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NightWatch 20101219


For the Night of 19 December 2010

The Korea Confrontation

South Korea: During this Watch, South Korean artillery and rocket launched exercises began. The exercise is set to last less than two hours and is designed to have artillery shells land in waters more than 10 kilometers away from the maritime border, a military official said. He stressed that the maneuvers are not meant to provoke North Korea. Vulcan guns and 105-millimeter light howitzers would be used in the drill, officials said

South Korea also has deployed a 7,600-ton guided-missile Aegis-equipped destroyer, the Sejong the Great, and a 4,500-ton destroyer to the Yellow Sea and placed F-15K fighter aircraft on alert.

North Korea: The North again warned that it would respond to the South's artillery drill on Yeonpyeong Island with "unpredictable self-defensive blows."

Yonhap reported the North appears to be making preparations for a counterattack, removing covers from coastal artillery guns and forward-deploying some artillery batteries, a military source said. In the run-up to last month's attack, the North had forward-deployed four artillery batteries and uncovered 14 coastal artillery guns.

Comment: Through this Watch a diplomatic breakthrough has not occurred. Both North and South Korean forces are on alert against escalation. The North almost certainly also is at semi-war state of alert for a general war. South Korea does not appear to have placed the nation on alert for the danger of a general war.

The North will retaliate for the South's exercise, but retaliation might not be immediate. A key variable is the location of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier task group, which is not available in open sources. If it is nearby, the North might postpone any escalatory moves. If not, an escalating crisis can occur.

The North has attempted to drive a wedge between the Republic of Korea and the US by welcoming Governor Richardson and by announcing today that it will accept the return of UN inspectors to the Yongbyon nuclear facility. It is attempting to keep the military confrontation in the Yellow Sea separated from the politics of the nuclear issues.

The effort appears clumsy and poorly coordinated. The military confrontation will always take precedence.

UN: At an emergency Security Council meeting on Sunday, members failed to reach agreement on a statement calling for calm on the Korean peninsula, with China opposing the majority that wanted specific language condemned North Korea for the Nov. 23 shelling of Yeonpyeong Island

Comment: China and Russia protected North Korea from being denounced by the UN Security Council discussion. A UN statement has no meaning except to clarify the sides in a dispute. Once again Chinese and Russian interests in Korea are not, and have never been, congruent with American interests.

Ivory Coast: US citizens have been advised to take available commercial transportation to leave the country because of the continuing political unrest that has turned violent, resulting from a disputed presidential election outcome.

End of NightWatch for 19 December.

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