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NightWatch 20100719


For the Night of 19 July 2010

South Korea-US: The aircraft carrier USS George Washington will make a port call in Busan, South Korea, on 21 July with 60 aircraft, the U.S. military said and Yonhap reported on 19 July. Three destroyers, including the USS McCampbell and the USS John S. McCain, will arrive in South Korea on the same day. USS George Washington's commanding officer said the port call was a statement about Washington's alliance with Seoul and its willingness to defend South Korea.

The message of the statement is not self-evident because a port call at the southern tip of South Korea is a major step down from an allied naval exercise in international waters in the Yellow Sea off Nampo, North Korea. North Korea has made no comment on the port call.

North Korea-UN Command: For the record. The United Nations Command (UNC) proposed rescheduling a 20 July meeting with North Korea until after a meeting between South Korean and U.S. defense and foreign ministers on 21 July, Yonhap reported July 19, citing an unnamed UNC official.

This rescheduling looks more like the customary tit-for-tat games played at Panmunjom, rather than a genuine excuse for a delay. Recall the North asked for a delay last week. It is customary to retaliate in kind with gusto. The gamesmanship at Panmunjom does no credit to either side because the talks on the 20th are about arranging talks. They are non-substantive, but are preparatory for potentially substantive talks later.

China-Taiwan: According to a Taiwan defense journal article, by the end of this year China will have 2,000 short and medium-range ballistic missiles available to attack targets on Taiwan, Reuters reported July 19. That is hundreds more than the current figure estimated at about 1,400.

The missiles could destroy 90 percent of Taiwan's infrastructure, according to the Taiwanese Defense Ministry's naval studies periodical.

Comment: The details of the report are inflammatory but the underlying substance is not. Several years ago the Chinese missile build up opposite Taiwan reached the saturation point. That means with 100 missile launchers, China had ten loads and refires, more than enough to damage nearly any high value target on Taiwan.

With double the missiles and increased launcher production, Taiwan becomes essentially indefensible against missile attacks. However, if China has only 1,400 missiles stored opposite the Taiwan Strait as of mid-2010, not even China can produce and field 600 missiles in the next six months. However, that seems to be the eventual target.

The good news is that China's relations with Taiwan are more than cordial. Still the missile production and basing program continues, apparently on the assumption that détente must be considered temporary as long as the US sells weapons to Taiwan.

Afghanistan:  NATO has intercepted a letter from Taliban supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar in which he called for any Afghan supporting the government, led by President Hamid Karzai, to be captured or killed, Brigadier Josef Blotz, a spokesman for the NATO, said on Sunday.

Talking to reporters, he said that Omar had issued the directive in June. "The message was from Mullah Omar, who is hiding in Pakistan, to his subordinate commanders," he said, adding, the order was to fight coalition forces to death, and to capture and kill any civilian supporting or working for the government or the forces. The letter also said that women should also be killed if found to be helping or providing information to the coalition force.

Comment: The fighting data during the past year show a Taliban assassination focus on killing spies, sympathizers and supporters of the government. The focus of targeting began to narrow early this year on government employees and leaders, such as district councilors, tribal elders, police and security chiefs and local government officials. This began long before June.

The letter from Omar in June seems to authorize a general expansion of a more limited program, a special form of terror to dissuade people from working for the government in any capacity. It seems to be failing because jobs are so scarce. However, quality suffers in that corruption and illiteracy increase.

Syria: For the record. Female students wearing a full face veil will be barred from Syrian university campuses, the country's minister of higher education has said. A government official said the practice ran counter to the secular, academic values and traditions of Syrian universities. The ruling, published on the All4Syria website, was said to be in response to requests from students and parents.

End of NightWatch for 19 July.

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