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NightWatch 20100604


For the Night of 4 June 2010

Japan: Naoto Kan is the new prime minister of Japan. In a brief statement on 4 June, he said he intended to "break the impasse of the past 20 years" and would "lift Okinawa's burden," but implied he would honor agreements made by his predecessor. He will announce his new cabinet on Monday, 7 June.

South Korea-UN: South Korea formally asked the U.N. Security Council on Saturday (5 June, Korea time) to rebuke North Korea for attacking one of its warships, the Foreign Ministry announced.

South Korea's permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, Ambassador Park In-kook, handed the letter of request to the Security Council's president, now Mexico. It stressed that the North deserves stern censure for the unprovoked attack on the patrol ship Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors.

"The government requested the U.N. Security Council to discuss this matter and respond sternly to North Korea's military provocations as North Korea's armed attack is posing threats to international peace and security," the ministry said in a statement

Comment: Apparently, South Korea decided to push ahead, rather than wait for a more opportune moment. The ruling party losses in local elections sent a strong signal that the electorate does not favor or support President Lee's tough approach to North Korea. It also will not tolerate a protracted crisis. The letter is significant for what it omitted, such as a request for sanctions or a freeze of overseas assets.  As for a rebuke, the North Koreans  tend to thrive on outside criticism.

The ruling party's losses convey that there is no support for using coercion against North Korea. Yesterday's North Korean foreign ministry commentator reached the same conclusion, correctly. The younger generation of South Koreans looks softer than its counterpart in North Korea.  Both North and South Korea have backed away from a crisis at this time. .

South Korea-US: Update. South Korea and the United States postponed their joint naval exercise, which was due to start next week, by two to three weeks because the U.S. side needs more preparations, according to Deputy National Defense Minister Chang Kwang Il speaking on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific security conference in Singapore, Yonhap reported 4 June. Chang said South Korea and the United States plan to hold another naval maneuver in the South's waters in late June or early July.

Comment: North Korea will interpret the delay as a significant political victory of its making, along with the South's request for a "rebuke" by the UNSC.   If the decision to delay the exercises was based on anything but genuine military preparations, it will have delivered a major triumph to North Korea. In any event, it will have a significantly negative impact on the perception of US leadership in Asia.

As the confrontation now stands, the North surreptitiously, in cold blood and with malice sank an Allied patrol ship with impunity. two months ago.  Every US ally in Asia will understand this state of affairs as signifying a weakening of the US commitment to the defense of its allies, every day that it persists. They also will look for other signs that indicate the US is acceding to China as the new strategic leader in Northeast Asia.

Pakistan: The News published on 4 June a summary of information obtained from a surviving attacker on the Lahore attacks this week. The teenage zealot said he was misled by his teachers in a madrasah in Miram Shah, North Waziristan into believing that the Ahmadi muslim sect was involved in drawing blasphemous caricatures of The Prophet so that their death would be a great service to Islam.

Comment: Suicide attacks in Lahore on 29 May killed 70 people and injured 90. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks and charged that the Ahmadis are not Muslims. The key point is that a significant number of Pakistani madrasahs teach only intolerance, hate and death to all who deviate from a semi-literate interpretation of Islamic observances and requirements.

In April all Pakistanis insurgents captured or killed in Afghanistan were trained in madrasahs in Pakistan, before they encountered handlers from al Qaida or Taliban, according to government reports. Until the Pakistan government exercises more control over these schools, there will be no sustained reduction in suicide bombings in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The Islamabad government's failure to exercise control of the teaching must be considered official approval or an admission of chronic incompetence.

The evidence is compelling that Pakistani madrasahs spawn terrorists in every country with a Pakistani resident population.

Kyrgyzstan: Interim President Roza Otunbay said today, "We will begin steering a course towards expansion and strengthening of relations with Russia….There were many difficulties in relations with Russia under the veil of Bakiyev's regime. They were, above all, in the economic sphere," she said.

"Russia is our strategic partner and our historically traditional friend and partner. Now, after the 7 April events, Russia is helping us so much that we did not even expect that vital assistance". She also said that the interim government will respect the one year extension of the US lease, which Bakiyev approved in March, but said the new parliament in October will take the lease agreement for consideration.

Today's statements simply reinforce the emerging trend that Kyrgyz leaders are more comfortable in the Russian sphere of influence. Put another way, the US lost the bidding war.

Turkey-Israel: Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc on 4 June told parliament that Turkey would reduce its economic and military ties with Israel, and other agreements would be evaluated, DPA reported.

Comment: Turkish leaders have been inconsistent in their descriptions of the consequences of Israel's seizure of the aid ships for Gaza. The Turks have hardened their attitude towards Israel in step with world wide expressions of outrage, curiously and conveniently. Thus, as of today, the descendants of the Ottoman Turks and the descendants of the Persians are the only Islamic entities in the Middle East speaking up for the Palestinian Arabs.

To punctuate the Turkish position, Prime Minister Erdogan had the temerity to state in public that he did not see HAMAS as a terrorist organization. HAMAS was only defending their (sic) territory, he insisted.

These statements put him pretty much squarely in the Ahmadi-nejad camp regarding the right of Israel to exist. in the Middle East.  Israel has not lost Turkey as a friend so much as provided Erdogan a convenient justification to drop Turkey's pro-Israeli policy, as he has intended all along. The best Israeli strategists had to see this coming as early as 2006 when Turkey sent peacekeepers to Lebanon.

Unfortunately for HAMAS, Erdogan does not keep his promises any better than the Persians. More pertinent is that the Arab leaders consider the Palestinian problem an Arab problem, which Saudi King Abdallah will make plain to Turkey at the appropriate time, as he did last year to Iran.

Israel: Expect another incident at sea this weekend. The government of Ireland announced it had reached a deal with the government of Israel that the Irish aid ship Rachel Corrie would submit to Israeli inspect in port at Ashdod before proceeding. Subsequently, the people on the ship announced they would not honor the deal but would attempt to run the Israeli blockade, they claimed, at first light on 5 June. Sure!

For the record: Israel Radio reported 4 June that investigators uncovered evidence that firearms were tossed overboard by passengers of the Mavi Marmara. Quoting sources in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the report stated that investigators found gun sights and cartridge magazines not related to IDF weaponry, in addition to messages referring to soldier kidnappings, soldier fatalities and the intentions of some passengers to become martyrs.

This announcement should shock no one, whether it is true or fabricated.

End of NightWatch for 4 June.

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