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NightWatch 20100514

NightWatch

For the Night of 14 May 2010

North Korea: Kim Jong Il denied that his country was involved in the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship. According to Kyodo, China indicated that Chinese President Hu Jintao and Kim discussed the warship incident during Kim's visit. South Korean officials said they will announce the results of the investigation into the sinking around May 20.

International media have focused on a rare public statement that announced the retirement from the National Defense Commission of Vice Marshal of the Korean Peoples Army Kim Il-chol. The salient fact of Kim's career is that he was a classmate of Kim Chong-il in the first class of graduates from the communist party school, Mangyongdae 1. All of the original members of the National Defense Commission, both uniformed vice marshals and civilians, were bodyguards of Kim Il-sung or were members of Mangyongdae's first class, with Kim Chong-il.

Admiral and later Vice Marshal Kim Il-chol was the first naval officer to be appointed Minister of the Peoples Armed Forces, which was completely based on personal loyalty to Kim Chong-il. It was an extraordinary vote of confidence in a classmate and in a navy officer, completely unfamiliar with the preponderance of the ground forces. It was an appointment to ensure loyalty not military competence and meant to those who knew that North Korea was focused inwards and had no military leadership capable of waging war and thus no intent to wage war against the South. The message was unmistakable, though missed by many Korea watchers.

Last year Kim Il-chol was demoted from his position as head of defense for apparent misjudgments and this year he has been sent out to pasture, ostensibly because of his 80 years and physical condition. Readers should know that 80 years of age is not a disqualifier for high office in North Korea, mainly because of the absence of a retirement system. If a senior officer is not kept on the active roles, he will starve.

Some writers today judged that the old admiral was the scapegoat for the ludicrous North Korean announcement about success in mastering nuclear fusion. The timing suggests such inferences were wrong.

A more fitting interpretation would have Kim Il-chol taking the blame for the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan at a time when North Korea is desperate for help from any source. The timing of the admiral's retirement relative to Kim Chong-il's trip to China would seem to be relevant, in this interpretation. If this is accurate, the North will take action to reassure that the sinking was an accident, vice an act of war.

The data is insufficient to make a judgment now, but the dismissal of Kim Chong il also means that the second generation of North Korean revolutionaries is dying out. Kim Il -sung and his bodyguards were the first generation of leaders. The surviving children of the leaders who died in World War II and the Korean War were the second generation of the North Korean revolution.

Those kids, with Kim Chong -iI who never served in uniform, constituted the first class of the Mangyongdae party school. They included Kim Il-chol, Chon Pyong-ho, Vice Marshal Kim Yong-chun and most of the members of the National Defense Commission. Their gradual passing marks the end of the cohort of revolutionary fighters. Without them, North Korea has no anchor. Kim Chong-il is losing his most loyal retainers.

The third and fourth generations of senior leaders are less well known, but none experienced the three wars - anti-Japan war, Second World War and Korean War, -- which defined the first and second generation leaders of North Korea. After Kim Chong-il, North Korea is likely to be very different, focused mainly on survival. And that is potentially very good news.

Thailand: Seven people were killed and 101 were wounded after fighting broke out between Thai troops and anti-government protesters in central Bangkok, Reuters reported, citing a statement from Erawan Medical Center. Clashes have erupted in multiple locations in the city.

A Thai military operation to clear a Bangkok area of protesters aims to pressure their leaders to return to negotiations, according to the Thai defense minister, as reported by Agence France-Presse. The military operation aims to put pressure on the Red Shirts to come back to the negotiating table with the government, said Defense Minister General Prawit Wongsuwon.

Troops sealed off all routes leading to the protester's rally site in the retail heart of Bangkok and cleared protesters from another area of the city, he said, adding that intensified pressure is needed to enforce the law.

Pakistan: The home page of the Pakistani Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis indicates more than 5.5 million Pakistanis live outside Pakistan and remit more than $7 billion annually, making overseas remittances Pakistan's second largest source of hard currency.

The same home page states the Ministry has a data base on all overseas Pakistanis, including 1.2 million in Saudi Arabia and the UK, each, and 900,000 in the US. It would seem overdue for US, UK, Spanish, French and other intelligence agencies to tap into that data base, moving beyond the stranglehold of Pakistani intelligence services.

The Pakistani diaspora harbors terrorists and does not report them to local authorities. The Pakistani government has data on Pakistanis living overseas that might be useful to terrorist investigations but is not under the control of Pakistan's intelligence services. It is past time that this data is brought to bear in the fight against terrorists.

The diaspora is a money pump for Pakistan and a conduit for terrorists. Several commentaries this week purported to explain why Pakistanis seem so prone to acts of terrorism, from India to Spain, to the UK and to the US, exploiting local hospitality and breaking local laws. None of the commentaries are remotely as insightful as the 2006 NightWatch discussion with the Pakistani taxicab driver in Prince William County, Virginia.

Some doctrines taught and stressed in the Pakistani madrasahs primes some young family men to hear the call of Allah to jihad so that they abandon everything to kill others and commit suicide.

Turkey: For the record. Turkey's secularist Republican People's Party filed a suit with the Constitutional Court to annul a constitutional reform bill that the party says is an attempt by the Islamist-leaning government to consolidate power, Reuters reported 14 May.

Iraq: No fraud was discovered after a recount of 2.5 million ballots cast in Baghdad in the 7 March election, Reuters reported, citing an Iraqi election official. The recount results will be made public 17 May, according to a spokesman for Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission.

End of NightWatch for 14 May.

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