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NightWatch 20110808

NightWatch

For the Night of 8 August 2011

North Korea- US and South Korea: On 8 August, the Korean Central News Agency published the text of an open letter from the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army to the US and South Korea. Excerpts follow from the text broadcast in English.

"The United States and the South Korean authorities are contemplating staging again adventurous Ulji Freedom Guardian (UFG]) joint military exercises from August 16 to 26, despite the unanimous desire of the people at home and abroad for peace on the Korean Peninsula."

"In view of such situation sparking another danger of war on the peninsula, the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People's Army Sunday sent the U.S. and the South Korean authorities the following open letter reflecting the unanimous will of the army and the people of the DPRK: Peace is the strong desire and invariable requirement of the army and the people of the DPRK…."

"The Ulji Freedom Guardian is part of this hysteria for a war of aggression against the north."

"This can be explained by the fact that the projected joint saber-rattling will be dangerous war maneuvers to be staged by the U.S. and the South Korean military warmongers in accordance with newly revised and supplemented war scenario against the north. This can also be evidenced by the fact that the projected joint exercises would be all-out nuclear war maneuvers involving modern war hardware including improved nuclear attack means and huge aggressor forces and even local administrative organs and non-governmental enterprises…."

"The KPA Panmunjom Mission is authorized to raise the following principled demands to the U.S. and the South Korean authorities in view of the prevailing grave situation:

1. The U.S. and the South Korean authorities should show the DPRK the will for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by making a bold policy decision to cancel the projected joint military exercises….

2. By canceling the exercises the U.S. and the South Korean authorities should make a bold practical decision to replace the armistice system by a peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula….

3. The U.S. and the South Korean authorities should officially show their willingness to normalize the DPRK-U.S. relations and the inter-Korean relations by canceling the projected joint military exercises….

The army and people of the DPRK look forward to a positive response to their just call."

Comment: The language of the open letter is mild for North Korea, but contains a few points worth noting.

US and South Korea have trained together for 60 years, most often in two large annual exercises. The North protests just as regularly. What seems to have aggravated the North this time is its understanding that the coming exercise will test tactics to destroy the North's nuclear forces, just when momentum is building for denuclearization talks.

A second point is the letter warns that the army and people no longer hide that they have access to a nuclear deterrent. If the exercise involves nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and strategic "nuclear" attack aircraft, the letter says the North will interpret their participation as "breaching the principle of simultaneous action for denuclearization."

The North apparently is trying to hold progress towards Six Party Talks hostage to the exercise. Moreover, the exercise could afford the North Koreans a justification for backing out of the talks, if the judge the economic incentives to be insufficient.

The second demand about replacing the armistice with a peace agreement and the third demand about normalizing relations are the North's longstanding maximum national goals. The North's strategists expect that a peace agreement and normal relations would remove the main reasons for the US military presence in South Korea and thus facilitate unification, under North Korean leadership, to be sure.

North Korea-China: Update. The Chinese missile frigate Luoyang and the training ship Zheng He completed their port call at Wonsan and left for China on 8 August.

China: Xinhua reported on 8 August that the top official in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China has ordered a harsh crackdown on "religious extremists," prompted by terrorist attacks that killed 30 people in the past three weeks. On 18 July a terrorist attack on a police station in Hotan killed 18 people, including 14 terrorists. Attacks on 30 and 31 July in Kashgar resulted in 14 civilians killed and 42 injured. Police killed 8 terrorists.

Party Secretary Zhang Chunxian ordered local officials to rely on the public to help them curb illegal religious activities and to crack down on the use of religion to incite violence or organize terrorist attacks. He said the managing of religious affairs should follow the central government's policy of "protecting the legitimate, banning the illegal, fighting infiltration and cracking down on crimes."

Comment: This is the second recent Chinese action to control the Uighur terrorists/separatists. On 1 August, Kashgar officials publicly charged that at least one of the leaders of the Kashgar attacks received training in Pakistan. Beijing authorities apparently deliberately permitted this public accusation during the visit to Beijing by Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Such training has been a source of stress in the relationship during the past twenty years.

Secretary Zhang's attribution of the crimes to religious extremists is a display of political correctness. The Uighur unrest is chronic because it is a blend of ethnic, religious and criminal hostility. About 42 percent of Xinjiang's 21 million people are Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim and are hostile to the Han Chinese for ethnic and religious reasons. Finally, the Uighur fighters are mix of outlaws and separatists who seek to establish an independent Uighur state of East Turkestan.

The Chinese crackdown probably will be as brutal as Syria's operations, but more intense, briefer and a lot less public.

Thailand: For the record. Parliament elected Yingluck Shinawatra as the country's prime minister in a televised vote 4 August in which she won the votes of more than half of the lawmakers. Yingluck is the first woman to be elected prime minister. She is the sister of exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Pakistan: In the official press release from the Pakistan Army's Corps Commanders' Conference on 8 August, the Conference expressed "concern over the law and order situation in Karachi and its ramifications / implications on National economy and expected that the measures recently undertaken by the Government would help redress the situation."

Comment: Most national newspapers carried the Army's statement of concern about the Karachi security situation. The Corps Commanders meet regularly, usually monthly, but official press releases seldom contain specific references or statements of concern. The statement is the first official Army comment and, as such, constitutes a warning to the government. Its language conveys no confidence that the government's measures will "redress the situation."

Since January 800 people have been killed in political violence between gangs from rival political parties. Three hundred of the 800 were killed in July. The rate of ten murders a day, despite thousands of paramilitary police reinforcements, seems to be what caught the attention of the generals. They expect the security situation to worsen.

Afghanistan-US-Pakistan: For the record: Pakistani media coverage of the American and Afghan deaths in Saydabad District, Wardak Province of Afghanistan has been characteristically hostile to the US. One editorial in Urdu characterized the losses as "natural justice." Another gloated over US losses and said the countdown has begun. Yet another indicated it could be a US plot to hide US involvement in the raid that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad (sic!). Pro-Taliban papers echoed the jubilation of the Taliban internet posts.

The top four English language papers reported the facts in the news without comment.

Yemen: International media reported that President Saleh was released from the hospital in Saudi Arabia, but has bowed to US pressure to remain in Saudi Arabia, according to unidentified official sources. The Yemen government has not commented on Saleh's plans, but his absence should facilitate a change of leadership.

Turkey: Update. A court issued arrest warrants for seven more senior generals and admirals on suspicion of participating in the 2003 plot to overthrow the government.

Syria: For the record. On 8 August, President Asad named Chief of General Staff General Dawood Rajiha as the new defense minister. General Rajiha will replace General Ali Habib Mahmoud, whose health has deteriorated recently, according to the report. Both men are among Asad's closest advisers.

Comment: This move does not portend a change in policy or tactics. For the Alawites who govern Syria, the struggle remains existential.

News services reported that Syrian tanks have departed the town of Hama, having completed suppression operations. Al Jazeera and the BBC reported a force of tanks was observed in Dayr al Zawr, in eastern Syria, apparently for another round of suppression operations. There have been at least three since Asad's general amnesty announcement in May.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told Arab and other foreign ambassadors on 6 August that free parliamentary elections will be held by the end of 2011 and pledged to move forward with reforms. President Asad is expected to announce a date for the elections soon.

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait withdrew their ambassadors to protest the violent crackdown, not in support of democracy. The Turkish foreign Minister is scheduled to protest Syrian "savagery' in a meeting with the Syrian government in Damascus on 9 August.

Mali-Mauritania: Update. Al Qaida militants were driven from camps in western Mali after a joint Malian-Mauritanian military offensive to dislodge them from the area last week, according to Malian security sources. The sources said at least 27 people were killed, including two Mauritanian soldiers. An unnamed Malian military official said the camps, one of which housed a significant weapons cache, were cleared, and that the weapons cache was dismantled.

Comment: The account did not mention US or French assistance, but intelligence, logistic and transport support are likely. The extent of trans-national cooperation and the sustained operations are noteworthy. Keeping the terrorists moving under pressure is part of a permanent solution.

Libya: Benghazi. The leader of the rebel movement, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, dismissed his entire executive committee, which functions as a cabinet. National Transitional Council (NTC) member Fathi Turbel said it was clear the re-shuffle was needed after the "military, security and media incompetence" in the wake of General Younis' death, last month.

Last Friday, a rebel group, named the Coalition for the Revolution of the 17th of February, called for high-level resignations, including that of the vice president and the minister of defense, whom they accused of complicity in the murder of General Younis.

The rebel group also demanded the disbanding of dozens of militias operating in rebel-held areas, saying the national army is the only legitimate armed forces.

Comment: Neither good security nor unity of effort characterize the NTC. The group does not seem fit to govern.

End of NightWatch for 8 August.

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