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NightWatch 20101206

NightWatch

For the Night of 6 December 2010

The Korea Confrontation

Security

South Korea: South Korea's military began a major live-fire exercise Monday as announced. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the five days of drills would take place in 29 locations off South Korea, almost in defiance of the North's claims that it could trigger war.

Comment: Despite the tough talk, live fire training off Daecheong Island, one of the South Korean islands in the Yellow Sea, was postponed. A brilliant and well informed Reader pointed out that this is the third potentially provocative exercise that South Korea has postponed or canceled.

No one wants the South to bait the North and no one doubts the North would shell Daecheong Island if rounds fired from the island landed in North Korean claimed waters.

Diplomacy

The US-South Korea and Japan agreed on Monday to not resume talks until the North stops provocations and showed its commitment to denuclearization. China's President Hu Jintao called for cool and rational response and dialogue in a conversation with the US President.

Comment: The North is not seeking dialogue at this point, which is worth noting. In some past confrontations, the North invited discussions in one way or another. It has sent behavior signs that it does not seek escalation to general war, but it also has made clear that more shelling is likely if South Korea fires into North Korean waters.

North Korean management of the confrontation suggests a domestic reason is driving it, despite the potential risks. Only the succession has the importance to justify limited armed conflict with the South. That suggests there is serious opposition to the new leadership team, as defector sources and  some news analysts have observed.

The leadership in Pyongyang has manipulated external confrontations to build national unity by appealing to patriotism. The show of belligerence in a limited area on a very narrow issue with reassuring messages against general escalation looks like a leadership contrivance to seduce the North Korean populace into supporting an unpopular, new leadership team. The real crisis, according to this assessment, is inside North Korea.

North Korea-International Criminal Court: For the record. The International Criminal Court will conduct a preliminary examination into allegations that Pyongyang sank the South Korean warship ChonAn and shelled Yeonpyeong Island, which may be war crimes under international law, Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo's office announced 6 December, Voice of America reported.

Moreno-Ocampo's office received communications about the incidents from "citizens in different parts of the world." He said South Korea did not ask for the preliminary review.

Comment: This is potentially quite significant because an ICC finding can make North Korea officially an international pariah.

Pakistan: An anti-terrorist court (ATC) issued warrants for the arrest of seven senior police officers in connection with the murder of Benazir Bhutto on 27 December 2007. The court will state the specific charges against the police officials on 11 December, the next hearing date, but the preliminary charge is criminal negligence in failing to provide security.

Comment: The implication is that the police acted in complicity with Bhutto's assassin. A consistent theme in sensational acts of terrorism in Pakistan is the active support of insiders. Bombers and assassins almost always prove to have had insider support that enabled them to get close to their targets. Every important place or rally is well guarded, by private guards if not the police.

For the record. Over the weekend, the Pakistani government denounced a public offer by a well respected imam who has put up the equivalent of $5,800 to anyone who will kill a woman who has been convicted of blaspheming Mohammed. The woman was convicted on 8 November and was sentenced to death by hanging in Punjab Province, pending appeal.

Comment: The point for new analysts is that Pakistan has no law against solicitation for murder for religious wrongs. The government can denounce but not directly prohibit the action of the imam. President Zardari has the power to pardon the woman but the court system will not allow him to exercise it until the woman's appeals are exhausted, but no attorneys dare try to schedule any appeals for fear of their lives. This is a study in Pakistani democracy.


Sudan: Sudanese media broadcast the following decree on Monday.

Marshal Umer Hassan Al-Bashir the President of the Republic, the president of the National Congress Party has authorized the state governors to expel NGOs and persons that do not respect the country's sovereignty, work guidelines within 24 hours. He added we respect the NGOs that come to assist us and we reject whoever intends to control us. He indicated that some NGOs have spread rumors that they work in Sudan without the need of the government approvals. He directed the governors to expel the NGOs that do not adhere to their authorities on the same day.

Comment: The government in Khartoum remains highly suspicious of western aid organizations that it suspects of encouraging separatism in Darfur and the South. This decree is a manifestation of that suspicion because it mentions rumor mongering. A government has a right to control foreigners without further justification. Odd behavior…

End of NightWatch for 6 December.

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