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NightWatch 20100617

NightWatch

For the Night of 17 June 2010

North Korea-China: For the record. North Korea asked China to provide it with the latest J-10 fighter jets and other hardware but was rejected, Chosun reported 17 June. According to an unidentified "high-ranking" North Korean source, leader Kim Jong Il made the request to Chinese President Hu Jintao when he visited China in early May. Hu apparently told Kim that China would protect and support him if attacked.

Comment: This is the second request for aid now known to have been rejected by the Chinese. Earlier reports of the visit indicated the Chinese refused Kim's request for large amounts of economic aid. The Chinese said they could not provide more aid that North Korean lost as the result of sanctions. In other words, the Chinese are willing only to maintain the status quo in economics and military capabilities. They will not let North Korea collapse, evidently, but they will not act as the engine for its prosperity.

The remarks attributed to Hu are significant, if they are related accurately. The assurance, as reported, looks like a personal warrant to Kim. Alternatively, if Kim stands for North Korea in Hu's assurance, then the North would not seem to need nuclear weapons at all, falling under China's nuclear protection. A search did not turn up a translation of the original source material.

. Concerning the shooting of Chinese citizens by a North Korean (DPRK) border guard, the DPRK border authorities said earlier this week that preliminary investigations show that the shooting was an accident. The DPRK side has expressed grief over the deaths of the Chinese nationals caused by the incident. It has offered its sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured and has said that it will severely punish the culprit. The DPRK border defense authorities will further investigate the incident and prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Severe hardship. There were two other noteworthy reports about North Korea. A South Korean news service said China has agreed to help develop two North Korean cities. One of them is Sinuiju, which is a road and rail border crossing point and industrial center in the northwest -- sister city to Dandong, China, just across the border. This helps explain the North's conciliatory response to Chinese demands stemming from the shooting incident.

The second was a report that the state is unable to provide food rations, according to a newsletter by a South Korean relief organization. According to the newsletter, "An instruction was issued to the ministries of all industries, including the Ministry of Light Industry (NW note: run by Kim Chong-il's sister, Kim Kyong-hui), to 'set up measures on guaranteeing the livelihood of workers at all organs and enterprises.' "

'The main point of the instruction was to vitalize (sic) the plants by any means, amid a situation where the state is unable to provide food rations, so that the plants could take care of the meals of the workers on their own. Since the workers' lives have become too impoverished, the instruction said, 'make as much effort as possible so that there are no more starving workers.' In particular, it asked to help the workers that were unable to come to work due to starvation.'

The instruction was one of several issued on 26 May. There is no independent corroboration of this instruction, but the newsletter summarized two others that reinforce the assessment that food shortages are so severe that they are leading to law and order problems.

"The Ministry of People's Security predicted that the population's unrest will become more severe as the food situation deteriorates, and received instruction to thoroughly study the movements of the population. In particular, the instruction noted that any scandalous incidents of violence must be prevented ahead of time and gave orders to 'confiscate everything that can become a weapon.' "

"The biggest reason for this was that social chaos was becoming severe as it became more difficult to eat and live, and that violent crimes, such as murder incidents, were rapidly increasing. Saying that even a small knife can become a weapon that harms people if it goes over nine centimeters, the instruction ordered the confiscation of knives. Also, saws used by individuals at home will be confiscated, as they are regarded as weapons."

"Besides this, the (Workers') Party's Organization Department instructed the Ministry of State Security to unconditionally deport the families of North Korean escapees who crossed over to the ROK and to send to prison all of those who were found to have exchanged telephone calls with families in the ROK, China, or other foreign countries….In the local parties, the cadres must take the initiative and set the example and mobilize all methods and means to resolve the food on their own as much as possible and stabilize the public sentiment."

Comment: News services have not reported on the extent of the hardship and shortages, but the language of the instructions suggests severe nation-wide shortages. Social chaos as described above also occurred during the famine (1995-1997) that followed the floods of 1995.

South Korea-UN: Update. South Korean diplomats with Allied help are building a strong body of international support for the UN investigation of the wreckage of the patrol ship Cheonan and for punitive measures against North Korea if it is found to be culpable. The issue is not yet ripe for detailed analysis, but the country-lineup will establish whether North Korea is isolated on this issue and how much.

One press report quoted the North's permanent representative to the UN yesterday, after he issued his threat of military retaliation for UNSC action, that he expected the UN investigation to be fair and impartial. A search did not pull up the original statement, but it would be the first to acknowledge a UN role, if accurate.

Malaysia: Police arrested four Malaysians for possession of bombs and other lethal weapons found during a raid conducted on 16 June, Xinhua reported.

Malaysia's Selangor State, Kajang District police chief stated that the police would investigate whether the suspects, three males and one female, were involved in any militant activities. He said three bombs, two pistols, an electronic device that can be connected to the bomb, a small amount of drugs, and cash more than 27,000 ringgit ($8,282) were found during the operation.

Comment: Malaysia has been nearly immune to Muslim terrorism, though all its neighbors have not, including Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. Although law enforcement is generally excellent, Islam is the state religion, making Malaysia a safe transit point and safehaven for would-be terrorists en route other targets.

It is highly unusual for potential bombers to be caught in Malaysia. The Chiefs of the Royal Malaysian Police have been fond of insisting that Malaysia has no terrorism problem.

Kyrgyzstan: Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) country leaders endorsed a response plan to the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan, with the exception of Belarus, according to Kyrgyz Security Council Secretary Alik Orozov, 24.kg reported June 17. Orozov noted that the plan would provide Kyrgyzstan with transport, aviation equipment and helicopters. If CSTO members decide to send military aid, Kyrgyzstan would not refuse, he said. No troops, as expected, at least not officially.

Kyrgyzstan-US: Kyrgyz Interim Deputy Prime Minister Azimbek Beknazarov threatened to close the Manas air base if the United Kingdom does not extradite Maxim Bakiyev, son of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, The Voice of Russia reported 17 June. The United States uses the Manas air base to supply operations in Afghanistan. Beknazarov urged London to extradite Maxim Bakiyev to Kyrgyz authorities immediately.

Note: This threat suggests Kyrgyzstan is looking for a reason to renegotiate, if not just close, US access to Manas.

Turkey-Iraq: Update. Hundreds of Turkish troops completed their withdrawal from Iraq after pursuing Kurdish rebels into Iraqi territory on 16 June, a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman said 17 June, CNN reported.

The Gaza Strip Confrontation

Turkey-Israel: The Turkish paper The Star reported today that the Erdogan government is on the verge of freezing relations with Israel. "We took a series of decisions covering military, diplomatic and political pressure and measures," The Star quoted a source as saying. It also reported that military deals, including plane and tank modernization and missile projects, worth $7.5 billion, were to be frozen.

Military cooperation, including joint exercises and pilot training, would also be halted, as would intelligence sharing, The Star reported, according to Reuters.

Iran: Rapporteur of Iran's Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Kazem Jalali said Iran would retaliate any possible inspecting of its ships on the high seas, IRNA reported 17 June. "Those who make any attack against Iranian ships must measure consequences of their moves from very this moment," Jalali stated. Iran will "strongly rise for its rights," adding that "Iran enjoyed many factors of being a powerful country including possession of the Hormuz Strait, the strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf region."

Comment: Some Iranians appear to be spoiling for a fight with Israel, possibly so that Turkey does not monopolize the center of international attention as the champion of the Gaza Strip Palestinians. In any event, in the media, the Turks and the Persians continue to lead the effort to break the Gaza Strip blockade.

Lebanon: Media outlets reported that Hezbollah is considering sending a relief ship for the Gaza Strip Palestinians. Israel reacted strongly. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Lebanon will be responsible if a "violent and dangerous confrontation" occurs between Israel and an aid ship expected to depart from Lebanon for Gaza, Agence France-Presse reported. Barak said Beirut must prevent the loading of "weapons, ammunition, explosive materials" and other things that could lead to confrontation. Lebanon is responsible for ships leaving its ports "which have the clear and stated intention of trying to break the naval blockade on Gaza."

Israel: The Israeli Security Cabinet conducted an extensive discussion over the last two days regarding adjustments in Israel's Gaza policy, the Israeli Prime Minister's Office announced 17 June.

The Security Cabinet agreed to liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza and expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision. Israel will continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war material.

The Cabinet will decide on additional steps to implement this policy. Israel expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit.

Comment: This is the first reasonably effective counter-offensive move Israel has taken against its detractors. Supporters of the Gaza Strip Palestinians already have denounced it as not enough. But it is enough to set politics back in focus, instead of military action.

End of NightWatch for 17 June.

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