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NightWatch 20100602


For the Night of 2 June 2010

Japan: Update. Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan is likely to cancel his trip to South Korea, where financial chiefs from the G-20 are scheduled to meet on 4 and 5 June, according to a ministry official, and The Associated Press. Kan is one of several likely candidates to replace Hatoyama as prime minister. Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa is scheduled to attend the G-20 meeting in the South Korean city of Busan.

Kan will turn 64 this year. Although a graduate of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he has been a professional politician for the past 30 years. He is a former president of the Democratic Party of Japan,

South Korea-US: The United States Navy will participate in a joint naval exercise with South Korean naval forces next week, Seoul officials said. The aircraft carrier USS George Washington with and Aegis equipped destroyer and a nuclear submarine will lead the US forces in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap reported 2 June. South Korean forces will include a destroyer, a submarine and F-15K fighter jets.

Comment: In all the periods of crisis or increased tension since 1980, North Korea has always been most intimidated by US battleships and aircraft carriers. The North has been rather subdued after the bombast last week.

China-US: China rejected a proposed visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates during his trip to East Asia the week of 31 May, according to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

The Chinese gave no reason except to say the time was inconvenient. Chatty US officials are quoted by Reuters as saying the refusal is a protest of US arms sales to Taiwan and is a "rebuke" to the US.

Alternatively, a visit to Beijing by Gates when the USS George Washington is engaged in maneuvers with South Korea in the Yellow Sea  would make the Chinese appear to side with the Allies against North Korea. Readers will recall that Kim Chong-il hosted a dinner for the new Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang the same day a North Korean submarine fired the torpedo that sank the Cheonan. The Chinese probably do not want to appear guilty by association twice because of their foreign ministry's lack of attention to detail and to the regional context.

Thailand: Prime Minister Abhisit easily survived a no-confidence vote in parliament over his handling of the street protests in Bangkok. Members of the lower house voted 246-186 to reject the no-confidence motion. The government needed at least 238 votes to survive the motion.

Comment: Apparently, the power elite in Bangkok, including the royal family, still stand behind Abhisit. They certainly do not want the pro-Red Shirt opposition to come to power, which is highly unlikely. How long Abhisit retains that support probably depends on how quickly economic life returns to normal.

India-Russia: Update. Ria Novosti reported today that Russia will transfer its Nerpa (NATO designator AKULA II) nuclear-powered attack submarine to India later this year under a 10-year lease, according to the head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. Indian crew training has concluded; most of the tests have been performed; and everything is almost "at the finish line," Mikhail Dmitriyev told journalists in New Delhi after a meeting yesterday of the Russian-Indian high-level supervisory committee on military and technical cooperation . He said India would receive the K-152 Nerpa submarine in October or November.

Comment: The arrival of the AKULA II will climax a three year process of negotiations over this lease, including training of at least two Indian Navy crews in Russia since 2008. The AKULA II will be renamed INS Chakra, while in Indian service. The leased submarine will enable India to maintain proficiency with proven nuclear technology as its indigenously-built nuclear ballistic missile submarine force enters service.

Last July India launched its first indigenously-built nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant. It essentially is a technology demonstration platform which will be commissioned in 2011 assuming successful completion of testing and weapons integration. It will carry four submarine-launched ballistic missiles. It is a derivative of the Soviet Charlie-class nuclear attack submarine, one of which India leased between 1988 and 1991.

Ballistic missile submarines will complete India's nuclear triad, keeping pace with China in the Asian arms competition.

Iraq: For the record. The next prime minister will be from the Iraqi National Alliance, Bahaa al-Araji, a top figure in the Alliance, said today, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

Israel-Turkey: All Israeli flights to Turkey have been canceled for the next three weeks, The Media Line reported, citing the managing director of the Association of Israeli Travel Agents. Israel also is repatriating the families of its embassy staff in Ankara, according to Israeli public radio. About 50 people related to Israeli consulate and embassy staff in Ankara are heading home, according to an official.

Five aircraft have left Israel for Turkey and Greece with 503 activists from the Gaza flotilla and the bodies of the nine people killed in the Israeli raid, The Associated Press reported. Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Haddad said one more plane was scheduled to leave 2 June carrying the rest of the activists. Three of the aircraft were Turkish and carried 450 activists, Ynet reported.

Comment: The blockade runners that Israeli forces intercepted sailed from Turkey and were sponsored by a Turkish Islamic non-governmental organization. Once one of Israel's only friendly states in the Islamic world, Turkey under the Erdogan government has improved political ties with Iran at Israel's expense and haltingly since 2006 has tried to be more assertive as a regional leader. Nevertheless, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz today said there are no plans to review the energy links between Turkey and Israel.

Israel-Gaza: Update. Israeli authorities began transferring aid to the Gaza Strip seized on board a six-ship flotilla intercepted earlier this week, DPA reported. Thus far 10 truckloads of goods were sent to the Krerem Shalom crossing point.

The goods transferred include medical equipment and wheel chairs, and some food, an IDF spokesman said. He added that the unpacking and inspection of the goods was not complete, since the aid was haphazardly loaded onto the ships. He also said the amount of equipment sent from the ships so far was far less than the amount Israel allows into the Strip on a daily basis.

End of NightWatch for 2 June.

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