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NightWatch 20100308

NightWatch

For the Night of 8 March 2010

North Korea: Update. China Central Television reported 8 March North Korea's warning that it will halt its denuclearization process in response to a U.S.-South Korean joint military exercise. Pyongyang also threatened to suspend all military dialogue with the U.S. and South Korea.

Note: If the North is looking for a way to deflect Chinese pressure to return to the Six Party Talks, the ROK-US exercises suffice.

North Korea-China: For the record. The President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Nam, is expected to visit China next week, instead of General Secretary Kim Jong Il, Chosun Ilbo reported. The visit is expected to take place around 16 March, but arrangements are still under negotiation, according to the report. President Kim is expected to be accompanied by a delegation of Pyongyang business people. Aside from that detail, the purpose of the visit has not been disclosed.

Note: Earlier this year, Asian news services speculated that Kim himself was supposed to travel to China. Substitution of Kim Yong nam changes the nature of the visit and prompts a suspicion that Kim Chong il is too ill to travel, a NightWatch hypothesis for the purpose of predicting the way ahead.

China: For the record. Sino Daily reported today that China will increase rural representation in its parliament, according to draft legislation. The amendment to the election law of the National People's Congress (NPC) would foster "equality" among the nation's constituencies, Wang Zhaoguo, a top legislative official, said in a speech to the Communist Party-controlled body.

Wang said rural delegates now represent four times as many citizens as their urban counterparts, which effectively gives urban areas greater representation. The amendment would equalize those ratios, he added.

Note: Some analysts have interpreted this in a context of political balance between urban and rural interests. That might be a sub-text, but the National People's is a rubber stamp legislature for the Communist Party. Political balance in the Congress is pointless substantively and the Chinese know it.

An alternative interpretation is that the Communist Party is acting true to its historic roots as a rural based movement that surrounded the cities to subjugate them. The Communists have not found a way to square the circle of an overwhelmingly rural agrarian society that must rely on cities and international trade for prosperity and international prestige. This is one of a half dozen internal contradictions that limit China's prospects.

The increase in rural representation is important because it manifests the Communist leadership's awareness of the internal contradiction along with its lack of a solution to solve it, except with gestures.

Pakistan: In Lahore today, a suicide bomber using a 1,000-pound vehicle-born improvised explosive device detonated at a facility in Lahore belonging to the primary national law enforcement agency, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The attack killed at least a dozen people and wounded 89 others.

Pakistani Taliban, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), claimed responsibility for the blast, Samaa reported, citing a TTP spokesman. Interior Minister Rehman Malik described the TTP as "hired killers" that want to destabilize Pakistan.

Note: The TTP is trying to retaliate for the seizure of key leaders by Pakistani authorities. The government media tactic of calling them hired killers debases the TTP and conveys the official message that helping the TTP is aiding and abetting criminals. It is a sound media strategy that uses TTP boasting to backfire against it -- TTP appears to be boasting about committing murder.

Iraq: Update. Results of Iraq's parliamentary elections will begin to be released 9 March, whenever a polling station has tallied at least 30 percent of its votes, a member of the independent electoral commission said today as reported by Bloomberg.

The head of Iraq's election commission said results to the country's historic election will be announced within two or three days, most likely on 11 March, The Associated Press reported.

Germany- Russia: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that Russian President Medvedev should discuss his security initiative "within the framework" of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, RIA Novosti reported. Merkel said, "President Medvedev and I spoke by telephone last week and we reiterated that we should discuss his initiative on partnership in the security sphere."

Note: The Russians are proposing a new European security treaty that rivals and might eventually replace NATO, but with Russia, Germany and France as the new leaders. The Germans plus some of the original NATO members appear to want more balance in their foreign relations, meaning they appear to be seeking to reduce their subservience to the US by establishing offsetting relations with Russia.

While that might seem odd, that is the way it looks. Even stranger is that the US is presented as supporting European NATO's call for a withdrawal of nuclear weapons from western Europe, potentially leaving Russia and Frances as the only states possessing nuclear weapons in Europe. Of course, the French will not dismantle their nuclear weapons, even while they support withdrawal of American weapons.

US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past nine years have forced the maturation of relations and attitudes in Europe and Asia. The security regime of the post-World War II era is finally ending, albeit slowly and a decade after it should have ended.

US strategic planners need to be thinking about the implications of being first among equals, more than of being the only superpower.

End of NightWatch for 8 March.

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