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NightWatch 20091215

NightWatch

For the Night of 15 December 2009

North Korea: Authorities are placating people outraged by the currency reform and exchange. They have raised the maximum amount of old bills that can be exchanged into new ones, Chosun Ilbo reported 15 December.

On 6 December the government said old bills could be exchanged through bank deposits and those up to a million won would not be traced. Authorities added that deposits of more than a million could be withdrawn if depositors explained how they earned it.

Rioting was reported Dec. 5-6 and 12 "masterminds" were executed. Authorities were on heightened alert for mass defections, suspending issuance of border passes and reinforcing border guards.

For the record. North Korean Security Minister Ju Sang Song traveled to China on 15 December, making it the first such trip by a North Korean security minister in more than 10 years, Yonhap reported, citing Korean Central News Agency.

The reasons for official visits are never publicized. In the case of the security minister, the North Korean might expect some gentle guidance from the Chinese about managing nationwide money reform without risking the survival of the regime.

Vietnam-Russia: Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, following talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, said Vietnam will buy six Russian-built 636-class diesel-powered submarines for $1.7 billion, Interfax reported 15 December. The prime ministers added that their countries intend to boost cooperation on defense and energy issues. Putin said Russia plans to bid for constructing Vietnam's first nuclear power plant. The prime ministers provided no details about the armament of the submarines

The Vietnamese want Russia Kilo-Class (636-class) submarines to deter the Chinese navy from operating in the South China Sea where the Chinese contest Vietnamese and other claims to seabed mineral deposits and the Spratly Islands.

Pakistan: Demands by the United States for Pakistan to crack down on Afghan Taliban leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, whose fighters are assessed responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Kabul, have been refused by the Pakistani military, according to Pakistani military officials and diplomats according to a report in The Hindu on 15 December.

According to the report, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, told the Americans that the Pakistan Army already had its hands full in fighting enemies of Pakistan.

Afghanistan: Police said at least eight people were killed and 40 wounded when a suicide bomber struck the district of Wazir Akbar Khan in Kabul, Agence France-Presse reported 15 December. The bomb exploded outside the gate of the Heetal Hotel near the home of a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, gutting at least four nearby houses and damaging vehicles.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zamarai Bashary stated that it was a suicide bombing that left casualties, both dead and wounded, including civilians and security personnel. Heetal manager Paul Gomes said the explosion happened close to but not in the hotel.

Chad: Update. The Chadian military called in air strikes on3 and14 December against rebel positions in the towns of Ade and Tissi in eastern Chad, Reuters reported 15 December, citing a statement from the Chadian information minister and a rebel spokesman. The rebel group, the Union of Resistance Forces, claimed to have killed 100 Chadian soldiers in an ambush following the air strikes, the first since May.

News of this continuing struggle appears infrequently in the US. It has not gone away but the Chadians appear to be holding their own. Sudan is the primary backer of the Chadian rebels.

US-Iran: A US official said the United States will test its core missile defenses for the first time in January (2010) against a simulated long-range Iranian attack, Reuters reported today.

Army Lieutenant General Patrick O'Reilly, head of the Missile Defense Agency, said the roughly $150 million test was a departure from the more standard scenario of a North Korean attack. He stated that the next test is similar to what would be used defending against an Iranian shot into the United States, adding that it is the first time for testing in a different scenario.

Hmm…In bragging about the new test vectors, the general told the Iranians they have a window of assurance against a US-Israeli attack that extends at least through the US test cycle. Did the general know he was telling the Iranians not to worry? Or, was he another chatty American general or was he deceiving the Iranians.

End of NightWatch for 15 December.

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