For the night of 29 October 2012
North Korea: Update and comment. Over the weekend NightWatch checked North Korean diplomatic activity to determine the extent of the semi-state of war alert. Three foreign delegations arrived in Pyongyang on 26 October and were greeted by high level North Korean officials.
The alert began in the early morning of the 26th. The delegations arrived during the day. That information directly indicates that the alert is partial, not in support of national war preparations, and indirectly indicates that international flight activity at Sunan international airport is normal.
Those inferences signify that the alert is at least a precaution against a surprise attack during the Allied exercise. It still also might be related to leadership stability issues. It does not suggest a provocation against South Korea is in the works.
In addition to the above, Kim Jong-un attended three public events at Kim Il-sung Military University. First reported was the unveiling of statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Chong-il at the university, where "Marshal" Kim took a military parade and salute by the students. Next was a soccer match between the army team, April 25 (April 25 is the KPA anniversary date), and the Sonbong sports club. In the evening Kim attended a band concert in honor of Kim Il-sung Military University's 60th anniversary on the 29th. His wife accompanied him to the soccer match and the concert.
Interestingly, Kim's father never permitted the North Korean media to date reports of his public appearances, apparently as a security precaution. Kim Jong-un's appearances usually are dated. The young Kim appears to be trying to ease some of the austerity of the regime's practices, but with only limited success.
Generally, leadership activities look normal in the North.
South Korea-North Korea: Some 40 members of a South Korean civic group launched tens of thousands of leaflets denouncing the North Korean regime across the border between the two countries on 29 October, causing brief scuffles between group members and residents in the border town of Paju.
Comment: The North's alert posture appears more aimed at the Allied exercise in progress than at the leaflet launches. Nevertheless, the South Korean activists are almost daring the North to act on its threat to retaliate against their launch sites with artillery fire.
South Korean authorities almost certainly know about the leaflet launches but have only stopped one. North Korean authorities with some justification will assume the South is at least in complicity with the launches, which appear to be using the Allied exercise as a window of opportunity for sending the anti-Kim regime leaflets across the Demilitarized Zone.
Iran-Sudan: According to the Iranian news service, which quoted the navy public relations office, a small navy task group composed of the support ship Khark and the corvette Shahid Naqdi docked at Port Sudan. The press statements indicated the ships were sent with the aim of carrying the message of peace and friendship for the neighboring countries and ensuring security for transportation and shipping against the "horrifying phenomenon of sea terrorism" [piracy], and it has docked in Port Sudan.
While in Port Sudan, the commanders and officials of the fleet are to hold meetings with Sudanese navy commanders.
Comment: Port Sudan also is the port that Iran uses to provide weapons to Hamas in Gaza via Egypt.
Sudan-Israel-Iran: The Sunday Times of London carried a reasonably detailed account of the Israeli attack on the arms factory at Yarmouk, Sudan on 24 October. According to this account, the attack served multiple purposes, one of which was to show Iran a fraction of Israel's reach. Several Brilliant Readers confirmed that the distance to Yarmouk matched the distance to Tehran, depending on the flight path and that this was a rehearsal for an attack against Iran.
According to The Times, Israel attacked Yarmouk because Iranian technicians were building there Shahab intermediate range ballistic missiles (aka the Iranian variant of the North Korean NoDong), which are capable of reaching Israel from Sudan. That threat presumably has been reduced, if not eliminated.
The Times is the only source of the details of the attack and its motives. The irreducible elements of this attack are the reach of the Israeli air force; the fact of an attack on Yarmouk and the message this action sends in the region. The downside of the report is that in publicizing it as a rehearsal, as opposed to leaving its ultimate purposes ambiguous, Israel ends up producing a publicity stunt, relative to Iran.
Syria: Update. On 29 October whatever remained of the ceasefire evaporated in increased and inconclusive fighting by both side.
Comment: No cessation of attacks by either side occurred on any day of the so-called ceasefire. Some accounts claim fighting was reduced on Friday.
End of NightWatch for 29 October.
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