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NightWatch 20100929


For the Night of 29 September 2010

The Senkakus Confrontation

Japan: The Defense Ministry is considering a plan to station ground troops on the islands south west of the main Japanese islands.

China: Japanese trading houses reported China resumed customs procedures and applications for exports of rare earth minerals that were previously halted to Japan.

Comment: Having had Japan reject China's demand for an apology and damage payments, the Chinese now appear to be attempting to ease tension and return to pre-crisis normality. In other words, they are pocketing the Japanese concession of releasing the fishing boat captain and moving on.

That places the burden of going forward on the Japanese whose planners are deliberating action that would show Japan has not surrendered its claim to the Senkakus, and is prepared to back its claim with a token military presence. That would be a counter-escalatory action, if it occurs.

North Korea-South Korea: Update. During this Watch, the two Koreas held a working-level military meeting at Panmunjom. This is the first such meeting in two years. No results have been reported but the meeting is consistent with other actions that signal the North wants no external crisis at a time of internal leadership transition.

No news services reported details of the Party Conference that was to have convened today, 28 September.

North Korea: At the United Nations. At the United Nations, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon said Wednesday that Pyongyang would continue to expand its nuclear arsenal in order to deter what it perceives as American and South Korean aggression in the region.

Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil Yon on told the UN General Assembly on 29 September that North Korea has vowed to strengthen its nuclear arsenal because of the threat from the United States. He said that as long as U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail around North Korea, the country's nuclear deterrent should not be abandoned but strengthened further.

Note: Pak's statement strikes a discordant note among many other North Korean behavioral themes that promote an international environment of reduced tension while leadership issues are deliberated in Pyongyang.

Pakistan: For the record. The Pakistan Army dismissed reports that a surge in U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strikes on Islamist militants in northwest Pakistan disrupted planning for aMumba0-style attacks in European cities. A military spokesman said there is no information or intelligence that militants were plotting attacks.

US and international media reported the attacks pre-empted militant planning for attacks in London and cities in France and Germany similar to the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India.

Comment: One of the salient lessons from the US experience in intelligence warning is that early action to manage a threat under conditions of uncertainty makes moot other questions about the nature of a threat that only become clear too late to manage the threat. Potential damage avoided is a good news event for the US that produces many ripple effects in a terrorist community.

End of NightWatch for 29 September.

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