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NightWatch 20101017

NightWatch

For the Night of 17 October 2010

Japan: Update. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is considering legislation that would add territorial policing to the responsibilities of the Maritime Self-Defense Force, following the recent dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, according to LDP lawmakers, Kyodo reported 17 October.

The legislation would empower the naval force to respond to territorial violations by foreign aircraft and ships. Under current law, the Self-Defense Force can only respond to armed attacks against Japan and domestic unrest. The legislation will be drafted through the end of the year and proposed in the parliament in January 2011.

Comment: The significance is that the maritime disputes are not over, just papered over. And the Japanese are adding naval firepower to their side of future incidents. The ruling coalition led by the Democratic Party has not commented.

South Korea-North Korea: South Korea's hosting of a multinational naval drill aimed at preventing the transfer of weapons of mass destruction is an "open declaration of war," North Korean officials said on 16 October, according to Agence France-Presse reported. South Korea will participate fully for the first time in the Proliferation Security Initiative.

Comment: South Korea has been hesitant to participate in Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) activities precisely because they increase the likelihood of a confrontation with North Korea, one of the world's worst arms proliferators plus one of the countries least respectful of UN sanctions.

The PSI is a US.-led multinational initiative intended since 2003 to prevent and stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials on the high seas. The PSI has over 90 member nations, including Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore and Norway. Among countries opposed to the PSI are China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Iran, who dispute its legality.

South Korean participation in activities in the Sea of Japan appears to be a reaction to the sinking of the corvette Cheonan. The North's aggression without remorse has moved South Korea to take a stronger position to prevent the North from earning hard currency by proliferating in violation of UN sanctions.

North Korea is an outlaw. Its propaganda statement today merely restates the fact that there exists a state of war between North Korea and the Allies. It is tiresomely predictable - the same old stuff.

The North's propagandists are fond of manipulating the words that describe existing conditions to make them appear more dangerous than they are. The message behind the propaganda is the North is essentially impotent.

Iran: For the record. President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad said Iran is ready to resume nuclear talks with the international community, and Western powers will have no option but to talk with Tehran on the issue, international media reported on 17 October. The United States, United Kingdom, France, China, Russia and Germany will hold nuclear talks with Iran from 15 to 18 November. Expect nothing from these talks.

Syria: Syrian President Bashar al Asad arrived in Saudi Arabia on 17 October for talks with Saudi King Abdallah, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The talks are expected to focus on developments in Lebanon, including the UN tribunal investigation of the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, the visit by Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad and the political situation in Iraq. It is the Syrian president's second trip to Saudi Arabia in 2010.

Comment: The struggle for control of Lebanon depends on whether ethnic Arab identity or sectarian identity -- Shiite vs. Sunni -is the stronger. Ahmadi-Nejad, a Persian, is counting on Shiite influence with Syria and Hezbollah to pull Lebanon into a stronger alliance with Iran. The Lebanese treated Ahmadi-Nejad with his anti-Israel message as if he were a rock star.

All year Saudi King Abdallah has attempted to tie Syria and Lebanon more tightly to the Arab world, with limited success. Most Syrians and Lebanese are Arabs, but the Syrian rulers are Alawites, a sect of Shiism while the population is Sunni. The Shiites of Lebanon are a plurality, while the remainder are Christians, Sunnis and other confessions.

Saudi Arabia-France: For the record. Saudi intelligence services warned France of a new terror threat from al-Qaida, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said Sunday. He said the warning of a potential attack by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula - Yemen -- was received "in the last few hours, few days."

Europeans were informed that "al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was doubtless active or envisioned being active" on the "European continent, notably France," Hortefeux said during a joint TV and radio interview. The press accounts of the warning contained no details.

End of NightWatch for 17 October.

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