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NightWatch 20100730

NightWatch

For the Night of 30 July 2010

North Korea- UN Command: Update. The UN Command (UNC) and North Korea met today and agreed to meet again on 9 August, according to a statement by the UN Command. During the two-hour meeting at Panmunjom, colonels from the two sides continued their discussions in preparation for general-level talks.

The significance is the continuation of the process, despite Allied exercises. The North's willingness to continue talks suggests it wants a counterweight to China, which has become increasingly intrusive in North Korean affairs.

China: More details are emerging on the explosion in the Furong district tax office on Hengda road in downtown Changsha, China, on 30 July.

According to Chinese media, the explosion occurred while people were holding a conference within the building. The bomber carried the explosive device and threw it under the conference table. Pictures from the explosion suggest the damage was contained within the building, but it appears to have blown out several large windows and shattered glass.

IEDs are not common in China, but violent unrest is and is vastly under-reported by Chinese and western media.

China-South China Sea: Defense Ministry spokesman Gang Yansheng told the Chinese media today that "China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the surrounding waters. Geng also said China advocates resolving issues involving the islands through peaceful negotiation and friendly consultation.

While China opposes the internationalization of the South China Sea, it will respect international laws that allow some countries to utilize its waters and airspace, Geng said. The remarks follow statements made by US Secretary of State Clinton that designate the South China Sea as an area of U.S. national interest.

Comment: The noteworthy remarks are those in which the spokesman says China is acting magnanimously and statesmanlike in respecting international law. In fact, that body of law tends to refute Chinese claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea. The Law of the Seas treaties are biased strongly in favor of free navigation of open waters and innocent passage of straits and narrows for all maritime states.

Secondly, the statement indicates China does not respect or acknowledge the claims of other nations. That implies that any negotiations and friendly consultation will presume Chinese ownership of islands that other states have alienated.

This is one of the most aggressive formulations of China's disrespect for the claims of others Southeast Asian states. Each new iteration is more intrusive and less compromising than its predecessor.

Pakistan: The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project released a poll yesterday (29 July) on various Pakistani attitudes, based on a limited primarily urban sample taken in April 2010. A summary of the findings follows.

- An overwhelming number of Pakistanis polled continue to have a negative view of the United States (68 percent);

- A majority of Pakistanis (53 percent) see India as the greatest threat to the country, over the Taliban (23 percent) and al-Qaida (3 percent).

Much like last year's Pew survey, the majority of Pakistanis polled say they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country, citing terrorism, crime, and a lack of jobs as very big issues.

According to the findings, "Pakistani Muslims overwhelmingly welcome Islamic influence over their country's politics. Nearly nine-in-ten (88 percent) of those who see Islam playing a large role say that is a good thing."

Many Muslims in Pakistan say there is a struggle between groups that want to modernize their country and Islamic fundamentalists (44 percent), and of those who see a struggle, most identify with the modernizers (61 percent).

However, an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis polled said they would favor making gender segregation in the workplace a law in the country (85 percent), as well as punishments like whippings and cutting off of hands for crimes like theft and robbery (82 percent), and stoning people who commit adultery (82 percent).

According to one expert, when many Pakistanis think of "modernizing" their country, they think primarily in terms of economic development and technology -- both of which can comfortably coexist alongside conservative religious attitudes." They want air conditioners and corporal punishment. They see no inconsistency in the two positions, except that they want the best of both worlds for themselves and their families and not necessarily for others.

Lebanon-Syria-Saudi Arabia: Saudi, Syrian and Lebanese officials met on 30 July, according to the German news service DPA. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri spoke with Saudi King Abdullah, while Lebanese President Michel Suleiman met Syrian President Bashar al Asad.

Later, Lebanese Speaker of Parliament and Hezbollah ally Nabi Berri spoke with al Asad, while Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem met with the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc, Mohammed Raad. Al Asad, Suleiman and Hezbollah members later met again.

Israel: The Air Force attacked several Hamas-linked targets in Gaza during this Watch on Friday, Army Radio reported. One of the targets hit was believed to be in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood; another was reportedly the site of smuggling tunnels on the Egyptian border. The IDF confirmed the retaliatory attack on Saturday morning, with a spokesperson saying that precise targets were identified prior to the strike.

Theses attacks responded to Friday morning's Grad rocket attack into the Israeli town of Ashkelon, for which the Aza Din al-Kassem Gazan terror group claimed responsibility

Earlier on Friday, the Foreign Ministry instructed Israeli ambassadors to file an immediate complaint to the president of the UN Security Council and the Human Rights Council in Geneva following the attack in Ashkelon and mortar fire in the western Negev on Friday

The Salah al-Dein Brigades, the militant wing of the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), claimed responsibility for firing the rocket into southern Israel, Xinhua reported, quoting the PRC statement. According to the statement, the militants fired a Russian-made Grad rocket into the Israeli town of Ashkelon. The attack follows threats made by the Salah al-Dein Brigades indicating a resumption of rocket attacks.

Expect multiple IDF attacks for every rocket or mortar round fired.

Abkhazia-Georgia: For the record. The Foreign Ministry of Abkhazia has protested the Georgian navy's detention of a Ukrainian cargo ship that was en route to Abkhazia, Itar-Tass reported 30 July. The ministry said Georgia's policy of economically isolating Abkhazia by seizing commercial ships conflicts with international maritime law and humanitarian law and the government of Abkhazia considers such actions to be acts of aggression.

Apparently Georgian leaders assess that the International Court's ruling in respect of Kosovo's independence does not apply to Abkhazia. Abkhazia will never return to Georgia. Georgian actions risk retaliation backed by Russia which has a security treaty with Abkhazia.

The Georgians continue to run risks of confrontation with Russia so as to entrap the US into coming to Georgia's aid. Georgian President Saakashvili has not accepted that two provinces of Georgia seceded with Russian assistance on his watch. He thinks he can get them back if the US would cooperate.

Mexico: For the record. The United States closed its consulate in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez on Thursday pending a security review, according to The Associated Press. The US Embassy announced the consulate will "remain closed until the security review is completed."

The US State Department has taken several measures during the past months to protect consulate employees and their families from surging violence along Mexico's border with the United States. It has authorized the departure of relatives of U.S. government employees in six northern Mexican cities. And starting 15 July, US government employees working away from the border were barred from crossing anywhere along Texas' border because of safety concerns.

Two weeks ago, the consulate in the border city of Nuevo Laredo warned US citizens there to remain indoors as drug gangs fought gun battles and blocked streets with hijacked vehicles. The closing of the Ciudad Juarez consulate is the most drastic security measure yet. The consulate is the only place where Mexicans applying for U.S. residency can go.

The McAllen Monitor reported yesterday that the US Consulate imposed a curfew for government employees living in the Monterrey, Mexico, area and advised other Americans in the area to take similar precautions. Government employees and their families are now restricted from traveling outside San Pedro Garza Garcia, a suburb of Monterrey, between midnight and 6 a.m. daily.

Consular officials recommend other US citizens in the area adopt similar travel restrictions ?due to increasing violence in the Monterrey metropolitan area, according to a warden message published Thursday states.

Officials also recommend motorists visiting Monterrey leave enough room to make sudden maneuvers while in traffic, plan an escape route and be prepared to make evasive maneuvers at any time. Officials said people in the area should also not share personal information such as relatives' names, addresses, or telephone numbers while in public.

The State Department extended a travel warning 16 July because of the dangers of traveling in cities across the border from South Texas and across northeast Mexico.

End of NightWatch for 30 July.

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