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NightWatch 20130403

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For the night of 3 April 2013

North Korea-US: Warning. Today's General Staff statement and the detection of an intermediate-range ballistic missile at an east coast site indicate the North Koreans are ready to launch a missile without additional warning. Miscalculation and misperception could lead to a missile firing.

The statement contains language in the official English translation that announces North Korea will take actual (also translated, practical) military measures to counter a list of US military deployments. It lacks the conditional language characteristic of prior statements. It also says North Korea has sent a strong message to the South Korean authorities, apparently a warning.

The detection of a single Musudan intermediate range ballistic missile at an east coast launch site, as reported by South Korea's Yonhap news agency, adds support to the statement about taking actual military countermeasures. The location of the missile on the east coast and the repeated mention of bombers from Guam provide some basis for concern that Guam could be a target. Guam is the closest US territory in range.

It remains unclear what would trigger Kim to give a launch order, but US deployments publicized as deterrent measures have prompted a succession of North Korean escalation moves, culminating today in the deployment of the Musudan ballistic missile.

The General Staff Statement. (source: Korean Central News Agency, English language version, dated 4 April) Highlights and notes added by NightWatch. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea, i.e., North Korea.

"The spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA) issued the following statement Thursday: A touch-and-go situation is prevailing on the Korean Peninsula."

"Yesterday (3 April) the US imperialist army of aggression's B-52 nuclear strategic bomber formation launched from Guam flew into the airspace over the South Korean region unexpectedly and staged a real-war nuclear strike exercise against our simulated targets, and today FF-22 stealth fighter bomber formations that flew from the Japanese mainland and Okinawa were deployed to the Osan Airbase on the lookout for surprise strike opportunities."

"Meanwhile, the B-2 latest nuclear strategic bomber bunch that left the US mainland sneaked into the airspace over the Korea West Sea (Yellow Sea), and, subsequently, nuclear-powered guided missile submarines and guided bomb destroyers operating in the waters of western Pacific under the Navy of the US imperialist army of aggression began running around in the waters of the Korea West Sea (Yellow Sea) and East Sea (Sea of Japan).

A nuclear-powered super-large aircraft carrier group that left the waters of the Indian Ocean or the West Coast of the US mainland will reportedly barge into the waters of the Korean peninsula not long later.

(Note: five paragraphs of accusations and rhetoric omitted.)

"The moment of explosion is approaching fast."

"No one can say a war will break out in Korea or not and whether it will break out today or tomorrow."

(Note: another version of this statement states that the situation has moved beyond the question of whether war will break out.)

"The responsibility for this grave situation entirely rests with the U.S. Administration and military warmongers keen to encroach upon the DPRK's sovereignty and bring down its dignified social system with brigandish logic."

"In view of this situation, the KPA General Staff in charge of all operations will take powerful practical military counteractions in succession as the KPA Supreme Command had already solemnly declared internally and externally. "

"We have already sent a strong message to the present puppet authorities and military of South Korea following in the footsteps of traitor Lee Myung Bak (note: former ROK President before President Park) so that they may understand our position."

"As a matter of fact, puppet military gangsters such as Kim Kwan Jin (note: current ROK Minister of National Defense) are human rejects not worth becoming targets of the DPRK's revolutionary armed forces."

"We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified," the statement said.

The missile. Missiles are "nuclear strike means."

As reported in Yonhap. "South Korea and the U.S. intelligence authorities have detected signs that North Korea moved an object seen as a mid-range missile to its east coast," one of the sources was quoted as saying."

"Intelligence analysis has shown that the missile is believed to be a mid-range "Musudan"-level missile, the source said. The object is believed to have been moved by train."

Comment: The Musudan is a North Korean variant of the Soviet SS-N-6 submarine-launched ballistic missile. It is a much-tested missile that was designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Its range is 4,000 km, enough to reach Guam. The North Koreans have adapted it for launch from a large military truck-mounted launcher.

It is not known whether the North Koreans have nuclear warheads for their Musudans. The North Koreans have never test launched a Musudan, but they have been imaged in parades or in static displays since 2003. The missile experts say the SS-N-6 was one of the most reliable missiles in the Soviet arsenal.

General Comment: On 28 March, Kim Jong Un approved the firing plan for missile attacks. The difference between the statement issued then and today's statement is that the latest statement lacks conditional language. It contains no clauses introduced by "if," as in, "If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces,…" contained in the 28 March statement.

This omission indicates the North's strategists judge the condition has been fulfilled: they judge the US has made a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces.

The General Staff statement lists the movements and deployments by US forces that North Korea considers reckless, strategic and provocative: B-52s, B-2s, F-22s, submarines, destroyers and an aircraft carrier task group.  The primary way North Korea learns about such movements is from US official announcements.

NightWatch reported last week that North Korea registers and reacts to every military move the US announces. The announced moves are not deterrent to the North Koreans, they are provocative and escalatory.

The asymmetry of capabilities and the shortness of time to attack compel North Korean intelligence and decision makers to evaluate these measures as real war preparations. Their statements indicate they perceive no restraint in US military movements, only a building threat. The placement of a ballistic missile in plain view not at a test site is their sign of earnest.

To review, they have said they will fire missiles; announced approval of the missile attack plan; announced that they have put the missiles on standby to fire; announced their targets, notified South Korea and the US of their conditions for firing and now have shown a long range missile at a location where it has never been detected before. The North Koreans seem almost fatalistic about the need to fire a missile and its consequences.

Status of Kaesong Industrial Complex. North Korean authorities issued another warning to South Korea on 3 April that the joint industrial zone may be closed at any moment if the South Koreans do not stop insulting North Korea about the money it earns from the complex.

The North stated that the complex only benefits the South Korean companies and it is for them and the workers that the complex remains active."

Comment: The complex contains 120 factories that employ, according to press reports, more than 50,000 North Koreans and about 1,000 South Koreans. South Korean media in contact with men at the complex reported operations were normal on 3 April.

More than 800 South Korean workers decided to remain in Kaesong to keep the factories working. North Korea has not evicted them and is allowing them to leave.

Some workers said the factories require daily supplies of raw materials and gasoline to maintain production and that they will be forced to close in two or three days. After that the workers will have to return to the South.

Afghanistan: An attack by a group of eight or nine suicide assailants, dressed as soldiers, in western Farah Province left at least 53 killed and nearly 100 people wounded. The Afghan Interior Ministry said the attack took place in Farah City. One of the suicide assailants detonated his explosives in front of the provincial prosecution office. Other assailants entered the building and a branch of the Kabul Bank.

The Afghan Taliban claimed credit for the attack.

Comment: The Taliban claimed the attack was aimed at freeing a dozen fighters unfairly detained, according to the Taliban. The large number of casualties resulted from the Taliban shooting the people they held hostage. Fighting data show the Taliban have an effective presence in six of the eleven districts in Farah.

Syria-Lebanon: For the record. A Syrian military helicopter fired at a house in the town of Arsal along the Lebanon-Syria border on 3 April, citing Lebanon's state-run National News Agency.

Comment: This is the second Syrian air attack along the border. The expansion of the fighting to Lebanon is slow but steady.

Israel-Hamas: Rockets from Gaza hit Israel on 3 April, Israeli authorities said. One rocket landed at the entrance of Sderot without causing injuries. Explosives disposal experts are still searching for a second one, a spokesman said.

The militant groups who renewed the rocket fire claim that they acted to protest the fact that Hamas failed to react to the death of the Palestinian prisoner Maysarah Abu-Hamdiyah in an Israeli jail.

Comment: The attack does not seem to portend a renewal of fighting. Egypt reportedly acted as intermediary for conveying Hamas' messages to Israel that Hamas promised to maintain the cease-fire and would act to restrain the elements that violated it. Hamas authorities reportedly are conducting arrests of the militants who were responsible for the latest rocket salvo.

End of NightWatch for 3 April.

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