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NightWatch 20101015


For the Night of 15 October 2010

North Korea: North Korea threatened on 15 October to attack sites in South Korea if Seoul carries out its threat to start cross-border propaganda broadcasts and leaflet launches, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The loudspeakers and other sites will face "a physical strike from our army" if the official propaganda campaign is launched, the North said. It described comments by the South's National Defense Minister about a possible resumption of propaganda as "a declaration of war" and "grave military provocation."

Comment: After the North sank the South Korean corvette Cheonan, South Korea directed preparations to resume propaganda broadcasts and leaflet drops against North Korea. The North's reaction is typical and indicates no change in policies since the party meeting.

North Korea-China: North Korea intends to work with China to find ways to have UN sanctions lifted. North Korean leaders state the end of sanctions is a condition for restarting the six-party talks on its nuclear program, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported on 15 October. North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told Chinese special representative for Korean affairs Wu Dawei that North Korea and China "can find measures" to break the current stalemate over nuclear talks.

Comment: The main North Korean condition on talks, previously, was US acknowledgement of the North as a nuclear armed state. Sanctions were a secondary issue. The bottom line is that the North's willingness to resume talks is conditional. Moreover, the marked increase in Chinese involvement indicates China no longer can be considered a reliable broker in arranging talks. Recent Chinese engagement with the North appears to be stiffening the North's terms for talks.

Afghanistan-Italy: The Italian ambassador to Afghanistan on 14 October said his country was not going to equip Italian combat aircraft in Afghanistan with bombs. He said the Italian defense minister was misquoted by the press.

Israel-Lebanon: Israeli warplanes executed mock raids at medium altitude in the southern airspace above Nabatiyeh, Iklim al Toufah, Marjoun, Khiyam and Orkoub on 15 October, according to a local reporter in Lebanon.

Comment: Israeli pilots require periodic refresher training over likely targets. The flights also are reminders that Lebanon is open to Israeli air forces. Overflights are not predictable, but may be expected after Lebanese leaders take political action that annoys Israel, such as hosting Iran's president Ahmadi-Nejad.

Venezuela-Russia: Russia does not plan to cut military-technical cooperation with Venezuela, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said on 15 October Interfax reported. He spoke at a press conference following talks with Venezuelan President Chavez. Medvedev called changes in the economic sphere "very serious and of a tectonic character," and includes nearly all sectors of mutual interest. This includes real investment, primarily in the energy sector, he said.

Prime Minister Putin announced that Russia has sold 35 tanks to Venezuela. That is enough to equip a Russian-style battalion.

Comment: Chavez justifies a more than $4 billion arms spending spree since 2005 based on the threat of a US attack. He intends to purchase Kilo-class submarines and S-300 air defense missiles. Russia canceled its longstanding contract for similar missiles with Iran. A major concern is that Venezuela will be a conduit for Russian arms to reach Iran because of the closeness of Chavez' connection with Ahmadi-Nejad in opposing the US.

After Russia, Chavez is scheduled to visit Belarus, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Portugal.

End of NightWatch for 15 October.

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