For the Night of 21 December 2010
South Korea: For the first time in seven years, South Korea has lit a 100-foot tower in the shape of a Christmas triee with 100,000 Christmas lights and topped it with a cross, along the Demilitarized Zone. A choir sang Christmas carols. The tower and carols could be seen and heard in North Korea.
North Korea denounced the tower and threatened to destroy it. The government in Seoul announced that any attempt by North Korea to destroy the tower would be met with military retaliation. South Korean Marines are protecting the tower.
Comment: An NW Reader has confirmed this report. Thanks to all NW Readers during 2010!
For now, South Koreans are inclined to take actions that provoke the North -- a long overdue change. South Korea plans a major live fire exercise involving armor and artillery north of Seoul on Thursday. The navy also plans an exercise off the east coast, but near the border with North Korea, to practice detection and destruction of North Korean midget submarine intrusions.
Afghanistan-Iran: Iran is blocking almost 2,000 fuel tankers from crossing the border into Afghanistan, saying the trucks would supply U.S.-led coalition troops, according to Afghan officials. The unannounced blockade is in its third week, and Afghan officials do not know when fuel imports will resume, Afghan Deputy Minister of Commerce Sharif Shairifi said.
The customs chief in Afghanistan's Nimroz Province said approximately 600 fuel tankers are idle on the Iranian border and similar backlogs have emerged on the borders of Herat and Farah Provinces, north of Nimroz and bordering Iran.
Nimroz province has lost roughly $3.5 million in customs fees during the past two weeks, and Herat and Farah provinces have been equally affected.
Comment: The blockage appears to be related to price adjustments announced by the government that has caused a nation wide strike by truckers. These are unintended system effects in a global economy.
Sudan: Update. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz held talks with Sudanese President Omar al Bashir and Southern Sudanese leader Salva Kiir in Khartoum on 21 December in anticipation of the coming referendum on Southern Sudanese independence.
The heads of state discussed the importance of building solid relations between the north and the south based on mutual benefit, peace, stability and economic development, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said following the meeting. The north and the south agreed to refrain from anything that might disturb the scheduled referendum, Gheit said.
Comment: The composition of the summit leaders indicates the major topics were about Islam and Arabic issues related to Sudan after the referendum.
The referendum on southern Sudanese independence is set for 9 January 2011. The vote is part of a 2005 peace agreement that ended the civil war between north and south - one of the oldest in the world. The agreement set up an interim constitution that limited Sharia (Islamic law) to the north and recognized "the cultural and social diversity" of the people in southern Sudan.
Most of the people in the south follow indigenous beliefs and Christianity. The southern regions also contain most of the natural and mineral wealth of Sudan.
The vote is expected to be overwhelmingly in favor of independence, which will fracture Sudan, cut off its wealthiest provinces and encourage two other regions to secede. In anticipation of a vote for independence, the government has encouraged the anti-independence Christians and animists in the south by promising that Sudan will be governed by Sharia after 9 January and the official language will be Arabic. This is a study in democracy.
End of NightWatch for 21 December.
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