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NightWatch 20100812

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 August 2010

China-North Korea: China offered to help North Korea control cross-border crime and build law-enforcement forces, according to a report by Agence France-Presse on 12 August. A spokesman also said China provided military equipment to North Korea's National Defense Commission during a visit by China's Deputy Public Security Minister Liu Jing on 8 August.

North Korea's Security Ministry staff and a Chinese public security delegation met on 12 August, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

Comment: The reports are intermittent in the public media, but cumulatively they establish a pattern of China using economic and law enforcement linkages to tie North Korea more tightly. When North Korean leadership has been strong, it strongly and successfully has resisted Chinese initiatives. That does not appear to be the case at this time.

China's admission of providing "military equipment" is unusual and rare. The actors mentioned in the report suggest the reference is to crowd control equipment.

China-US: A commentary in the Liberation Army Daily on Thursday conveyed bitterness and outrage about US naval exercises with South Korea, and about US criticism of Chinese territorial claims to all of the South China Sea.

Deputy Director of the Academy of Military Sciences Major General Luo Yuan wrote, "A country needs respect, and a military also needs respect. If someone doesn't hurt me, I won't hurt him; but if someone hurts me, I must hurt him….For the Chinese people and the Chinese military, those are by no means idle words."

The United States is "pushing its security boundary to the doorstep of others -- the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and so on," wrote Luo. "In their eyes, the security of other states and peoples is secondary, even meaningless … We don't want to make enemies of any country, but whoever ignores our solemn stance and core interests, persisting in doing as he pleases and bullying us too far, we will never fear."

The statement is a Chinese reaction to an announcement by a Pentagon spokesman last week that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington would participate in a follow-up drill in the Yellow Sea, between the Korean peninsula and China.

Comment: Major General Luo has become one of the foremost public spokesmen for a hard line point response to almost any military-related action taken by the US in Asia. In February he threatened economic warfare against the US for selling arms to Taiwan. He also denounced Secretary Clinton for meddling in Chinese core interests when she referred to Southeast Asian interests in the South China Sea and railed against US participation in exercises with South Korea albeit in the Sea of Japan. Luo came very close to calling the US an enemy of China in public.

Chinese newspapers have carried several harsh commentaries about US military actions in Chinese-claimed territories, but Luo's are the most provocative in English language Chinese media. He appears to convey the views of an important faction in the leadership of the People's Liberation Army, based on his frequent access to the media.

One difference with Russian statements about protecting the Russian "sphere of influence," to paraphrase President Medvedev, is that the Chinese are asserting sovereign rights in near shore areas as well as deep sea regions, including the whole of the South China Sea. They have persuaded themselves into claiming open oceans as territorial waters. Luo is the new messenger of an ancient vision of China's strategic dominance.

For old China hands, the bromide was that China never abandons a claim, but it only asserts that claim when it is prepared to defend it with force. In other words, the assertion of the claim is a reliable indicator that China has some capability to back it up with force. US aircraft carrier maneuvers in the Yellow Sea will call China's bluff and measure China's capability.

.As for Major General Luo Yuan, one profile says he serves as the deputy director of the Academy of Military Science World Military Affairs Research Department. He is a prolific writer and commentator known for hard-line statements against the United States and Taiwan. He has

declared that the United States "will pay an unbearable price" if it is involved in a war with China over Taiwan and has stated that the United States will "not go to war with a nuclear power" over Taiwan.

Iraq: For the record. Statements by the Army Chief of Staff about the need for US forces in Iraq through 2020 have generated worldwide media commentary.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said that comments made by Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Zebari were misinterpreted by some journalists and officials, AK News reported 12 August. The spokesman said Zebari's remarks meant only that the Iraqi army will not attain the same level of armament as neighboring countries before 2020, but that forces are completely ready to assume internal security responsibilities and have proven their success after taking over responsibility from U.S. troops.

The General got out in front of his own headlights, apparently.

Saudi Arabia: For the record. Saudi TV ran as a breaking news item, "Royal order to his eminence the kingdom's Grand Mufti to restrict the issuance of fatwas to members of Senior Scholars Council."

Comment: The King has asserted discipline over the practice of issuing religious orders - fatwas. The practice is abused often in that marginally literate imams with only basic schooling in Islamic law judge themselves entitled to tell local believers how to behave, under pain of religious punishment.

Only the highest religious authorities or schools of recognized authorities are entitled to issue fatwas, which are somewhat similar to Papal Bulls in western history. The lack of a central authority to ensure orthodoxy in Sunni Islam results in all sorts of orders issued with the force of religious faith by under-educated imams. Some have been issued against the Royal family. The King's patience apparently is exhausted.

Israel-Hamas: The al-Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Palestinian group Hamas, said in an Aug. 12 message on its website that it would lead operations against "Zionist soldiers and settlers" during the month of Ramadan.

If Hamas equates heightened religious devotion in the holy month with killing Jews, Israel should expect - and probably is ready for - increased mortar, rocket and bombing attacks from the Gaza Strip in the next month.

End of NightWatch for 12 August.

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