For the night of 27 March 2013
North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported that North Korea telephoned South Korea via the military hotline still in operation to inform the South that the North was terminating the connection immediately. Emphasis added by NightWatch.
"…the head of the DPRK side's delegation to the north-south general-level military talks sent the South Korean puppet military authorities the following telephone message at 11:20 on Wednesday: The situation is becoming grim as the south side staged the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle nuclear war exercises pursuant to the U.S. moves to encroach upon the sovereignty of the DPRK."
"Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides."
"War and confrontation can never go together with dialogue and reconciliation under any circumstances."
"I, upon authorization, inform the south side that the north-south military communications will be cut off and the members of the north side at the military communications liaison office in the zone under the control of the north and the south in the west coastal area will stop their activities from this moment."
'This step will be thoroughly implemented as long as the south side's anachronistic hostile acts against the DPRK go on."
"There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the north and the south."
"Not words but only arms will work on the U.S. and the South Korean puppet forces."
"The will of the army and people of the DPRK to safeguard the sovereignty and the supreme dignity of the country will be displayed through practical physical counteraction."
Comment: Severing communications links is a pre-attack indicator, but it is non-specific as to timing. The English language broadcast of the statement indicates that communications might be restored, but not before arms are used on the US and South Korea.
North Korea still has the option of doing nothing and boasting that its tough rhetoric, nationwide exercises and increased readiness plus its statesmanship are responsible for averting general war.
It has conducted spoofs of that type in the past, as a setup to talks and to extort concessions from South Korea, mainly. Nevertheless, until it stands down the artillery from full combat readiness, high Allied vigilance and readiness are essential for deterrence and instant retaliation in order to break that pattern of behavior.
Kaesong as an indicator. Several well-informed analysts raised a question about whether North Korea was still allowing South Korean managers and workers to travel to the joint economic zone at Kaesong, north of Panmunjom.
The Daily NK reported that transit to and from the Kaesong Complex operated normally on the 27th. According to South Korea's Unification Ministry, 457 South Korean workers and business managers crossed the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) en route the Kaesong Complex in the morning and 468 returned at 17:00. "As it stands the enterprises in the Kaesong Complex are operating normally, and there are no problems for the 751 workers who are residing there."
Comment: Daily phone calls on the military hotline were used to coordinate the movement of the South Korean workers with North Korean security authorities to ensure there were no problems in crossing the DMZ. The Unification Ministry called the termination of the communications line unhelpful for Kaesong operations. It offered no additional comment about what happens on the 28th.
North Korean termination of this daily routine would be an important sign that the situation was approaching a culmination point.
Pakistan-US: For the record. Pakistan declined a request for a visit to Islamabad by US Secretary of State John Kerry, The Nation newspaper reported, but was offered an invitation to visit in May after general elections and a new government is chosen. Pakistan and the US agreed to avoid the appearance of outside meddling in the political campaign. Other diplomatic exchanges are normal.
Central African Republic (CAR): A senior United Nations official reported security is improving in Bangui, after days of uncontrolled looting. Rebel faction leader Michel Djotodia is the self-styled leader. He said he intends to stay in office until 2016.
Comment: Djotodia leads one group in Seleka, which is an alliance of some 5,000 armed and discontented young men in a in different rebel groups. Until last month, Djotodia was the country's Minister of Defense, under the January peace agreement.
CAR is one of the poorest places on earth, with per capita GDP less than $800 per annum. Military overthrows are its primary means of changing government. Ousted president Bozize came to power ten years ago in virtually identical fashion to Djotodia, as did most of his predecessors, starting with Jean Bedel Bokassa.
CAR-South Africa: The South African government is under pressure about its military mission in the Central African Republic because 13 of its soldiers were killed and 28 wounded in fighting on Saturday. The political opposition called for a parliamentary inquiry into what the troops were doing in Central African Republic.
Comment: In January, South African President Zuma sent 200 South African soldiers to CAR to join the peacekeeping force of 1,000 soldiers from five African states. All but the South Africans declined to join the fighting.
Apparently South Africa's leaders intended to use the CAR operation to establish their military leadership credentials as peacekeepers. Instead, the operation has turned into a political and military embarrassment.
Wounded South African soldiers told the press that they were doing no training of CAR soldiers, though their publicly stated mission was "capacity building for the CAR defense forces." The disclosures have deepened political opposition questions as to what the actual mission was.
Tunisia: The Tunisian government announced yesterday it was setting up crisis cells after the United States warned that al-Qaida in the African Maghreb (AQIM) was seeking to establish a base in the country.
"We have launched the creation of crisis cells to monitor terrorist activities on the border (with Libya and Algeria) and in the interior, faced with the rise of the militant movement and the existence of recruitment networks," Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou told Parliament.
He said those cells would be under the control of Tunisia's Supreme Security Council and would also gather information on networks enrolling young Tunisians to fight in Syria.
Mali: For the record. The Malian army announced casualties from operations that began on 11 January 2013.
"Since the start of the military offensive launched January 11, 2013 against the Islamists, the death toll is 63 Malian soldiers killed and our opponents have lost about 600 fighters," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Souleymane Maiga said. "The deaths among the Islamists are an estimate, because the Islamists generally take their dead away for burial."
As for foreign casualties, Maiga said one Togolese, one Burkinabe soldier and five French soldiers have been killed since 11 January.
Comment: News services have carried no recent reports of combat or of force drawdowns. The French and Malian control of information is effective.
The death of an estimated 600 Islamists would leave about 1,400 remaining, assuming the early estimates of 2,000 rebel fighters were accurate. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said up to 11,200 troops could be needed for a peacekeeping mission in Mali.
End of NightWatch for 27 March.
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