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NightWatch 20100713

NightWatch

For the Night of 13 July 2010

Fiji-Australia: Update. Fiji's military rulers have given Australia's acting high commissioner, Sarah Roberts, 24 hours to leave, apparently because of her schedule of meetings with opposition groups.

Comment: This is the first diplomatic test for the new Australian Prime Minister, Ms Gillard. "Obviously our attitude to this is we are gravely concerned that Fiji continues to take itself beyond and outside the workings of the international community," Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra.

"We will be making very, very clear to Fiji our protest about this unreasonable and uncalled for action."

Earlier, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the decision to expel Ms Roberts was "unjustified and unjustifiable."

Canberra strongly criticized Fiji's military regime, led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama, which came to power in a 2006 coup and has since imposed a series of repressive measures. The two states expelled each other's most senior envoys late last year.

Australia and New Zealand have urged Bainimarama to return to civilian rule as soon as possible, but he said elections will not be held before 2014. This is a study in democracy and the phenomenology of government overthrows.

Note: NightWatch always begins at the International Dateline and moves west with the sun.

Republic of Korea: Too good to omit. The Army said Tuesday it has deployed a set of machine gun-toting sentry robots on a trial basis at a guard post on the southern side of the military buffer zone with North Korea. The robots, developed by a consortium of South Korean firms led by Samsung Techwin Co., can be used to detect, warn and provide suppressive fire against intruders along the Demilitarized Zone, Army officials said.

"Since last month, we have deployed the robots on an experimental basis at a guard post in the central sector of the DMZ," an official said. If the trial period until the end of the year is successful, the Army will deploy them at guard posts along the 250-kilometer-long DMZ, according to the official.

Using heat and motion detectors, the SGR-1 robot can sense possible threats on a real-time basis and alert command centers.

Comment: One of the implications of this employment is that South Korea wants North Koreans to stay in the North, unless they escape through China and undergo some kind of processing.

In the past decade, a significant number of defectors have crossed the DMZ, which is the most heavily mined strip of real estate in the world, to reach South Korea. Some have been double agents.

However, the numbers of defectors during Kim Chong-il's tenure have been so high that the South can be much more selective about whom to accept than in earlier decades. Line crossers along the DMZ would presumably be no longer welcome.

Technologically, the robot test will prove whether a border problem can be solved with the right technology.

North Korea: Update. The North Korean military has proposed a meeting with the United Nations Command (UNC) at 10 a.m. local time on 15 July in Panmunjom, South Korean military officials said on 13 July, according to Yonhap. North Korean representatives sent a message to the UNC's Military Armistice Commission to reschedule the previously postponed meeting.

The North indicated it was willing to return to Six Party Talks but only on the basis of equality, by which the North means that the other parties to the talks acknowledge the North as a nuclear weapons power. That is not the outcome expected by the American diplomats at the UN as a consequence of their clever drafting of the statement by the UN Security Council.

North Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations: Foreign Minister Pak Ui Chun is due to attend the annual ASEAN Regional Forum on 23 July in Hanoi following a three-nation Southeast Asian tour that includes Myanmar, Yonhap reported 13 July, citing diplomatic sources. It is not known whether Pak had accepted the invitation, but Vietnam is assuming he will be there, according to an unnamed diplomatic source.

This would be Pak's first important foreign engagement since his appointment as foreign minister. If Pak shows up in Hanoi that would be a trustworthy indicator that succession issues in North Korea are under control. If he begs off or sends a subordinate, then leadership issues remain unsettled.

India-Pakistan: Update. Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna will meet Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on 15 July in Islamabad, the Times of India reported 13 July. The officials will discuss the resumption of peace talks, which were frozen after Pakistan-based militants executed terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

Iraq: Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani criticized Kurdish authorities for allowing the export of fuel to Iran without the central government's approval, Reuters reported July 13. Shahristani said the central government has had to import fuel because of a shortfall and that the Cabinet decided to summon Kurdish officials to discuss the issue.

Note: This is a potential deal breaker in the federal relationship. The Kurdish leaders of the Autonomous Region have behaved as if they led an independent state, in the absence of strong control from Baghdad. The latest allegations will be discussed and settled, but a pattern of behavior that ignores Kurdish commitments to the central government concerning energy policy will add to tensions with the central government and will increase pressure on the Kurds from neighboring states.

Israel-Libya-Gaza Strip: Today one of the owners of the Libyan aid ship headed toward the Gaza Strip said Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers are welcome to board the ship to search it and verify it is only carrying food, The Jerusalem Post reported 13 July. The owner also said that if Israel only will allow the ship to dock in the Israeli port of Ashdod and not Gaza, the ship will proceed to the Egyptian port of El-Arish to unload its supplies.

The captain of the Amalthea, the aid ship bound for Gaza, also told Israeli Defense Force officials that he will reroute to el-Arish port in Egypt and will not try to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, Ynet and The Jersualem Post reported July 13. An Egyptian official confirmed that the ship had requested permission to doc, but said that officials do not know what the ship's final destination is, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Israeli navy ordered the Libyan aid ship heading for the Gaza Strip to alter its course to the Egyptian port of El-Arish before midnight local time on 13 July, al-Jazeera reported. The navy said preparations are being made to stop and take over the ship if the order is not followed. An Israeli patrol ship continues to shadow the Amalthea.

Uganda: Yesterday, 12 July, Ugandan authorities arrested four foreign suspects after finding an unexploded suicide vest in the Makindye area of Kampala, Reuters and AP reported 13 July, citing a government spokesman. As predicted, there was a cell that had explosives.

The Uganda People's Defense Force (UPDF) vowed to retaliate for the Sunday night bomb attack sin Kampala that claimed over 74 people. A spokesperson said that Al-Shabaab will pay heavily for their actions.

The UPDF spokesman said, "Anybody who brings war to Uganda, we'll take it back to him. And I assure you, when we discover who is responsible, we are going for them. We shall go for them. And for us we pay in exact price. We are not terrorists, we shall go for the leaders."

France: For the record. The lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a bill that would ban wearing the Islamic full veil in public. There were 335 votes for the bill and only one against in the 557-seat National Assembly.

The bill must now be ratified by the Senate in September in order to become law. The ban has strong public support but critics point out that only a tiny minority of French Muslims wear the full veil.

The French critics are missing the point.

End of NightWatch for 13 July.

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