For the Night of 16 May 2010
North Korea-South Korea: South Korean patrol ships off the west coast fired warning shots to drive North Korean patrol boats back north of the disputed inter-Korean sea border, The Joint Chiefs of Staff office said, at first, one North Korean patrol boat crossed into South Korean waters near Yeonpyeong island at 10:13 pm (1313 GMT) Saturday and retreated after a radio warning from the South.
The warning shots were fired later Saturday when two North Korean patrol boats violated the Northern Limit Line (NLL) border and strayed into South Korean waters, the Joint Chiefs of Staff office said. A spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Agence France-Presse the North's patrol boats retreated without responding to the fire. No casualties occurred. North Korean media have not acknowledged the incident.
Comment: South Korean analysts related the incident to the crab season which begins in June. They reckon that the North's patrol boats were staking a claim to crab in waters claimed as South Korean. The North Korean Navy starts local provocations annually, partly because it gets paid to protect the North Korean crab fishermen and engages in fishing itself to finance most of its sustainment costs. North Korean military services farm, fish, sell illegal drugs and smuggle to compensate for an inadequate budget.
It is the first time that shots have been fired at the sea border since the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship on 26 March.
China-North Korea: China reportedly told North Korean leader Kim Cho'ng-il during his visit to China earlier this month that it will respect international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang and that it refused to provide extraordinary economic assistance, the JoongAng Daily reported from Beijing Monday, 17 May and Kyodo repeated.
The daily cited an informed source as saying the Chinese government's position prompted Kim to cut short his stay in China. ''At the luncheon between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Kim on 6 May, the Chinese government informed the North that China will not provide aid outside the framework of the U.N. Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang,'' the source was quoted as saying. ''After Beijing's position was explained, Kim shortened his schedule in China.''
Comment: The South Korean news outlet is the only source of this information at this time. China's refusal to provide extraordinary aid does not imply that existing programs will be cut. However, Kim's request suggests economic conditions are not promising. That in turn portends a refocus on South Korea as a source of extorted assistance. Tension is likely to rise more.
Northeast Asia: Update. At the tripartite Foreign Ministers' meeting in South Korea this weekend, the Chinese Foreign Minister conveyed China's deep regret over the deaths of the South Korean sailors from the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan on 26 March. This topic overshadowed all others, according to press reports.
Japan and South Korea are coordinating their position on the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship. China's even-handed stance is not satisfactory in that at least one analysis in South Korea concluded the torpedo used in the sinking was a Chinese model, although North Korea has had the ability to manufacture some kinds of torpedoes for many years.
Thailand: Central Bangkok experienced a weekend of violence resulting from the government's staged program of containing the demonstration and slowly shrinking it. The crackdown resulted in 31 people dead and 230 injured. Several buildings were targets of arsonists.
The Red Shirt protesters appealed on Sunday for UN intervention and said they were ready for immediate talks if the UN mediated. One protest leader urged the King to intervene to end the crisis.
The government rejected the UN appeal out of hand and the appeal to the King fell on deaf ears. The royal family clearly backs the government, as opposed to its usual tendency to try to find a middle ground with fault on all sides.
The government announced it had begun pursuing up to 100 banking transactions by former prime minister Thaksin that appear to have helped finance the Red Shirts.
The government also announced that the state of emergency had been extended to five more provinces, in addition to the 15 around Bangkok. They are Ubon Ratchathani, Mahasarakham, Roi Et, Sakon Nakhon and Nong Bua Lampu.
The significance of the latest five is that they are all in northeast Thailand, one is adjacent to Laos. They appear to be the heartland of the Red Shirt support in the northeast. People in those provinces will not be permitted to travel to Bangkok, among other restrictions.
The security forces are responding to orders from lawful authority. The government's plan appears to be measured, shrinking the protestors' rally area, not a mad rush to storm and overwhelm it. The government has taken precautions to prevent reinforcement from the outlying areas into the center. This action appears to have the backing of the economic elite, the military leadership and the royal family.
The assassination of the rogue former Royal Thai Army major general last week appears to have been a pivotal event in undermining the Red Shirt ability and some of the will to stand up to the security forces.
End of NightWatch for 16 May.
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