. Later, they were "forcibly" (sic) sent to South Korea, according to the prosecution.

Comment: The significance of this report is that it is not unusual, although the capture of North Korean intelligence agents is seldom reported outside South Korea. Both Koreas run intelligence operations against each other. This is a reminder about the North's continuing operations against the South.

Hwang has done more to expose the hypocrisy, greed, exploitation and inept management by the Kim family than any single defector since the Korean War. He is one of the theoreticians who formulated the unique brand of North Korean communism which the Kim family abandoned in favor of creating a hereditary oriental despotism. The Kims betrayed Hwang's ideals long before he defected.

North Korea: For the record. The South Korean broadcasting service YTN reported today that North Korea is preparing a third nuclear test that might occur in May or June. The preparations began in February and involve a level of technical proficiency that is significantly upgraded from the first two tests, considered partial successes at best, according to YTN which quoted an unnamed diplomat.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan dismissed the report because there are no signs of test preparations. The US State Department also denied that evidence of test preparations had been detected.

Note: Only YTN reported this information.

Thailand: The Royal Thai Army's public statements about the rules of engagement and its show of force today persuaded the Red Shirts to cancel their plans for a large demonstration in Bangkok on 20 April.

The Army's tougher position is based on the shooting deaths of Army officers on 10 April. An Army spokesman said the "Red Shirt" opposition movement has been stockpiling weapons, including acid bombs and clubs spiked with nails, The Nation reported. The spokesman also said riot police would not line up to push protesters back with shields. "Security forces will begin by firing tear gas and if they cannot stop protesters, then soldiers will start taking decisive action with live bullets," army spokesman Colonel Sunsern Kaewkumnerd said, "and would use rubber bullets to keep a distance from the protestors."

Speculation about martial law. Today Prime Minister Abhisit did not rule out the prospect of martial law to rout the Red Shirts, who have established a massive encampment in Bangkok's retail heartland. "The military will make any decision over whether to declare martial law or not," Abhisit told reporters. "Security officials are not complacent; we will take quick action and do it to the best of our ability. The government does not want to see protracted protests but it's not easy as they are armed."

A US news outlet today reported Red Shirt protests in rural towns in northeastern Thailand. According to the report, even policemen in outlying regions along with poor farmers are making donations to support the Red Shirts activists in Bangkok.

Note: The official stress on the fact that the opposition used weapons against the security forces has created the condition and justification for the Army to use live ammunition. The opposition is now being depicted as an armed uprising. The Prime Minister admitted he has transferred authority over security matters to the Army commander, including imposition of martial law in Bangkok.

The Red Shirts must test the Army. Thai news commentators are almost unanimous in warning of a coming violent confrontation.

Afghanistan: The deputy mayor of Kandahar was killed "by a terrorist with a revolver" as he was going to the local mosque, according to a statement by the Afghan Interior Ministry, Agence France-Presse reported 20 April.

This shows the Taliban ability to operate with impunity in Kandahar. Thus far they are not abandoning Kandahar in anticipation of the announced NATO offensive.

Kyrgyzstan: Russian President Medvedev instructed Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov to take measures to ensure the security of Russian citizens in Kyrgyzstan and step up the protection of Russian facilities. This instruction responds to a rise in cases of seizure and illegal takeover of property in and around Bishkek, the Kremlin press service reports.

Comment: Some of the unrest in the past few days has been directed against ethnic Russians, especially on the outskirts of Bishkek. The interim government has responded with force to protect ethnic Russians and with propaganda to deny that attacks were racially motivated.

Medvedev's instructions could be interpreted as a justification for introducing more Russian security personnel to help improve security conditions.

Israel-Syria: During an interview for Channel 10 Television, Defense Minister Baraq commented on the reports that Hezbollah has obtained SCUD ballistic missiles. "We regard the Lebanese Government as responsible for the fact that Hezbollah is continuing to operate. This means that it is the address in case there is a deterioration in the situation. We are certainly not interested in such a deterioration in the situation in the region. In addition, we regard both Iran and Syria as being the sources responsible for supplying weapons that should not be seen in the region. There should be no weapons at all, but certainly not balance-breaking weapons. We regard them as being responsible for this situation."

Comment: Baraq restated Israel's position about holding Lebanon responsible for the threat to Israel that Israel had before the 2006 war in southern Lebanon. After the 2006 experience, in a future conflict, Israel might actually hold Beirut responsible beyond making a public statement.

The more important point is the accurate statement that Iran's mischief-making in the region goes far beyond its nuclear program. The Iranian threat to Israel would not abate, even in the unlikely event that Iran agreed to suspend or terminate its nuclear program. The nuclear issue provides cover for and diverts attention from Iran's other destabilizing activities. They all serve Iran's aspirations to be the regional hegemon.

Israel-Palestinian Authority:  Dr Saeb Erekat, head of the PLO's Negotiations Department, today stated that "efforts have begun to compel Israel to annul the latest military order threatening to deport thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank.

In a statement to the Voice of Palestine this morning, he "revealed that the Palestinian leadership will resort to the UN Security Council to pass a resolution annulling the Israeli military order to detain and deport Palestinian citizens from the West Bank."

This month Israel began implementing Resolution 1650, which was issued by Ghadi Shamani, IDF commander in the West Bank, providing for the eviction of Palestinians residing in the West Bank after classifying them as "infiltrators." The first groups targeted are Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who reside in the West Bank, Palestinians who were stripped of their residence rights for various reasons, as well as foreigners married to Palestinians. Israel deported approximately 200 Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in less than one week.

The significance of this report is it shows Israel is implementing the expulsion order. There is little Western media coverage of this development.

Belarus: President Lukashenko said in his annual State of the Nation address 20 April that there would be no "color" revolutions in Belarus as long as he is president, Interfax reported. Lukashenko also said he was open to repairing strained relations with Russia.

Kyrgyz president Bakiyev is in Belarus under Lukashenko's protection. Those events seem to have shaken Lukashenko. He will reject the request by the Kyrgyz interim government for Bakiyev's extradition.

Sahel Africa: Mauritania, Algeria, Mali and Chad are setting up a mini-operations room to support their joint counter-terrorism military operations and to pursue members of Al-Qa'ida in the Sahel and Sahara region," according to Mauritanian authorities. The joint operations room was one of the recommendations reached at the meeting of army chiefs from the Sahel countries during a meeting in Algiers on 13 April.

This is tonight's good news.

End of NightWatch for 20 April.

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