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NightWatch 20101129

NightWatch

For the Night of 29 November 2010

The Korea Confrontation

Japan: Japan said on 29 November that China's proposal to hold an emergency six-party meeting on North Korea's nuclear program would not be fruitful while the North does not show signs of ending provocative acts, reported. Japan is working with South Korea and the United States to address tension between the Koreas and to decide whether six-way talks would work, according to Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku. A meeting on 6 December is under negotiation.

Comment: Japan's attitude towards North Korea is much harsher than the US approach. China and North Korea need to be wary of Japan.

South Korea: South Korean President Lee said North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island was an inhuman crime, Yonhap reported Nov. 29. Lee said military attacks on civilians are a crime against humanity prohibited even during wartime and that it is difficult to expect Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program and military brinksmanship on its own.

South Korean military officials "delayed" an artillery exercise on Yeonpyeong Island that had been scheduled for Tuesday, 30 November, according to Yonhap News Agency.

South Korea has deployed more long-range artillery guns and rocket launchers on Yeonpyeong Island. There are now 12 K-9 self-propelled howitzers and an unspecified number of 130 mm multiple launch rocket systems on the island, the site of recent artillery shelling from North Korea.

Comment: President Lee vowed last March, after the sinking of the Cheonan, to respond to North Korean provocations in kind. Lee and the armed forces failed to respond effectively on the 23rd. In a parliamentary system, as in Japan, Lee would be required to resign to save face.

Despite Lee's tough talk and annual presentations to the US Congress for 60 years about the gravity and imminence of the threat from North Korea, Allied forces were not ready to respond to the North Korean attack on the 23rd. US and South Korean forces apparently are not combat ready and the North Koreans took advantage of it.

Had the North Koreans fired at Seoul, the death toll would have been much higher and the lack of Allied readiness would have produced a similar ineffective and delayed Allied response. The North Koreans are risk averse, but the low level of Allied combat readiness almost invites an attack.

North Korea: The Party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, published a warning that the ongoing joint naval exercise of the United States and South Korea is a fresh provocation that hinders peace and stability and a criminal move that may bring the situation on the Korean peninsula to an explosion. Rodong Sinmun added that North Korea was prepared to respond to all manners of provocation.

Comment: On the third day of Allied exercises in the Yellow Sea, no additional provocations have taken place. No surprise in that. The USS George Washington and its escorts carry enough fire power to destroy anything of value in North Korea, most of which is in Pyongyang. Nevertheless, after the US ships leave, as in March, the North Koreans will again conclude that they can get away with murder.

Other items

Iran: President Ahmadi-Nejad said leaked American diplomatic cables in which Arab nations call for the United States to launch a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities were meant to stir "mischief." He said Iran does not give value to the documents, adding that Iran remains friends with regional states. Ahmadinejad said the leaks amount to "intelligence warfare" perpetrated by the United States to cause trouble.

Comment: The leaked reports attest to a curious achievement of Iranian policies and diplomacy. The reports indicate Iran has succeeded in doing something that most Muslims would consider unthinkable - forging agreement between Arab states and Israel that Iran is the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East and should be attacked…. By the US, of course.

Except for the support of the al Maliki government in Iraq, which still hosts 50,000 US troops, and the support of the Erdogan government in Turkey, a NATO ally of the US, Iran would be totally alone.

End of NightWatch for 29 November.

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