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NightWatch 20100722

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For the Night of 22 July 2010

North Korea: At the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, a North Korean spokesman said on Thursday that the joint South Korea-U.S. naval exercises and fresh sanctions against Pyongyang are major threats to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and destroy the "mood" for dialogue.

The spokesman restated the North's willingness to return to Six Party nuclear talks but only on condition of acceptance as an equal, meaning with recognition that North Korea is a nuclear armed state.

The downturn in the "mood" is not sufficient to cause the North to break off military talks. The North agreed to attend the second round of colonel-level talks about the sinking of the South Korean corvette last March. Xinhua reported the talks began at 1000 Korea time at Panmunjom, during this Watch.

North Korea-Japan: For the record. The following is a report from Tokyo-based NHK World in English.

"North Korea's state-run media may have deliberately re-used part of a news story on the country's leader, Kim Jong Il, from last year to show that he is alive and well."

"The Korean Central Broadcasting Station and other state-run media reported on Tuesday (20 July) that Kim attended a performance by a chorus group formed mainly by workers from a Pyongyang cotton mill."

"Radio Press, a Tokyo-based news agency, that monitors broadcasts from North Korea, says the content of the story is similar to a piece about Kim's visit to a concert that ran on November 22nd last year."

"About 2 minutes of the current story featuring Kim's comments on workers and art was the same, word for word. Radio Press believes North Korean media re-used last year's news item."

Comment: This is a vintage propaganda tactic to hide the health condition of the dear leader. The North has been caught doing this previously by Japanese or South Korean media. The target of the deception is the North Korean population. It works against them.

China-North Korea: An unidentified Chinese official told South Korea's Yonhap News that China has acquired the rights to use a second port in northeastern North Korea., the port of Chongjin.

Since 2008, Chinese commercial companies have had access to the small port of Rajin, in far northeastern North Korea. This is part of the Chinese plan to rejuvenate and develop industrial centers in China's northeast. From China's Shenyang Province, use of North Korean ports on the Sea of Japan for export trade saves time and costs, compared to using Chinese ports on the Yellow Sea.

An official at the Tumen city government in northeast China said that a Chinese state company has now also obtained the right to use the port of Chongjin, about 70 kilometers south of Rajin and a major North Korean port and industrial center.

The Chinese official also said that North Korea and China also have agreed to allow Chinese companies to use North Korea's railways from Tumen to Chonjin. The series of agreements would "facilitate trade from Tumen." He said the Chinese company that struck the deal to use the port of Chongjin will use it to carry out shipping agreements with three Chinese companies.

Comment: In mid-July North Korea granted Chinese fishermen the right to harvest octopus off the northeast coast near Chongjin. The volume and value of the trade are difficult to determine because the North Korean economy has contracted. What is clear is that poor economic conditions have induced the leadership to license some of the North's resources -- the antithesis of the national ideology of self-reliance.

Pakistan: In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Gilani said, "in the best interest of the country, in my capacity as the prime minister I have decided to grant an extension to General Kayani for a period of three years starting from 29 November 2010 while adopting relaxation in the existing policy after holding consultations with President Asif Ali Zardari."

Comment: The only uncertainty was whether Kayani would be extended for two or three years. The other point worth noting is the Prime Minister granted the extension -- his first major military appointment since parliament restored the power of senior military appointments to the Prime Minister last year. During the Musharraf era until last year, the president alone had this authority.

Afghanistan-US: The U.S. Treasury Department announced it has designated three men for financing and acting on the behalf of the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network and supporting acts of terrorism. The men were added to the United Nations 1267 Consolidated List on 19 July for association with al Qaida, Osama bin Laden or the Taliban. They are Amir Abdullah, former treasurer to senior Taliban leader Mullah Berader; Gul Agha Ishakzai, head of the Taliban's financial commission; and Nasiruddin Haqqani, an emissary for the Haqqani network.

Cutting off the money is part of a permanent solution to an insurgency. Exposing and publicizing how much fails to reach the fighters are powerful information warfare weapons. This is tonight's good news.

International Court of Justice (ICJ)-Kosovo: The ICJ validated Kosovo's declaration of independence, prompting pledges from Russia and Serbia that they will never acknowledge Kosovo as an independent. The breakaway Georgian states put a different interpretation on the ruling.

Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh said the ruling that Kosovo's unilateral 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia did not violate international law confirms Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's right to self-determination, Interfax reported 22 July. Bagapsh also said Abkhazia and South Ossetia have "far more historical and legal grounds for independence than Kosovo does" and praised Russia for being the first country to recognize the two separatist regions as independent states.

Mali-Mauritania-al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb: Agence France-Presse reported Thursday that Mali authorized a raid by Mauritanian soldiers on elements of al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb along the Mauritania-Mali border, a Mauritanian military source said. Malian security sources confirmed the report.

Shots were fired during military action involving unidentified, most likely French, aircraft in the Kidal region of northern Mali near where al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is believed to be holding Michel Germaneau, a 78-year old French national, Reuters reported, citing Malian officials. An unidentified security source said the action was a military operation related to the hostage, but could not say what nations were involved or if it succeeded.

Spain's El Pais reported that French special forces killed six militants, but found no evidence of Germaneua.

Venezuela-Colombia: Venezuelan President Chavez broke diplomatic relations with Colombia, ordered the Colombian ambassador to leave the country in 72 hours and placed Venezuelan forces on highest alert.

He took the action moments after Colombian Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos presented to a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington photos, videos, witness testimony and maps of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) camps inside Venezuela and challenged Venezuelan officials to let independent observers visit them.

Hoyos called for urgent measures to combat guerrillas in Venezuela and said Colombia had the right to ask Venezuela to prevent the FARC and ELN from planning attacks on Colombia from its territory. He said evidence of guerrilla activity in Venezuela had been presented before but was "met with insults and mocking" from Venezuelan authorities, El Espectador reported 22 July.

Chavez said he was forced to break off all relations because Colombian officials claim he has failed to move against leftist rebels who allegedly have taken shelter in Venezuelan territory. He said Colombian President Uribe could attempt to provoke a war. He did not respond to Colombia's challenge to let independent observers visit the camp sites, which Hoyos said hold up to 1,500 fighters.

Comment: Chavez obviously expected the Colombian presentation and was ready to respond. He appears to need an external threat to divert public opinion from his mismanagement.

End of NightWatch for 22 July.

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