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NightWatch 20100816

NightWatch

For the Night of 16 August 2010

South Korea: Yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak proposed a plan to reunite South Korea with North Korea and suggested a tax to prepare for the costs expected, if the two countries come together.

"Today inter-Korean relations demand a new paradigm," Lee said in a speech to mark the 65th anniversary of Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule, Yonhap reported. He said the two countries should form a "peace community" and stressed the importance of the denuclearization of North Korea. He added that inter-Korean exchanges are needed to help build North Korea's economy.

"It is imperative that the two sides choose coexistence instead of confrontation, progress instead of stagnation. The two of us need to overcome the current state of division and proceed with the goal of peaceful reunification," Lee said.

Comment: Lee's statement today is inconsistent with every prior statement about re-unification or interactions with the North. It appears to be a conciliatory gesture of good faith to create conditions for the release of the findings of the international investigation into the sinking of the corvette Cheonan.

South Korea: For the record. The National Defense Ministry intends to release the full results of its investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan the week of 22 August. The conclusions made in the full-length report will be the same as those contained in the preliminary report issued 20 May, but the new document will provide details as to how investigators reached their conclusions.

According to a ministry spokesman, the specific release date of the document -- which will be 250-270 pages long -- has not been set because it is still being proofread and because South Korean military leaders are engaged in military exercises with the United States.

Comment: This is a smart move that will give the North Koreans material for study, somewhat undermining their demand for their own investigation. Nevertheless, after a reasonable period for competent study of the international report, the North should be permitted to send its own investigators. Their biased conclusions are inevitable, but the process favors South Korea.

North Korea: The Pyongyang government announced 13 August that it has enacted new laws to facilitate foreign trade, develop international economic cooperation, improve labor rights and protect the interests of economic entities under state supervision, the Korean Central News Agency reported.

Comment: Like China, North Korea misunderstands the concept of rule of law vs. rule by law. The essential economic fact of American contract law is that parties to a contract have a legal remedy for failures of performance. Access to this remedy is not subject to political whims, is predictable, the outcome for failure of performance is predictable; and the remedies are established by law are defined and enforceable.

Those essentials of western contract law are not at the core of jurisprudence in China or North Korea. Contracts are absolutely meaningless if there are no enforceable penalties for a failure of performance by a party to a contract. If goods or services cannot be relied on to arrive when ordered, then all pretenses of economic modernity and pseudo-capitalism are false, as in China and North Korea.

As a statist system, North Korea will not guarantee contracts or access to courts for remedies. Courts serve other functions in communist systems. Access to predictable remedies for failure of performance defines capitalism as much as private ownership of property and individual entrepreneurship.

Special comment on the North's succession process: Today, 16 August, The Washington Post published a grossly inaccurate and misleading article about succession politics in North Korea. The author failed to appreciate and treat appropriately the significance of family ties.

Chang Song-taek is not a politician, but is apparently the regent and mentor of Kim's youngest son who will likely to succeed Kim. Chang is Kim Chong-il's brother-in-law. His involvement means that the dynastic succession is in the hands of the Kim family, of which Chang is the visible avatar.

That does not mean it is secure, or that after Kim's death it will be honored by the old Vice Marshals and the Corps commanders who are communists still, rather than royalists, and some of whom served with Kim Il-song.

As for Chang, he is one of several vice chairmen of the ruling National Defense Commission, and the newest to be appointed. His superior is First Vice Chairman, Vice Marshal Cho Myong-nok, an ailing, old commissar who was Kim Chong-il's classmate 60 years ago. Chang has no military rank and is outnumbered and outranked by those who do.

Kim surrounded himself in the National Defense Commission with his classmates from the first graduating class of the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School. In this inner sanctum of Mangyongdae cohorts, Chang Song-taek is an outsider, but he is not a politician as readers of the Washington Post might understand the term.

The key takeaway is that the Kim family is attempting to dupe the hard scrabble, suffering North Koreans into accepting leadership of their secular communist state by a young kid, who has lived a life of unmerited opulence in Switzerland for all of his previous life. If they fail in this deception, a hard-line, orthodox communist upheaval will occur, most likely led by old party stalwarts, some old cohorts of Kim Il-song and the Army corps commanders..

NightWatch judges that this succession process will fail, after a decent interval. Kim will do his utmost to establish and protect it while he is alive, but that is not likely to be long and his wishes will not be respected for long after his demise. He is a lame duck monarch in a system that doctrinally and officially is not monarchical.

China: Data released today show that the Chinese economy has surpassed Japan's economy, making it the second largest after the US.

Readers are reminded that the Chinese keep more than one set of books. The report is headline grabbing, but the accounting details are somehow not available for independent analysis. For example how does one assign a money value to a system that is not money-based for most of its population, nearly a billion people? The Chinese are running a magnificent con and it is not sustainable for many more years.

Burma: On Friday, the government announced it will hold the country's first elections in 20 years on 7 November. The election will be the final step in Senior General Than Shwe's seven-step program to establish "discipline-flourishing democracy."

Opponents have criticized both the constitutional framework behind the elections, which guarantees the military a quarter of the seats in parliament, and its mechanics, which have barred opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from running. The 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate is under house arrest in Rangoon, the former Burmese capital.

Comment: As in Indonesia during the Suharto era, the Burmese military presume to know how a properly guided democracy should work … apparently so that the will of the people does not restrain the privileges of the generals. It is always a matter of interest how military flag officers/generals - whether in Fiji, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan or Mauritania -presume to know how a democracy should work when nothing in their daily life is remotely democratic. This is a study in democracy.

Sri Lanka: A military court has recommended the dishonorable discharge of former army commander General Sarath Fonseka after finding him guilty of interfering in politics while serving in the military, an official said Friday. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has yet to decide whether to accept the court's recommendation. The court martial was concluded without any representation by the defense attorneys.

Comment: No good deed goes unpunished. Fonseka defeated the Tamil Tigers but overreached by running for political office. In that maneuver, he threatened the Rajapaksa political machine which demonstrated the power of an incumbent government.

Fonseka is disgraced in Sri Lanka for now. That is hardly a permanent blemish. Meanwhile, in military history books, he is a general who actually won a counter-insurgency.

India: Too good to omit. Sixty-one trucks loaded with over 300 tons of explosives have gone missing in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, a senior police official said Friday. "The trucks were sent from a state-owned factory, Rajasthan Explosives and Chemicals Limited, in Dholpur to a private company called Ganesh Explosives in the state's Sagar district. But they never reached there," the official said.

Rajasthan Explosives and Chemicals Limited has claimed that it can't be blamed for this disappearance because it sent the explosives as authorized by the purchasing company. "We hand over the explosives to those who have the license. And they then dispatch it on their truck. Now, whatever happens to that explosive thereafter, we are not responsible for that," Y.C. Upadhyay of the company said.

A massive search is in progress to find the trucks, whose cargo could reach terrorists. This is a self-inflicted wound

Pakistan-US: The US has stopped pressuring the government in Islamabad to launch major operations against the Haqqani network and has decided lobbying would be counterproductive and would strain relations, American officials said, The Wall Street Journal reported 13 August.

US defense officials now say that the only way to convince Pakistan to move against North Waziristan is to weaken the Haqqani network to the point that Pakistan does not see the value in maintaining an alliance with the group; the Americans acknowledge it would be harder to achieve their goal without Pakistani assistance.

Comment: Plowing through the nonsensical double-speak, the story behind the story is the US is attempting to negotiate a ceasefire or a cooperation deal with the Haqqanis, who were US allies during the mujahedin fight against the Soviets. Traditionally, the Haqqanis are royalists, supporters of King Zahir's family, more than acolytes of a fundamentalist Islamist government under Omar, which has no roots in Pashtun history. That means they are more open to deal than die for religious piety.

Special Comment: The Taliban sentence of stoning two people for adultery and its execution by 100 or so men in northern Afghanistan needs to be exploited by so-called Allied media experts.

Since the start of the spring and summer offensive, Taliban spokesmen have tried to recast the movement's struggle as a fight for Afghan national identity. The propaganda emphasis has been on secular objectives, such as advancing the cause of Afghan nationalism and expelling foreign invaders from Christian countries.

Today's anecdote proves the Taliban have not moderated their barbaric interpretation and application of Islamic law. If ever they returned to power, sin would be crime; punishment for moral wrong would be the responsibility of the state. Moral wrongdoing would be conflated as criminal wrongdoing.

The Taliban have not changed. They would shoot women in the back of the head for wearing Gucci shoes, just as before. They do want to expel foreigners, but their definition of Afghan nationalism is incongruent with what most Afghans want, absent coercion by Taliban guns and bombs.

Security must be the first priority or nothing else matters.

Turkey-Iraq-the Kurds: Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) official Bozan Tekin announced a conditional cease-fire between the PKK and Turkish forces to last until 20 September, Reuters reported 13 August. The group said it has moved from the position of active defense that it has held since June 1 to a position of passive defense. It also said that it retains the right to self-defense but will not initiate action. Tekin said a lasting cease-fire was possible if Turkey released 1,700 political detainees, stopped military operations and started a peace process.

France vs al Qaida: Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) called French President Sarkozy an enemy of Allah and warned France it will avenge its fighters killed in a raid by French troops in July, Reuters reported 16 August, citing a statement posted on Islamist forums. It called on tribes in the area straddling Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria to fight "the sons and agents of Christian France."

The French replied by announcing that the anti-terrorism program Vigipirate, has been revised for increased security through 15 September. The increased terrorist alert is in response to a "rise in the Islamist threat to French nationals" in the southern part of the Sahel and on the Arabian Peninsula, according to a letter written on behalf of French National Police Chief Michel Gaudin, Agence France-Presse reported 16 August.

Upon the instruction of French Prime Minister Fillon, Vigipirate is at level red, which is one level below the highest alert. The letter said places of worship, tourist sites, major event spaces and shopping centers will be closely monitored.

Note: This looks serious. The French do not like those who abuse their citizens, tolerance, culture or privileges.

End of NightWatch for 16 August.

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