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NightWatch 20101026


For the Night of 26 October 2010

North Korea: Update. The United States will lead the United Nations Command in a round of colonel-level talks with North Korea at the border village of Panmunjom on 27 October, a military source said, Yonhap reported.

China-Japan: Update. Chinese protesters held an anti-Japanese demonstration near the Japanese Consulate in Chongqing, China, on the 26th  .  A consulate official said between 1,000 and 2,000 people gathered, including onlookers, and consular security was strengthened and plainclothes police were present. Another witness said the protesters chanted slogans about the disputed Senkaku islands.

China-Southeast Asia: Mainichi reported last week that commercial satellite imagery detected one and possibly two Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarines docked at a Chinese navy base in Sanya, Hainan Island, in the South China Sea. The image was taken in early September.

In 2008, a Type 094 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine was detected at Sanya, but is not assessed to be based there.

Comment: China is building and basing submarines to enforce its maritime claims in the East and South China Seas. Experts rate the technology in the Type 093 as a generation or more behind the US, but it is better than anything in the navies of the Southeast Asian states that dispute China's sea claims.

Iran-Afghanistan: The Iranian Foreign Ministry confirmed today, 26 October, that it provided financial assistance to Afghanistan, explaining the money is for development and reconstruction. A ministry spokesman said Tehran was giving the aid for infrastructure to remove a reason for foreign military presence in Afghanistan. He said the aid also was given by the previous government and the aid will continue.

Comment: Initially Iran denied the New York Times story about the payments. After a day of reflection and gauging international reaction to the story, Iran found its interests best served by admitting the payments with positive spin.

For new analysts: It is rare to observe this kind of quick media reversal. Most leaders take a position and adhere to it, often to their regret. It is risky and even rarer to observe a national leadership make a quick change and have it become benign as in this instance.

This is called converting adversity into advantage. It is an ancient precept of national security operations that setbacks always create new opportunities for the astute, perceptive and above average practitioner. In one KGB manual, this precept was central to the chapter on handling intelligence setbacks.

This time it worked to Iran's advantage, but Iran's media managers appear to have been lucky more than clever.

Venezuela- US: For the record. The Caracas government seized two factories owned by U.S.-based glass maker Owens Illinois, because it caused "environmental damage and exploited workers," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on 25 October. Today Venezuelan soldiers took possession of the factories.

Venezuela-Middle East: President Chavez said his government and Libya are creating a $1 billion joint investment fund to pay for projects the two countries will pursue together, according to a report by The Associated Press. Chavez also announced a $100 million joint fund with Syria, which will be used on projects such as aid in the construction of an oil refinery and to establish an olive oil processing plant.

Comment: Chavez invariably goes out of his way to make questionable deals with countries that tend to have strained relations with the US. None of his new allies are in a position to help Venezuela in the event of trouble, which calls into question the wisdom of the investments, the utility of the associations and the soundness of Chavez' judgment.

End of NightWatch for 26 October.

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