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NightWatch 20100826

NightWatch

For the Night of 26 August 2010

North Korea: Update. Former US President Carter extended his North Korean visit by at least one day as he continued his effort to obtain the release of a jailed American, according to international media reports.

Comment: Despite the opinions of pundits, the travel of Kim Chong-il to China would not pose an obstacle to the release of the American, if the leadership consented to the release.

More importantly, President Carter visited in the past and was received by Kim Il-sung just before his death. It would be highly uncharacteristic and highly insulting of Kim Chong-il to decline to honor a guest of Carter's stature whom his father welcomed. North Korean leadership behavior this week looks disjointed.

On the surface, the North appears to have gone out of its way to insult the most powerful country in the world over a humanitarian issue. That is not normal.

North Korea-China: North Korean leader Kim Chong-il on Thursday, 26 August, supposedly visited an old Chinese school and a park associated with his late father, Kim IL-sung, for a brief time in his youth.

South Korean media reported Kim's special train crossed into China around midnight Wednesday toward the northeastern Chinese border city of Jian, according to a leak from an official in South Korea's presidential office. South Korea assumes Kim was aboard the train, the official said.

Sources in China said Kim arrived in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin Thursday afternoon and visited Yuwen Middle School, which his father, Kim Il-sung, attended for two and a half years starting in 1927. Kim also visited Beishan Park in the city of Jilin where the remains of anti-Japanese independence fighters are buried.

Media sources reported that later in the day, about 60 North Koreans were seen inside the school compound, including female soldiers in uniforms and photographers, an indication that Kim visited the school. They looked around the school and left the grounds in five mini buses.

Comment: North Korea maintains at least three leadership trains for the use of Kim Chong-il at all times. The movement of a train is not a reliable sign that Kim is aboard. The activities in Jilin look more genuine, but trivial.

If the real Kim is in China, it would be his second visit this year. Even by Korean standards the visit of Kim Chong-il to a middle school that his father attended for a bit more than two years is very strange, in light of the massive floods along the Yalu River, the reports of starvation because of food shortages and the new pressure for nuclear talks.

China-India: For the record. China refused to give a visa to India's General Officer Commanding, Northern Command, because he is responsible for Jammu and Kashmir State, according to The Times of India on 26 August. In response, India refused entry for two Chinese defense officials who were slated to attend a course at India's National Defense College. New Delhi also canceled a visit to China by Indian military officials.

Comment: Chinese diplomatic action against Indian over Kashmir is unusual. The visa refusal resembles some kind of odd behavioral modification training over an issue about which the Chinese seem ill-informed. This looks like a pointless insult directed at India.

Afghanistan-Denmark-NATO: Today the Danish Foreign Minister said Denmark has turned down a NATO request to send F-16 fighters to Afghanistan because it believes it has done enough for the international military mission there.

"We are one of the countries that contributes the most to Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Lene Espersen told the media after a meeting of parliament's foreign affairs committee. "This is why we rejected the NATO request" which was also made to other member countries, she said.

Espersen said the committee "has a strong desire to scale down engagement" in Afghanistan as the Danish defense budget was "under pressure" and the government "is under no obligation to do more" there. Denmark "can be proud" of its role in Afghanistan, she said, adding that "it's up to other countries to play a role and meet demands".

Comment: Denmark has 750 soldiers in Afghanistan serving in the International Security Assistance Force force, primarily in Helmand province. Its small contingent has sustained, proportionally, the heaviest losses of any ISAF nation with 34 combat deaths. The fight in Afghanistan is not popular in NATO. More countries may be expected to decline further involvement and pursue early withdrawal in 2011.

End of NightWatch for 26 August.

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