For the night of 1 June 2014
China-US: Public exchanges by senior US and Chinese leaders have increased strain in Chinese-US relations. The Asian Security Forum that was held last week in Singapore, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, was the center of the verbal sparring.
In Singapore, Secretary Hagel, supported by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, accused the Chinese of destabilizing Asia by taking unilateral actions to assert sovereignty in the South China Sea. (The speech covered other issues, but the South China Sea remarks set off the Chinese.)
The Japanese Prime Minister told the Forum Japan will offer its "utmost support" to Southeast Asian countries as they seek to protect their seas and airspace.
China quickly struck back. Chinese media published remarks by General Wang Guanzhong, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, in which he criticized the American Secretary for making such remarks in public. Wang said Hagel's speech was "full of hegemony, incitement, threats and intimidation."
On Friday, Xinhua published remarks by Chinese President Xi Jinping. During a meeting in Beijing with Malaysia's prime minister, Xi said that China will not initiate aggressive action in the South China Sea, but will respond if other countries do.
Comment: Following US public accusations of Chinese computer hacking, Secretary Hagel's remarks are likely to reinforce Chinese suspicions that the US actively is attempting to contain China.
The warnings and threats will not change Chinese behavior. President's Xi's attempt at reassurance is actually a rephrasing of existing policy. It does not signify compromise or a change in Chinese activities in the South China Sea.
At this stage, China essentially has picked a quarrel with all of its maritime neighbors, but has avoided a test of military strength. Nevertheless, that is almost inevitable because China will not back down.
Despite the verbal exchanges, China's behavior suggests the leadership perceives no reason to exercise greater caution based on US behavior. On the other hand, a Japanese-led regional security cooperation arrangement would be a concern, should it emerge.
China is offering no peaceful economic arrangement that might sidestep confrontation, while allowing nations to profit from sea and seabed resources. China's blunt, pugnacious management style requires acceptance of Chinese sovereignty before other arrangements may be addressed. That is reminiscent of the style of the Chinese empire in dealing with tributary kingdoms and states.
Thailand: On Sunday, more than 5,000 soldiers deployed to block roads into central Bangkok to prevent anti-junta activists from assembling a flash-mob to protest the military coup. The army also suspended train services to the city center.
Comment: Press reports indicate the army stopped the protests in central Bangkok, along with most commercial businesses. If so, the protest was a partial success.
On the other hand, there were no clashes; no one was injured and the junta showed it will not allow the creation of protest camps in the centers of the major cities.
Russia-Abkhazia: On Saturday, the Abkhaz parliament voted to oust the Abkhaz President, Aleksandr Z. Ankvab, designated its speaker, Valery Bganba, as the acting president and scheduled an early presidential election for 24 August.
On Saturday, Mr. Ankvab rejected Parliament's actions and insisted that he would remain in office. On Sunday evening, however, Mr. Ankvab resigned from office.
Comment: Ankvab left the Abkhaz capital, Sukhumi, on Tuesday when large numbers of demonstrators gathered and sacked his offices. The protests reportedly were led by Raul Khadzhimba, a former prime minister and vice-president, who has accused Ankvab of corruption and economic mismanagement.
Abkhazia is one of the two former regions of Georgia whose secession was recognized by Russian intervention in 2008.
One US commentary described the quick ouster as Abkhazia's "Maydan moment." Maydan is the square in Kyiv, Ukraine, where protestors camped to force Yanukovych from office. Abkhazians rejected that analogy in multiple blog responses.
They pointed out that the political confrontation had nothing to do with pro-West and pro-Russian factions. Abkhazia would have no economy without Russian assistance. Ankvab's personal corruption and mismanagement of Russian aid led to his resignation.
Special comment: Although the setting and context are dissimilar to Ukraine, the process of election nullification by a core of disgruntled, technologically savvy, political activists is similar to what happened in Ukraine.
The lesson is that the skillful use of technology by a small vocal cadre once again nullified the will of the majority of voters. It seems the legal, democratic mechanisms for redress of political grievances - impeachment or waiting until the next election - are too slow for some activists and stakeholders.
In the modern cell-phone era, impatience and activism are combining to overwhelm or nullify the sluggish institutions of democracies.
Russian reaction. The Foreign Ministry called for calm and respect for law and order. Apparently, significant Russian interests are not tied to Ankvab or jeopardized by his resignation.
Ukraine: Fighting continues. Ukrainian troops used mortars to shell the suburbs of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine today, according to a spokesman for Slavyansk's self-defense volunteer corps. He said the mortar rounds damaged the buildings of the Sails of Hope children's home and a research institute and they downed power lines for the trolleybus service. No children were injured because authorities evacuated them last week.
In Donetsk six separatist fighters died near the airport while trying to retrieve the bodies of dead separatist fighters.
Comment: No news services have reported Ukrainian air attacks since the helicopter shoot-down last week. Progress by Kyiv's ground forces has slowed.
Libya: General Hifter's operations against terrorists and Islamist militias are continuing, slowly. A senior military officer told the media that a Libyan Air Force jet attacked a base in Benghazi held by a militant group called February 17, an ally of Ansar al-Shariah. The officer said it was a surprise attack and promised there would be more of them.
An official from Ansar al-Shariah reported that no one was hurt in the attack and claimed that one of two rockets fired by the aircraft hit a car dealership. Another source said they hit a university building.
Comment: Hifter's operations are in Benghazi, where he has his base. He appears to be using aircraft to try to weaken militant base areas before ordering ground attacks. He also seems to be in no hurry.
On Friday, after prayers, hundreds of activists in Tripoli, Benghazi, Tobruk and other cities demonstrated in support of the armed forces, the police and Operation Dignity. The protestors demanded the departure of the armed militias that have refused to disarm, join the regular forces, or disband in the past year.
Comment: The protests began the week General Hifter announced his operations in Benghazi. They are likely to become a weekly event.
Cameroon: On 31 May, Cameroonian military units engaged in a pro-longed firefight with Boko Haram gunmen in Waza-Dabanga in the Far North Region of Cameroon. This was the first major clash between the Cameroonian army and Boko Haram since the Paris Summit on security in Nigeria on 17 May. That is where and when Cameroonian President Biya vowed to wage a merciless war against Boko Haram.
The Cameroonian government reported that its forces killed 40 Boko Haram fighters and destroyed their vehicles, while sustaining no casualties to the Cameroonian Armed Forces.
Boko Haram freed a Canadian nun and two Italian priests that its fighters captured on 4 April in Cameroon. A military spokesman said the release was part of a prisoner exchange accompanied by a ransom payment.
Nigeria: Over the weekend, Boko Haram is suspected of detonating a bomb at the end of a soccer match near the base of a special operations battalion in the town of Mubi, in northeastern Nigeria. Forty people died in this attack
Boko Haram also attacked four villages on Saturday, burning the houses and stealing the livestock. They killed 15 villagers according to one account.
On Friday, Boko Haram gunmen ambushed the car of the Emir of Gwoza, one of the traditional Islamic emirs in northern Nigeria. Two other Emirs in the convoy managed to escape.
Comment: This attack, more than any other, tends to prove Boko Haram is a crime syndicate that uses religion to justify its depredations. It has little to do with religion, but a lot to do with Nigerian politics.
On Friday, the head of Nigeria's counter-terrorism effort criticized Cameroon for not doing enough to help.
Comment: The criticism came the day before Cameroonian soldiers clashed with Boko Haram. The Cameroonian government rejected the criticism. In the four days since Cameroon reinforced the far northern region, its forces have killed more Boko Haram fighters than the Nigerian Army has in the last two weeks.
One noteworthy new analysis of Nigeria's security problem was presented in an interview with one of President Jonathan's sometime advisors. This man said that the governors of the three northeastern states use Boko Haram to extort aid from the central government and to make President Jonathan appear incompetent.
End of NightWatch for 1 June.
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