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NightWatch 20110623

NightWatch

For the Night of 23 June 2011

China-South Korea: According to President Lee Myung-bak, Chinese officials told South Korean counterparts that China will no longer take the side of North Korea, if Pyongyang makes additional provocations such as the two last year.

Lee made the remarks during a lunch meeting with members of the parliamentary defense committee on Thursday, 23 June, according to lawmakers who participated in the meeting. Lee told the lawmakers that "China delivered its intentions that it won't stand by the North if it makes an additional provocation," a lawmaker said.

Comment: Lee's statements about what the Chinese conveyed to South Korea almost certainly are accurate because they match Chinese policy for the past 20 years, at least. At the time of the first nuclear crisis in late 1993, Chinese officials indicated that China would help defend North Korea if the Allied forces initiated an attack, but would not back North Korea if the North Koreans initiated an attack.

Lee's restatement of Chinese policy is significant for several reasons. First it is the latest restatement of a Chinese policy formulated long ago. China's support for North Korea in war is limited and conditional.

Second it suggests that the Chinese provided Lee their assessment that North Korea initiated the military actions that sank the South Korean corvette ChonAn (Cheonan) and the artillery shelling of the offshore island.

Most importantly, it provides assurance that in the event of another provocation initiated by the North, China will not intervene reflexively to defend the North.  At least that is President Lee's understanding.

Thus, the stage is set, metaphorically, for a limited exchange of fire, if the North again attempts to try to embellish the phony military leadership credentials of heir-apparent Kim Jong un by making a provocation in his name. China will not mitigate the consequences of North Korea's poor choices that ignore China's strong preference for stability on the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese appear to have tired of the North's schizoid antics, as has every other nation that has tried to assist it.

India-Pakistan: Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir began their latest round of talks in Islamabad on 23 June. The first meeting dealt with peace and security issues and ways to build confidence on Kashmir. Two more rounds will take place on 24 June and will focus on friendly exchanges, plus Jammu and Kashmir.

Comment: The Indians have shown remarkable statesmanship in continuing the dialogue despite their expectation that another terrorist attack from Pakistani-based terrorists is almost inevtiable and their concern that bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad, Pakistan near teh military academy.  Prime Minister Singh's government is doing what it can to help stabilize an increasingly unstable government in Islamabad. 

Somalia-US: A suspected U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle on late 23 June launched missiles against a jihadist camp in the small Somali coastal village of Khandal, about 8 kilometers west of Kismayo, reports from the village indicated.

According to the reports, the missiles also struck an area where foreign jihadists were boarding a boat. A Kismayo resident said the attack happened around 7 or 8 p.m. local time and resulted in many casualties, including senior members of the Islamist militia al Shabaab in the area.

Comment: This attack means that a US decision has been made to extend the war against terrorists by drone attack to Somalia, as well as Yemen. Al Shabaab leaders are targets.

Libya: The official Libyan news agency published a series of reports on the regular meeting of the General People's Committee (cabinet). The Committee enacted laws decentralizing the government and conveying the appearance that political life is normal in Libya. It is not.

According to an official announcement, the administrative districts (sha'biyahs) would be reorganized into 43 separate districts. The meeting discussed "local government in the light of General People's Committee resolution No 97 of 2011 regarding the naming of sha'biyahs in the Great Jamahiriyah and the creation of some sha'biyahs so that their total number comes to 43", the report said. The reform would mean that each sha'biyah would be financially independent and be divided into 20 sectors with its own spheres of authority.

Comment:  The government is reducing its responsibility to support its subordinate administrative districts.  North Korea did something similar under conditions of near collapse during the famine in the mid-1990s. It notified all the provincial governments that funds and supplies from the central distribution system were terminated and empowered the provinces to fend for themselves, for the first time since the Korean War.

That is precisely what Libya has done to the district governments. The government in Tripoli has tried to make a political virtue of decentralized control out of its decline.

The Qadhafi government is trying to find a line of services it can hold and the perimeter is shrinking. The new law means it has abandoned regions outside Tripoli. It is strong, credible behavioral evidence that the Qadhafi regime is slowly collapsing on Tripoli.

A rumor-For the record. A former Libyan foreign minister who defected to the opposition said on 23 June that he believed Qadhafi has realized that he can no longer stay in Libya and may leave within a few weeks. Abdel Rahman Shalgam told Corriere della Sera TV he believed Qadhafi was negotiating for asylum with either Belarus or an African country.

Shalgam, who still serves as Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, said Qadhafi wants three things: to leave the country, to have money and to be protected from the International Criminal Court.

Comment: There is no way to determine the accuracy of the rumor. The terms are plausible, but not complete. Qadhafi's children also want to leave, with money and without accountability.

End of NightWatch for 23 June.

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