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NightWatch 20130315

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NightWatch

For the night of 15 March 2013

North Korea: South and North Korean media provided several updates on the North Korean military activity in the last two weeks of the Winter Training Cycle.

A North Korean military unit fired two short-range missiles in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan. The missiles are presumed to be North Korean knock-offs of the Soviet SS-21 short range, tactical ballistic missile.

Comment: The two missiles fired might have been crew training, but more likely reliability testing. Reliability testing is essential because missiles deteriorate in storage. The technology was new in 1981. That does not mean the missiles are ineffective or even that old. But samples from every production batch have to be tested to determine they still work.

A South Korean spokesman confirmed that North Korean forces are in the final stages of the annual winter training cycle. "North Korea is conducting military exercises separately at the level of each military unit, and combined exercises at the national level have not yet started," Kim Min Seok said at a press briefing.

Comment:  The operative word in the first clause is "separately." The concluding phase of winter training is large combined armed exercises at the national level. The separate unit-lefvel exercises build to the national-level combined exercises that culminate winter training every year.

South Korea is "closely watching the North's military movements because there is a possibility the exercises at a national level are to be held in areas near the east coast," Kim said.

The Daily NK reported that the first stage of North Korea's combined military exercises will conclude on 17 March. A North Korean military source explained, "The General Staff Department plans to complete the first stage of nationwide training by the 17th. This training involves the mass mobilization of civilians and personnel, movement of men and equipment to certain locations, and concentration of firepower."

"All artillery, armored vehicle and tank units will continue with their individual targeted firing exercises to the end of the week," he went on. The light infantry known locally as 'Special Forces' is currently engaged in extended marches, he added, explaining that this involves three-day marches without sleep.

"Those Special Forces members dispatched to the 'Storm Corps' are doing undercover raids on specified locations, occupations and kidnapping operations, which local people are supposed to be reporting to the authorities," he noted, adding, "This is what we call 'dual training'."

"After the first stage is complete there will be combined naval fleet, fighter jet and artillery exercises in and around the East Sea," the source added.

Comment: The report from the Daily NK source describes a reasonably typical culmination exercise at the end of winter training, as for the military activities. The participation of civilians in nationwide training is infrequent because it is so costly. There have been complaints about the extra burden of feeding the civilians during the exercises.

Civil Defense Activities. According to the source, civilians are required to take part in the 'dual training'. Local homes must produce certain signaling flags: when there is an attack a red flag is raised, and at times of safety the flag should be blue. They have also been asked to prepare plastic film, light shields, emergency food supplies and whistles for use in case of chemical weapons attack.

Comment: The activity, as reported, is training, not a cover for war preparations. The focus is a training area on the east coast. The special forces are acting as the opposing force for the civil defense effort, which is common in nationwide drills that include civil defense activities. This effort is the spectacle that the North wants to be seen.

The provocation is more likely to be against the offshore islands off the southwest coast. North Korea warned that it would be advisable for residents in several islands near the maritime border in the Yellow Sea to evacuate, according to Uriminzokkiri, North Korea's propaganda Web site.

Civilian evacuation is one of the most disruptive civil defense activities anywhere in the world. As a result is it more diagnostic of an enemy's intentions. North Koreans in general do not have personal computers. Uriminzokkiri is a web site in China that carries news items already published by the North Korean central media.

Feedback: More on the venomous swish of skirt metaphor.

A Brilliant Culturally attuned Reader reported that in Korean culture the swish of skirt is a metaphor for an aggressive woman. That reference probably applies to many cultures as well, in one form or another.

Another Brilliant and well-read Reader forwarded the following poem from the Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery, Vol V, January to June, 1899. It carries the tincture of poison.

Life is not a bed of roses,

When the vile tuberculosis

Has the upper hand.

But the rationalisation

Of the ladies of our nation,

So I'm given to understand,

Will remove its awful terrors,

Due to skirts and sweeping errors

In the costume a la mode.

Yet I never had a notion

That the poetry of motion

Gathered microbes from the road.

And the cause of all distress is

Mud that dries upon the dresses,

Harboring a wealth of dirt--

At least Lady H. supposes

This to be the diagnosis

Of the fell tuberculosis.

Why not try the " Bloomer " process

And eschew the poisoned skirt ?

A Brilliant Reader and Physician assured NightWatch that tuberculosis cannot be transmitted from dried mud flung from the hem of a long skirt.

Erratum: Misspelling. The name of the Premier of China is Li Keqiang vice Li Kegiang. Li is expected to close the National People's Congress with a press conference on Sunday, 17 March. The BBC reported that Li speaks fluent English.

End of NightWatch for 15 March.

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