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NightWatch 20100502

NightWatch

For the Night of 2 May 2010

Japan-India: Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said on 30 April in New Delhi that Japan intends to include research costs in its fiscal 2011 budget toward deployment of a Ground Self-Defense Force unit in Japan's Nansei islands, Kyodo reported.

Kitazawa said the intention is to gather and analyze information on the Chinese Navy's activities. Kitazawa met with Indian Defence Minister Antony, with the two agreeing to press China to disclose information about its defense budget, Japanese officials said.

Comment: The evolving cooperation between Japan and India offers the greatest hope for stability in Asia of any indigenous Asian security development. Asians are taking responsibility for Asian security.

South Korea: National Defense Minister Kim said those responsible for the deaths of 46 sailors on the patrol ship Cheonan must "pay a price." Kim Tae-young promised "punitive action" against "the perpetrators who killed our soldiers."

North Korea-China: South Korean TV station YTN carried a newsflash that Kim Chong-il is visiting China. The report stated, "Chairman Kim Jong Il enters China via Dandong." The news flash was followed by a report at 1400 GMT, citing a "senior [ROK] government official" as saying that Kim Jong Il has arrived in China via Dandong. Dandong is the road railroad border crossing point in China across the Yalu River from Sinuiju on the mainline from Pyongyang. Kim always travels abroad by rail.

Comment: If confirmed, this is the visit that was first reported as occurring in early April. It would be his fifth.

The agenda is never disclosed but always includes North Korean request for more aid and investment and Chinese demands for North Korean economic reform. Six Party nuclear talks are a perennial favorite. Finally, the timing of this visit, assuming it is confirmed, should also include security matters, in light of the increasingly explicit South Korean statements that North Korea is responsible for the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan.

The Chinese should be incensed about North Korean manipulation of their newly arrived ambassador.

Thailand: The cabinet held another emergency meeting to discuss how to deal with the political standoff in Bangkok. The two sides made arrangements to reopen Chulalangkorn Hospital. Prime Minister Abhisit spoke confidently and reassuringly to the press about his plans for ending the protests. The new development is Abhisit spoke of defending the government and, for the first time, "the monarchy."

Abhisit's language suggests the Bangkok elite perceive the struggle to be existential, but are not taking action consistent with a threat to their survival.

India: Thousands of police and paramilitary soldiers guarded New Delhi's markets and shopping centers Sunday after foreign embassies in India issued warnings of imminent terrorist attacks.

The US, British, Australian, New Zealand and other Western embassies issued urgent alerts advising their nationals to avoid busy parts of the city, where blasts in upmarket shopping areas in 2008 killed 22 people. Commandos and armored cars guarded metro stations, shopping malls and crowded market places across the sprawling city of 16 million people.

Police with automatic weapons patrolled Delhi's four most popular shopping districts, and explosives experts used tracker dogs to sweep sensitive areas. New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat urged residents to inform the police of "any suspicious object, person or vehicle."

No news service has reported terrorist acts during this Watch.

Pakistan-US: "The Pakistani Taliban announced its responsibility for the New York attack in revenge for the two leaders al-Baghdadi and al-Mahajer and Muslim martyrs," said a statement on a website commonly used by Islamists but not by al Qaida or the Pakistani Taliban. At this time the claim of responsibility is not credible.

On 1 May, in Times Square, investigators removed three propane tanks, fireworks, two filled 5-gallon gasoline containers, and two clocks with batteries, electrical wire and other components from the back of the Nissan Pathfinder, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. A black metal box resembling a gun locker was also recovered and will be detonated off site, he said. Bloomberg called the explosive device "amateurish" and Kelly said the explosives were consumer-grade fireworks but could have caused huge damage on a block of Broadway theaters and restaurants teeming with tourists.

Iraq: Update. Prime Minister al-Maliki's State of Law Coalition (SLC) and the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) -- another large Shiite Arab bloc -- have agreed on a merger and the formation of a joint parliamentary bloc.

Informed sources in Baghdad said the agreement was reached following a visit by representatives of the two coalitions to Tehran, during which they met with Iranian officials who underlined the need to bloc the mainly Sunni Arab Al-Iraqiyah List, merge the two coalitions, and agree on a work mechanism that satisfies all parties in the two coalitions.

Comment: Under this new mechanism, the Shiite Arabs should have the parliamentary strength to form a new government. SLC still insists on nominating Nuri al-Maliki for prime minister, while the INA has nominated Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, and Baqir al-Zubaydi.

The significance of this report is that it indicates the Shiites have concluded their intramural differences are less important than having the Shiites retain power in Baghdad. The Sunnis were counting on the notorious fractiousness of the Shiites to afford an opening to return Baghdad to secular government which, ironically enough, last occurred under Saddam before the US invasion and occupation.

The key point is that the Shiite Persians in Iran imposed the discipline on the Shiite Arabs to work together so as to retain Baghdad as only the second Shiite governed state in the world.

Somalia: Update. Pirates fled the city of Haradhere on Sunday as the hard-line Hizbul Islam group took over the port. The fundamentalist Islamic group has suppressed piracy in the past because it is condemned by Islamic law. "We are in Haradhere now; we came here after we received a request from the local people to help them provide their security," Hizbul Islam chief of operations Mohamed Abdi Aros told the press.

Haradhere was reputed to have a piracy stock exchange! The salad days for these pirates are over.

Somalia anti-piracy patrol: A French warship destroyed a pirate mothership, some 480 nautical miles east of the Somali coast, according to the European Union naval force, Xinhua reported.

Naval force spokesman John Harbour said the French navy ship Nivose stopped and searched a pirate mother ship and two supporting skiffs. The 11 Somali crewmembers were taken aboard the Nivose, as were the two attack skiffs. The mother ship was sunk, Harbour stated.

Harbour said more than 40 pirate action groups were disrupted in the last two months, proving that the new aggressive strategy is working. He said the EU Naval Force will continue with its aggressive stance against piracy and the intention to interdict and disrupt pirate activity.

Special Comment: The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Dr. Thomas Fingar and others in which he purported to defend the progress in analytical processes that occurred during his tenure as the overseer of analysis for the Director of National Intelligence.

It always should put one on one's guard when a writer dismisses beforehand criticism as ill informed or disingenuous. This is particularly true for intelligence because the only thing that matters is whether intelligence is helps keep the Republic safe. After the attempted Christmas bombing, The President said on 7 January that it has not. His judgment is the one that counts most; he is neither ill-informed nor disingenuous.

End of NightWatch for 2 May.

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