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NightWatch 20100526

NightWatch

For the Night of 26 May 2010

North Korea-South Korea: A North Korean cargo ship approaching South Korea's western waters was turned away on 25 May, after a South Korean destroyer sent a radio warning, according to the South's National Defense Ministry today. A South Korean 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyer was dispatched to the strait between Jeju Island and the mainland to enforce the ban on transit by North Korean ships.

Comment: This is the first incident at sea. The North has not yet responded, but such incidents can escalate with little or no additional warning.

North Korean defectors claim that Kim Chong-Il ordered the North Korean military to stand ready for combat, Choson Ilbo reported 26 May. South Korea is trying to verify the report, a security official said. Kim's order was relayed via a speaker installed in each North Korean home. These broadcasts are used by the government to disseminate information that it does not want to be known abroad.

North Korean soldiers also have been told to return to barracks, the head of Free North Korea Radio, Kim Sung Min, said. Note: "Return to barracks" is a measure taken in all stages of increased combat readiness. It signifies prudent precautions. When soldiers are ordered to "live in caves" that signifies movement to forward fighting positions and is associated with semi-war and threat of war alert conditions.

In other developments, North Korean authorities told South Korean personnel to leave their joint factory complex in the communist state, Yonhap reported 26 May.

Russia-South Korea: Russia will not support bringing the sinking of the South Korean navy corvette Cheonan before the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) until it receives evidence of North Korea's involvement in the incident, Interfax reported, citing a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Russian President Medvedev said Russia will send Russian experts to South Korea to study the results of the investigation into the sinking the warship Cheonan, RIA Novosti reported. The President wants to learn the cause of the sinking and with certainty who was behind it, the Russian government said. Medvedev reportedly made the decision following a proposal by South Korea

Iran-Russia: President Ahmadi-nejad said his nation does not know whether the Russians are friends and allies or whether the Russians seek something else, IRINN reported 26 May. Iran should not see its neighbor (i.e., Russia) siding with those who have been enemies during the past 30 years. If I were the Russian president, when making decisions about subjects related to a great nation ... I would act more cautiously, I would think more," President Ahmadi-Nejad said in a televised outdoor speech.

A top Kremlin aide said that Russia was guided by its own long-term interests, and that "our position can be neither pro-American, nor pro-Iranian. … No one has ever managed to preserve one's authority with political demagoguery. I am convinced, the thousand-year history of Iran itself is evidence of this," Sergei Prikhodko said in a statement read out by a Kremlin spokeswoman.

Comment: Information in the public domain suggests relations between Russia and Iran are strained. The Persians have presumed that Russia would oppose new UN sanctions because of its longstanding economic, energy and arms relationships with Iran. They appear to have misread Russian strategic intentions and taken for granted Russian good will.

It has always seemed odd that Russia would tolerate Iran as a nuclear armed state on its southern border. Russia always opposed the emergence of a powerful Persian state. Its persistent refusal to support sanctions has seemed contrary to historic Russian strategic interests, though not its economic interests. Apparently, US diplomats have persuaded - or bargained with -- the Russians that the Iranians do have a nuclear weapons program which potentially threatens Russia as much as it threatens Israel.

Iran: Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said 26 May that Iran is the dominant regional power and that it has the final say on regional developments, Iran's state-run IRNA reported.

Speaking from Kerman, Iran, Najjar said Tehran is awaiting a response from the United States following Iran's proposed deal with Turkey and Brazil to ship nuclear fuel abroad for enrichment, and that Iran is now playing a balanced role in regional developments.

Comment: The Arab states are likely to have a different view of regional leadership. The Iranians have a way of inciting their neighbors. No Arab states will accept leadership or domination by Turks or Persians again, but the Iranians do not seem to grasp that.

End of NightWatch for 26 May.

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