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NightWatch 20100112

NightWatch

For the Night of 12 January 2010

North Korea: Reuters reported on 12 January that North Korea's Ambassador to China, Choe Jin Su, said Six Party Talks could resume only after the lifting of sanctions on North Korea and acceptance of its latest proposal for peace treaty talks. He said concluding a peace treaty can eradicate hostile relations between North Korea and the United States and rapidly advance denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. He added that if sanctions are lifted, Six Party Talks can resume immediately.

Today's statement is a clarification of the North's latest offer of talks. It reinforces the hypothesis that the leadership in Pyongyang has adjusted its negotiating strategy. The path to ending the North's nuclear program runs through lifting sanctions and peace treaty talks. The North is offering what it considers a package deal to normalize conditions on the peninsula and remove the justification for a US military presence. It is not promising to give up nuclear weapons already built.

China: In a terse statement yesterday, Chinese media announced a successful test of a land-based ballistic missile defense system. The announcement contained no details that described the system or the test.

Apparently, something the Chinese launched worked because the US protested today that China did not give the United States prior notification of the test. The US has asked the Chinese Government to clarify its intentions for the intercept weaponry, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a statement from a Pentagon spokesperson. The statement said the US detected two missile launches, with an exo-atmospheric collision observed by space-based sensors.

Details in the public domain are incomplete. China is known to have fielded advanced Russian and advanced indigenously developed anti-missile systems. It also has land-based missiles capable of destroying satellites.

The timing suggests this is reaction to US plans to sell Taiwan advanced anti-ballistic missile systems and eight Perry-class frigates, which the US Navy no longer requires.

The Chinese warned the US against selling arms to Taiwan while expecting Chinese cooperation on other international issues. A commentary published by Xinhua warned of broader fallout from the Patriot missile deal. "Each time the United States has sold weapons to Taiwan, there has been huge damage to China-US relations," said the commentary. "This US arms sale to Taiwan will be no exception." US-Chinese relations are entering a period of increased tension in reaction to the arms sales.

Philippines: A Saudi man dressed as a pilot was arrested 12 January after entering a restricted area in the Philippines' primary airport, The News International reported, citing airport General Manager Alfonso Cusi. Cusi said the 19-year-old man misrepresented himself as a pilot of Saudia.

This might have no significance, but the Philippines has been a venue for testing new terrorist tactics in the past.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: Inter-Services Intelligence Director-General, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, told the parliamentary Special Committee on National Security on 12 January that infiltration of militants from the Afghan border must be stopped for Pakistan to have peace, Dawn News reported. The drug mafia supports rebels who are causing unrest in Pakistan, Pasha said. The chair of the committee, Raza Rabbani, later briefed the media. The committee discussed the implications of the U.S. President's Afghan policy and possible effects on Pakistani sovereignty, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

General Pasha is one of the leaders in the media counter-attack whereby Pakistan blames Afghanistan for Pakistan's internal security problems.

Iran: An Iranian nuclear scientist and Tehran University professor, Masoud Ali-Mohammadi, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb outside his home in northern Tehran on 12 January. News agencies have claimed that "counter-revolutionary" agents, including those working with the US, MEK and "Zionist regime", were behind the attack, however ambiguities surrounding his death, as well as his political leanings, remain.

One brilliant and perceptive Reader questioned where was Iranian security that it failed to protect one of Iran's nuclear scientists.

Czech Republic-NATO: Today, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said at a conference in Prague discussing the NATO alliance that Eastern European members hope to re-confirm Article 5 of the NATO charter, DPA reported. This is the article that commits all members to the proposition that an attack against one is an attack against all.

The US invoked Article 5 to obligate NATO members to fight with the US after the 9/11 attack. The newest members of NATO, especially the Baltic states, require reassurance about the wisdom of their commitment to NATO.

The Russians, under Putin, have not given up on recovering from NATO parts of the Soviet sphere of influence. The Eastern European NATO members are acutely aware of Russian intentions.

Honduras: The Honduran Congress discussed today the possibility of amnesty for all involved in the June 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Xinhua reported. Congressional leader Jose Saavedra called lawmakers into session for the discussion.

This must be especially frustrating for Zelaya since his party holds the largest bloc in the Congress.

End of NightWatch for 12 January.

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