For the night of 14 May 2014
Philippines-Spratly Islands-China: The Philippines accused China of engaging in construction on Johnson South Reef in the Union Banks of the Spratly Islands. The Philippines also claims the reef and contends that the construction and the reclamation work violate understandings that claimants would undertake no provocative acts.
Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose told the press that China has been improving the reef since January or February and appears to be preparing to build an airstrip. The Philippines filed a formal protest with China on 4 April.
Today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying confirmed that China is building on Johnson South Reef. "Construction by the Chinese side on an island in Chinese territory is entirely a matter that comes under Chinese sovereignty," she said. She declined to say what China was building.
Comment: Johnson South Reef is about 250 miles west of the Philippine island of Palawan. In 1988, China captured Johnson South Reef from Vietnam in an armed skirmish in which at least 70 Vietnamese died. China maintains a manned outpost on the island, which is barely above sea level. Philippine press sources reported that Chinese ships have been carrying large shipments of soil to the island to build it up.
It is not clear what the Chinese are building. If China is building an airstrip, it would be its first in the Spratlys. The islet needs a lot of work to make it suitable for a landing strip. Long before that time, it might be suitable for a surveillance radar system. That would heighten concern that China intends to declare an air defense zone for the South China Sea, as it did for the East China Sea.
China-Vietnam: Update. The Chinese Embassy in Hanoi on 14 May issued a safety warning to Chinese firms and workers in Vietnam after angry crowds burned 15 foreign-owned factories in the south. The crowds protested China's placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam.
At the oil rig site, the naval confrontation continued on Tuesday when ships bumped each other again. No casualties were reported.
India: For the record. Election officials said that the results of the general elections will be announced on 15 May. Most analysts expect the Congress Party to experience a major electoral defeat.
Kashmir. Indian military authorities report a spike in cross-border firings from Pakistan in several key districts along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir State. The firing in one sector coincided with three infiltration attempts in three days. All occurred around midnight. Seven cross-border exchanges have occurred in the past 18 days.
Comment: Indian intelligence sources told the press that the Pakistani firing is aimed at covering infiltration into Indian Kashmir by groups of up to four ultras (the Indian term for Kashmiri militants) from Pakistani Kashmir. Infiltration from Pakistan and Pakistan Army covering fire always increase after the snows melt.
Afghanistan: Afghan Independent Election Commission spokesman Nur Mohammad Nur said the final results on the first round of elections would be announced on 15 May. He also said the second round of the presidential election would be held on 14 June.
He said that the Commission will announce the final results of the provincial council elections on 7 June.
Comment: Abdullah Abdullah appears likely to be the next president. He is a trained medical doctor and was a close friend and advisor to the Northern Alliance leader, the late Ahmad Shah Massoud, whom the Taliban murdered in 2001.
Ukraine: On 14 May, Ukrainian press reported a "fierce battle" between Kyiv regime forces and a "group of terrorists" on the outskirts of Starovarvarovka, which is 30 km from Kramatorsk, in Donetsk Oblast's Oleksandrivskyy Rayon. The report said that the regime forces have surrounded the group in a pine wood. Authorities believe the group is the same that ambushed a Ukrainian army convoy yesterday, killing seven soldiers.
In Donetsk, a militia leader delivered an ultimatum to Ukrainian military units. The deputy militia commander, Serhiy Zdrilyuk, said, "If the armored vehicles are not withdrawn or the roadblocks of the so-called legitimate authorities are not removed … all will be destroyed and burned. Reconnaissance and sabotage groups are ready to go and some are already at their positions," Zdrilyuk said. "I give them 24 hours to withdraw the troops, all forces."
Comment: Other reports suggest the ultimatum is directed at two specific road blocks near Donetsk. Two things are clear: the separatist militia is about to undertake one of the first operations to oust Ukrainian forces since the referendum and firefights will occur.
National unity talks. In his opening remarks at the first all-Ukrainian roundtable of national unity in Kyiv on Wednesday, acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said that the authorities are ready for dialogue with the regions but will not permit Ukraine "to be terrorized or blackmailed."
"We are ready for dialogue. We are ready to hear everyone but in order to make people heard there is no need to shoot, no need to rob, no need to take over buildings. We are open to dialogue. Both the parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers are ready for systemic changes in the system of government," he said in his opening speech at the roundtable.
Former presidents Leonid Kravchuk and Leonid Kuchma, presidential candidates Serhiy Tihipko, Renat Kuzmin and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko were present for the talks.
The event was also attended by the leadership of parliament, religious leaders, foreign diplomats and ambassadors, including US ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, members of different factions of Verkhovna Rada (the parliament) and Kyiv regime Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Comment: No representatives from the regimes of the two separatist oblasts were present. The talks did address devolution of more power to the regions, but did not consider creation of a federal system. The group approved Tymoshenko's proposal that the next round table meeting be held in Donetsk. That is a deliberate provocation.
Russia: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, making it difficult to hold free and fair elections later this month. 'When Ukrainians kill Ukrainians, I believe this is as close to a civil war as you can get,' Lavrov said in an interview.
Comment: This is the first time Lavrov has described the security situation in such grave terms. His point is that it is not possible to hold a credible presidential election on 25 May.
The round table talks are not what the Russians had in mind when President Putin said he supported dialogue. Nevertheless, the Russians are being very careful to not show their intentions yet.
End of NightWatch for 14 May.
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