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NightWatch 20100715


For the Night of 15 July 2010

North Korea-UN Command: In a 90-minute meeting with a U.S. colonel at Panmunjom, North Korea demanded the right to inspect the evidence that implicates it in the March sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan, Agence France-Presse reported 15 July.

The North said it wants to send a team to examine what other investigators say is part of a North Korean torpedo. It also said the case is a "conspiratorial farce" and that the statement in which the U.N. Security Council condemned the attack without naming an attacker proves its point.

The two sides discussed technical matters including the date and venue of talks and the formation of delegations for opening the DPRK-U.S. military general-level talks. They also agreed to adopt "probing the truth behind 'Cheonan' case in an objective and scientific way" as the agenda of the talks, said the report.

In a follow-up report, North Korea and the US, acting for the UN Command, agreed to hold a second round of talks around 20 July, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Comment: The press reports indicate the North got what it wanted. Its colonel talked with a US Colonel, not with South Koreans. The North required direct talks with the US, but the Allies portrayed the talks as with the UN Command. That does not appear to be accurate.

The North consistently has required an "objective and scientific" investigation and the US colonel agreed to the North's language. That is probably an enormous mistake because a vocal and growing body of authoritative scientific opinion asserts that the Allied joint investigation of the sinking reached fallacious, scientifically unsound conclusions. The Allies are well advised to have a really good negotiating team, including a team leader who really knows and can anticipate the North's negotiating tricks.

The point is that these talks and any consequent action risk an enormous propaganda victory for the North Koreans and a scandal in South Korea so large as to bring down the government. The worrisome anomaly is that while the North always denies wrong doing, it never demands its own investigation in South Korea - enemy territory -- unless it is not guilty and knows it can prove it.

What does President Lee do if a genuinely objective and competent investigation finds that the South Korean ship sank from operator errors or technical problems of its own making?

Doubts about the competence of the Joint Investigation would help explain the US administration's reluctance to offend China with a show of force exercise aimed at North Korea. On the other hand, a great power does not need to worry so much.

India-Pakistan: Pakistani President Zardari met Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to discuss information and intelligence sharing, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported 15 July. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik also attended the meeting. Intelligence sharing could help prevent future acts of terrorism, Zardari said, adding that composite dialogue would help end distrust and restore confidence between the two countries.

To their credit the two states held the talks, but the agenda featured India's concerns about terrorism.

Russia-Iran: Russian President Medvedev on 15 July called for an explanation from Iran about the "military components" of Iran's nuclear program, Reuters reported. While calling Tehran a longtime, active trading partner, Medvedev said Moscow is not indifferent to Tehran's nuclear program. He said secret service information as well as open-source feedback show that the program is developing. He said Iran needs to cooperate with the international community.

This is the first time Russia has called Iran to account for the "military components" of its nuclear program.

AMISOM-US: The United States will increase aid for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said a spokesman for the U.S. State Department on 15 July. The spokesman said that the United States' status as the major contributor to AMISOM would not change and current support for AMISOM will increase. He welcomed Uganda's addition of 2,000 troops to its current 3,500 soldiers. He also said 63 FBI agents have arrived in the region to assist with the investigation into the July 11 attacks in Kampala.

AMISOM-Uganda: Uganda said it is capable of supplying 2,000 additional troops to bring the African Union force in Somalia to full strength if no other nation is willing to do so, Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said 15 July.

Thus far the World Cup bombings appear to be backfiring against al Shabaab, resulting in more attention and the prospect of greater military power applied against al Shabaab. If the external pressure lasts, al Shabaab's terrorism outside Somalia might prove to be the best boost the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia could have wished.

Colombia: A leaked report by Colombian intelligence services and the Administrative Department of Security claims there are approximately 1,500 guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 28 support and first aid camps in the Venezuelan states of Apure and Zulia, El Espectador reported 15 July. The report indicated that FARC leaders Ivan Marquez and German Briceno travel freely in those regions and that Marquez met with an unidentified Venezuelan general at least twice in Barinas state between 6 and 12 March.

The news outlet provided no larger context for the report, but on its face it provides further evidence that Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is a state sponsor of terrorism.

End of NightWatch for15 July.

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