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NightWatch 20140321

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For the night of 21 March 2014

North Korea: North Korea fired another 30 short-range rockets from the east coast range on 22 March. They flew 37 miles and landed in the Sea of Japan.

Comment: Whatever Chinese envoy Wu Dawei accomplished during his visit to Pyongyang on the 17th, Readers now know it had no impact on winter rocket firing practice. That is how the North Koreans described the firings earlier this week.

Thailand: On 21 March, the Constitutional Court invalided the 2 February elections called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government because the candidate registration process was disrupted in parts of Bangkok and 28 districts, most in southern Thailand. The ballots listed no candidates.

In other districts voters were prevented by the opposition from registering or from voting. Thus not all districts were able to vote on the same day, as prescribed by the Thai constitution.

It is too soon for a new election date to be set.

Comment: The opposition's reaction was to vow to disrupt the next elections. The opposition favors an appointed government of technocrats because the demographics favor Yingluck's party. The outlook is for a resumption of protests and clashes.

Russia: Today President Putin signed the annexation law that completes the ratification process for the treaty that admits Crimea to the Russian Federation.

Russia-Ukraine: Update. Russian officials have been airing a discussion of federalism as it might apply to southeastern Ukraine, including Odessa and Kharkiv. Russia also has not accelerated payments for energy or called in Ukrainian debts. It is allowing Ukrainian military personnel to depart Crimea in orderly fashion.

Today prime minister Yatsenyuk said that Ukraine will sue Russia to obtain compensation for Ukrainian property in Crimea. Yatsenyuk spoke as if he expected a windfall of payments from Russia in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

Comment: US officials can say they will never recognize Crimea's admission to the Russian Federation, but the Ukrainians will recognize it after they start accepting compensation for lost property.

Ukraine-European Union: The regime in Kyiv approved the association agreement with the European Union. Germany announced a series of new measures to monitor Ukraine and provide assistance through the International Monetary Fund.

South Sudan: Talks in Ethiopia continue to stall because of disagreements over conditions for talks. The government will not talk with political prisoners present and the rebels will not talk without them. Both sides appear to be hoping battlefield advantages will decide talks.

On Thursday, both the government and the rebels claimed they controlled Malakal, near the oil fields in northern South Sudan. Uganda air and ground forces continue to assist the government forces.

Comment: The key points are that fighting continues in northern South Sudan, but the oil fields are continuing to pump oil.

Mali: French Minister of Defense Le Drian announced on Thursday that French had been conducting operations during the past few weeks and killed 40 Islamist fighters in northern Mali. Among those killed, was a senior leader of Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

On 21 March, the US Department of State updated its travel warning for Mali. A pertinent excerpt follows.

"There remains ongoing conflict in northern Mali and continuing threats of attacks on and kidnappings of westerners and others. While the security situation in Bamako and southern Mali remains relatively stable, the potential for attacks throughout the country, including in Bamako, remains. There are also ongoing security concerns and military operations taking place in the northern and western parts of the country. Mali continues to face challenges including food shortages, internally displaced persons, and the presence in northern Mali of extremist and militant factions."

Comment: After more than a year, the French are still chasing Islamists in the north. That has helped keep the south more secure, but not entirely. The mission has lasted longer and cost more than the French government ever expected. Plus the rebels are on the run, but not daunted. They continue to vow to attack the French and the Bamako government.

Central African Republic: The leaders of the Central African Republic (CAR) have requested French forces and African Union peacekeeping forces to help in disarming various militia groups. Killings occur daily in Bangui, the capital. CAR is lawless.

The head of the French military mission in CAR has asked European Union (EU) nations to provide more logistics support quickly. An EU peacekeeping force was supposed to have deployed this week, according to mission commander General Ponties, but that deployment depends on the creation of a 100-man logistics unit.

Comment: In short, the French/EU mission lacks soldiers and support. The French are overextended.

End of NightWatch for 21 March.

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