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NightWatch 20100809


For the Night of 9 August 2010

North Korea - South Korea - UN Command: Three reports follow. On 9 August, North Korean shore batteries on the west coast fired about 130 artillery rounds into the Yellow Sea, simultaneous with the culmination of South Korean naval exercises, Yonhap reported. Most of the shells stayed in North Korean territorial sea.

Yesterday, 8 August, North Korean naval authorities seized a South Korean fishing boat and its crew operating in North Korean claimed waters off the east coast. Four South Korean and three Chinese fishermen were questioned for violating the North's exclusive economic zone, South Korea's coast guard said in a statement.

The South Korean statement reported the fishing boat was taken toward the North Korea's eastern port of Songjin. A South Korean fisherman reported via a satellite phone that his boat was being towed by a North Korean patrol, according to the coast guard.

South Korea called on the North quickly to return the fishing boat and its crew. Recent arrests for similar violations result in a month in jail before release may be negotiated.

North Korea-UN Command: Colonels from the United Nations Command (UNC) and North Korean army are scheduled to meet on 10 August for another round of colonel-level talks over the sinking of a South Korean warship, the UNC said in a statement on 9 August.

Comment: Assessed together, the three reports convey a message of normality. North Korean behavior in all three is consistent with its actions all year. Arguably, the timing of the coastal artillery practice is a statement of defiance in reaction to South Korean anti-submarine warfare exercises. Alternatively, it is a statement that the North was so under whelmed by South Korean training, that it did not see a need to interrupt scheduled coastal artillery training.

As for catching fishing boats, on both coasts, naval commands kidnap fishing boats and hold them for ransom to help fed and pay for command costs. Every major military command is expected to complement its budget through local income-generating activity. For the North Korean navy, that means piracy and commercial fishing. South Korean and Chinese fishing boat captains know the risks.

The most important indication of normality is the rescheduling of talks with the UN Command. This shows that none of the other North Korean actions, however outrageous, are provocations. In none of the cases has the North shown any inclination to escalate or sensationalize the issues.

Mexico: BBC reported on 8 August police officers in Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico detained their commander at gunpoint, accusing him of corruption and links to drug gangs. More than 200 federal police agents raided the hotel where their commander was staying and accused him of planting drugs on police officers to blackmail them into carrying out extortion. Some of the agents were injured when officers loyal to the commander defended him.

While some agents blocked off nearby streets to prevent their commander from escaping, others moved into the hotel where he was staying. They raided his room, where they say they found weapons and drugs. The federal officers allege that they were part of a stash, which their commander would plant on officers who refused to take part in his corrupt dealings. They say he would then blackmail the agents into carrying out extortion and other crimes.

The police officers held their commander captive until the Federal Police Commissioner General agreed to suspend him, pending an investigation. One of the policemen who took part in the protest told the Associated Press corruption in the higher ranks was putting them in danger. "We risk our lives, we leave families behind and it's the fault of those officers that we go down," he said.

End of NightWatch for 9 August.

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