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NightWatch 20100927


For the Night of 27 September 2010

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported today, 27 September, that North Korean leader Kim Chong-il promoted a large number of general officers today. Those promoted include his older sister, the Minister of Light Industry, Kim Kyong-hui; his third son and heir apparent, Kim Chong-un, and four others to the rank of general, a four-star rank. He promoted 33 others to the ranks of colonel-general (3 stars), lieutenant general (2 stars) and major general (1 star). North Korea retains the Soviet system of general officer ranks.

Comment: Late September is not a regular promotion time and these promotions are not normal. For example, the two most prominent new "generals" - Kim Kyong-hui and Kim Chong-un - have never served a day in the armed forces. Kim's older sister overseas the production and distribution of consumer goods for North Korean households. The third son has spent much of his life in Swiss boarding schools.

The fact that the leadership was constrained to promote Kim family civilian relatives to senior military ranks before the Party Conference convened is significant for several reasons. Most important is that it exposes the Kim family leadership's recognition that its survival depends fundamentally on the backing of the Army leadership, not the Party elite. Kim Chong-il cannot govern without the Army and the Army cannot govern without Kim.

The Communist custom is for the armed forces to swear loyalty and obedience to the Communist party. In Communist doctrine, military dominance of the Party and State is a deviation called "Bonapartism."

Kim Il-sung took decades after the Korean War to bring the Korean People's Army under the control of the Korean Workers' Party. Within months after his death in 1994, Kim Chong-il completely ignored his father's legacy and communist doctrine and made the military first. He was nearly assassinated in August 1994 and needed the army's protection.

The army now swears loyalty and obedience to the leader, in person, as the embodiment of the state. This is the ancient tradition of the Confucian kings in China and Korea. It is also the common practice in despotisms everywhere.

The second implication is that the popular notion of a Kim dynasty is a fraud. The North Korean armed forces are the source of leadership legitimacy.

The third implication is the promotion of Kim's 64-year old sister and his 27-year old son to the rank of general sets a dangerous precedent. The last ruler of North Korea to fight for North Korea in the armed forces was Kim Il-sung. These promotions devalue the efforts of the real generals who have served long and hard to earn their promotions … and military service in North Korea is both long and hard. North Korean officers will see that these promotions are a travesty. South Koreans will ridicule them.

What is not likely to be known in open source materials is what kind of bribes, incentives and promises the Kim family had to make to obtain the army's support for a 27-year old pampered youth who is now a general by decree and will soon be the commander-in-chief.

Today's promotions represent an implicit admission by the leadership around the ailing Kim Chong-il that North Korea is not a communist state run by the Workers' Party. It is a  military-backed despotism on its last legs.

During this Watch, the third Party Conference - not a Party Congress as erroneously reported by the Telegraph - will have convened. The armed forces elected the 27-year old Kim, known as the young general, as a delegate to the conference along with his father, according to KCNA. This was an essential action in the leadership transition to manifest military backing. The young man also must be given a party position so as to ensure civilian backing.

After the election, the Central Committee distributed an internal propaganda notice proclaiming Kim Jong-un to be Kim Jong-il's "sole successor", according to a report in South Korea's largest newspaper the Chosun Ilbo.

The message is the new leader is a military leader first and then a good communist, in the bastardized North Korean version of a communist system. Neither part of the message is accurate. North Korea's leadership arrangement after Kim Chong-il dies or becomes incapacitated is unstable and depends on the loyalty of the corps commanders of the Korean People's Army.

The Fishing Boat Confrontation

Japan: On 26 September Japan rejected China's demand for an apology and for compensation for having detained the fishing boat captain.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told the media that Japan also asked China to recall two Chinese patrol boats from the from the Senkaku Islands, whose ownership is at the center of the confrontation. Sengoku said the boats have been in the area since the 24th.

The Chief Cabinet Secretary also said China will be asked to pay for damages to the Japan Coast Guard ships to return them to original condition. Whether it is done now or later when things cool down, this will be the government's task, Sengoku said. There are calls for renewed talks with China on fishing around the islands and to prevent such an incident from recurring.

In other developments Japan called on China to ensure the safety of four Japanese nationals detained in Hebei Province and swiftly handle the case for humanitarian reasons. A minister at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing delivered the request to the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Department of Consular Affairs, asking that China ensure "continued access" to the detainees through visitations by consuls and meetings with lawyers. China guaranteed their safety and the case will be handled in accordance with Chinese law, according to the Japanese Embassy.

Russia: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged China and Japan to compromise as the two countries remain deadlocked in a dispute over the East China Sea, Radio Free Europe reported Sept. 27. Lavrov, who is accompanying Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on a three-day visit to China, stressed "international legal criteria" in resolving the dispute

China: In what appears to be retaliation for Japan's handling of the recent collisions between a Chinese fishing boat and Japan Coast Guard vessels, China has toughened customs clearance procedures, delaying shipments to and from Japan, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Comment: The Chinese behavior indicates the fishing boat incident is important to the future of Chinese-Japanese relations. The Chinese are pressing their advantage, after the Japanese concession. They show no signs of compromise, despite maintaining normal diplomacy with Japan in other venues. The issue is dominance in Asia. The Chinese openly are grabbing at it; the Japanese are more circumspect but also want it.

Pakistan: Security. Pakistani intelligence has warned about the threat of attacks against high profile military officials. At a meeting supposedly held in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban leaders decided to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, General Kayani, and the Pakistan Army's corps commanders.

Comment: This report should not be taken at face value because it is not at all clear the Pakistani Taliban have the capability or desire to pose a serious threat to the most protected military officers in Pakistan and face the consequences of trying to assassinate them. Such a directive would amount to a death wish for the Pakistani Taliban. Either the threat is wishful thinking, a canard, or something more sinister.

The something more sinister is a disinformation campaign to build pressure for a military takeover of government in the interest of national security. A strong popular impulse now supports another Army takeover. The elected government has been inefficient and slow in responding to and managing national problems, especially the floods.

The flood victims and their families are impatient for help. The Army is the one government institution that has responded well… with lots of unacknowledged US assistance. Political groups that favor a return to military rule are capable of crafting disinformation that promotes an Army takeover.

Politics. The government of Prime Minister Gilani decided to dismiss the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) ministers and other high officials, The Nation reported on 27 September. Prime Minister Gilani reportedly engaged in serious deliberations about relieving NRO ministers and apparently convinced the government to move forward, unidentified sources said, adding that Gilani will form a new Cabinet.

Comment: NRO ministers are members of the cabinet held over from the Musharraf era. His NRO suspended their sentences for a wide range of corruption charges that would otherwise have disqualified them from public service. Gilani kept some of them in his government and in public service. Last December the Supreme Court found the NRO to be unconstitutional and reinstated the sentences Musharraf tried to waive, but failed to pardon.

The Court has moved slowly to require execution of its mandate, but is out of patience. Nevertheless, the latest push for action appears intended to force the elected government to acknowledge the Court as an equal branch of government, rather than to create a crisis that could lead to a military takeover.

The Chief Justice wants the rule of law institutionalized as a counterweight to military usurpation of the Constitution. In his view, there are now no institutional impediments to another military coup in that the elected government survives at military sufferance. The Chief Justice intends to establish those blocks which will make military intervention a constitutional crime that can never be excused, as was done by Musharraf's tampering with the Court.

Late update. The Supreme Court accepted a government request to suspend the hearing about the implementation of its order regarding the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) sentences.

The Court agreed to continue the case until 13 October. In return, President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Kayani met and agreed to settle all issues resulting from the Court's order in accordance with the Constitution. Unidentified sources said the three officials agreed there would be no compromises on good governance.

Comment: This past weekend Musharraf announced his forthcoming return to Pakistan from London to establish a new political party. Musharraf continues to regard himself in messianic terms, as the savior of Pakistan.

The action of the Court and the legislative and executive branches of government plus the Army ensures that any Musharraf interlopers and holdovers will be ejected from the government. Musharraf hand picked General Kayani, but Kayani has proven to be his own man, with the strong support of Prime Minister Gilani.

France-Burkina Fasso: A detachment from the French Special Operations Command (COS) -- reportedly 100 men -- has staged in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, as a contingency for a possible rescue of the seven hostages, five of them French, kidnapped in Arlit, Niger, by an al Qaida affiliate, according to a French internet news source. This joint forces detachment reportedly is supported by at least 8 transport aircraft and helicopters.

According to the source, the special forces detachment deployed from Mauritania, where it had been training Mauritania's special forces, and has been reinforced by elements sent from France.

Comment: This report is the second indicating the French are positioning commandos for a possible rescue operation. Last week a unit reportedly arrived in Niamey, Niger, for the same purpose. Naturally, the French Ministry of Defense has denied the deployments and their purpose. Expect a rescue attempt as soon as the French have sufficiently detailed information on the location of the hostages.

Venezuela: For the record. President Hugo Chavez's socialist party won at least 90 of the 165 seats in the National Assembly, while the opposition coalition won at least 59 seats, National Electoral Council chief Tibisay Lucena said 27 September. The opposition protested that it won a majority of the popular vote. The seat total is what counts, not the popular vote. The outcome was not in doubt. This is a study in democracy.

NightWatch Special Announcement:

Kforce Government Solutions (KGS) is pleased to announce that it will sponsor the first ever short course entitled "NightWatch Concepts of Analysis" on the afternoon of 29 September at the AFCEA auditorium. The Instructor/Facilitator will be Mr. John F. McCreary, founder of NightWatch.

Please follow the link below to register for the course and to obtain further information about the course, the instructor, the location and the fee schedule.

End of NightWatch for 27 September.

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