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NightWatch 20120814

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NightWatch

For the night of 14 August 2012

China-North Korea: Update. China's Commerce Ministry announced it signed agreements with North Korea on joint development of economic zones. The agreements cover the setting up and operation of management committees in the zones in North Korea, electricity supply in one of them, and agricultural cooperation.

Comment: The revised or new agreements appear scaled back from more elaborate schemes announced two years ago. The pace looks more measured and cautious and China appears to be assisting North Korea, rather than taking the lead. Both sides have modified their approaches.

What is irreducible, however, is China remains committed to assist and cooperate with North Korea. After the debacle over the April space launch attempt, these modest agreements are an achievement for Kim Jong-un's budding economic reform program. If they prove profitable, the Chinese will invest more.


Russia-US-India: A US news outlet reported that a Russian Akula-class nuclear-powered attack submarine operated undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for several weeks. The stealth underwater incursion in the Gulf took place at the same time Russian strategic bombers made incursions into restricted U.S. airspace near Alaska and California in June and July. Its presence only was confirmed after it left the region.

Comment: The US Navy prudently has made no comment on the story. There is nothing to be gained by providing any information to the Russians that corroborates or refutes the news item. The information cannot be corroborated in open source materials.

Akula-class submarines are quiet, by reputation. The Russians have flown strategic bomber missions against the US this summer. This is the first news item to suggest the bomber flights occurred during a submarine operation in the Gulf of Mexico. The coincidence remains unconfirmed, but plausible.

What is more interesting to NightWatch is the Indian Navy is leasing an Akula-class submarine from Russia, with significant Russian assistance. If the Russians can sneak into the Gulf of Mexico - sort of doubtful - imagine what the Indians can do with a similar submarine in the South China Sea or the Bohai Gulf.

Egypt: Update. President Mursi gave medals to Field Marshal Tantawi and Lieutenant General Sami Annan today, both of whom retired.

One commentator noted that with the termination of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, responsibility for political and economic success or failure now falls squarely on Mursi.

Tunisia: For the record. Islamist extremists have targeted two Tunisian Olympic medalists for behavior and dress seen as un-Islamic. On social media networks they called on the government to strip Habiba Ghribi, the first Tunisian woman to win an Olympic medal, of her nationality because her running outfit was too revealing.

End of NightWatch for 14 August.

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