For the Night of 17 December 2010
Japan: The ruling Democratic Party of Japan in its first National Defense Program Outline prescribes a reduction of Japanese troops on Hokkaido and a reduction of Cold War-era equipment. Security will be increased near China and Taiwan and defense cooperation will be enhanced with South Korea, the United States, India and Australia, with whom it will cooperate to combat cyber-attacks. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said the program is appropriate given the current security landscape.
Comments: Chinese and North Korean assertiveness has succeeded in persuading Japan to redirect its defense policy and realign its defense forces.
The Korea Confrontation
South Korea: During this Watch, South Korea's military said it would go ahead with a live-fire drill on Yeonpyeong Island, despite North Korean threats of retaliation. "There is no change in our stance with regards to the live-fire exercise," a National Defense ministry spokesman said. "We cannot confirm... whether we will carry out the exercise today."
North Korea: Earlier on 17 December, the Korean Central News Agency reported a statement by the Korean Peoples Army warned of and threatened asymmetric retaliation for South Korean artillery fire and threatened retaliation in other locations. The threat and warning contained no conditions.
"The head of the delegation of the KPA side to the north-south general-level military talks sent the following notice to the south Korean puppet forces at 12:20 on Friday in connection with the fact that the puppet military warmongers' reckless military provocations reached a grave phase under the wire-pulling of their American master:
The puppet military warmongers should take a prompt measure to stop the planned provocative maritime shelling from Y'onpyong Island.
In case they conduct the above-said shelling at last despite the warning served by the KPA in advance, it will deal the second and third unpredictable self-defensive blow at them to protect the inviolable territorial waters of the DPRK as it had declared before the world.
It will be deadlier than what was made on Nov. 23 in terms of the powerfulness and sphere of the strike.
The south Korean group of traitors and the puppet military warmongers had better cogitate about the KPA's warning. "
Comment: If the South Koreans fire into the water around Yeonpyeong Island, the North will fire back at the island and will retaliate elsewhere and will blame South Korea and the US. This is a warning.
Russia: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister A.N. Borodavkin summoned U.S. Ambassador to Russia J. Beyrle and South Korean Ambassador to Russia Lee Yoon Ho to the Russian Foreign Ministry for a discussion, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced on 17 December.
Borodavkin conveyed Russia's concern over South Korea's plans to hold a live-fire drill in the presence of representatives from U.S. armed forces between 18 and 21 December from Yeonpyeong Island. Borodavkin urged the United States and South Korea to call off the drill in the interest of keeping tensions on the Korean Peninsula from rising.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also urged North Korea to show maximum restraint regarding South Korea's live-fire exercises on Yeonpyeong Island, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website. The Russians expressed concern about North Korean statements regarding the possible use of military force if South Korea holds the military drill. Russia urged North Korea not to take actions that could aggravate the already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Comment: Russia is not directly a major actor in the confrontation, but its territory would be threatened and its economic interests in the Far East would suffer in the event the confrontation escalates.
China-North Korea: A South Korean news outlet reported on 17 December that China will lead the development of the northeastern North Korean port of Rajin based on an agreement in August between North Korean leader Kim Chong Il and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The agreement will result in full economic cooperation in the development of the Tumen River basin. China will receive rights to the port allowing Chinese ships to use the Tumen River to reach the East Sea from the village of Fangchuan in Huichun, China.
China also will lease two islands from North Korea on the Yalu River that forms part of the border between the two countries to establish free trade zones and tourist facilities starting May 2011, according to Chinese sources, and the Japanese news outlet Asahi Shimbun. The two islands, Huangjinping and Heihua, will incur no tariffs or customs procedures, and Chinese factories and distribution centers will be established and staffed by North Korean workers.
Comment: The timing of the two announcements suggests they were released by Chinese sources to reinforce the importance China attaches to stability for economic construction. The two projects also advance the new Chinese policy of increasing Chinese involvement in North Koran economic construction.
China appears to have agreed to help North Korea meet Kim Chong-il's delusional goal of making North Korea prosperous in 2012. That appears to be the North's price for listening to Chinese advice.
China: For the record. The State Oceanic Administration said the plan to build China's first aircraft carrier was decided last year by China's leaders, Asahi Shimbun reported.
The annual national ocean development report says "asserting China's sea power is indispensable to accomplishing the great resurgence of the Chinese people." A conventional powered carrier is planned for launch in 2015, according to Chinese military sources. A nuclear powered carrier is planned for launch by 2020. The report indicated that the possession of aircraft carriers is necessary to compete with the United States and heighten patriotic sentiment
Comment: This is not news, but the outlet announcing the plan is unusual. The Chinese are following the US path to superpower status.
Afghanistan: Special note. NightWatch is preparing another special report on Afghanistan that covers the fighting in November 2010. The initial compilation and collation indicates there were just over 1,625 clashes, attacks and shooting engagements of all kinds. Fighting or incidents occurred in 33 of the 34 provinces and in 231 of the 400 districts of Afghanistan.
Those numbers make November 2010 the worst month in the history of the insurgency in that 231 is the largest number of districts that experienced violent attacks or IED incidents and the total number of engagements is more than double the next nearest month which was March 2009, the start of the spring offensive. The Taliban initiated the majority of the engagements in the sample. In October 2010, fighting was elevated at over 700 clashes, attacks and shooting engagements.
The November data describes a surge capability, not a permanent expansion of Taliban control. Many of the districts had single attacks which indicate terrorist reach but not the presence of a permanent fighting group.
Fighting and IED events in Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Nangarhar and Maydan Wardak set new records. In key districts of these provinces, three or four attacks occurred a day throughout the month. They were directed at Coalition forces and bases, government centers and suspected sympathizers. They also featured more and better use of crew-served weapons.
The New York Times and other papers reported that in November Coalition forces counted the highest number of IED incidents on record. The total fighting data explains why.
The more than doubling of activity indicates anti-government forces, especially the Taliban associated with the Quetta or Karachi Shura, commenced and sustained major offensive. It appears to be continuing into December.
Venezuela: Update. In a lame duck session, the outgoing parliament voted on 17 December to authorize President Chavez to rule by decree for the next 18 months. .
The new National Assembly, elected in September and due to be inaugurated 5 January 2011 includes a large opposition minority that would have made it more difficult to push through Chavez-backed legislation. Some opponents called the law "the Cuban package" because the government declared that its purpose is to hasten the transformation of Venezuela into an irreversibly socialist society.
Comment: Chavez had requested the authority for 12 months, but his cohorts extended the time on their own initiative. He will be able to ignore the new parliament in nine areas, including private business, the media, local government, universities and humanitarian groups. This is another study in democracy.
End of NightWatch for 17 December.
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