For the night of 6 December 2012
North Korea: News services reported that all three stages of a long range missile have been assembled upright in the gantry at Tongchang-ri, on the northwest coast.
A British news service reported that Kim Jong-un does not favor a rocket launch, but that the acolytes of Kim Chong-il, his father, insisted that a rocket be launched on the anniversary of Chong-il's death on 17 December 2011.
The source is a Japanese chef who formerly worked for the Kims and who visited North Korea this past summer. There is no obvious reason why this man would know the mind of the young Kim, especially about rocket launches.
Comment: The only facts are that the missile has been assembled in the gantry and is ready for fueling. That means Kim approved the preparations and that a launch is certain, barring technical problems. It is plausible that the North will try to launch on 17 December in a bizarre, bordering on macabre, tribute to the dead leader, Kim Chong-il.
It is amusing to consider how the North Koreans might treat a fifth launch failure.
The report that the young Kim might not favor a launch is interesting only because it suggests he does not control the party and military leadership apparatus he inherited from Kim Chong-il, his father. That means the North has a ruling, bureaucratic, communist system that has a life of its own, regardless of its figurehead leader.
Kim is an autocrat only to the extent that he advances the interests and objectives - the survival - of the system. The ruling system is composed of a mix of old time family members and communist fellow travelers, top party bureaucrats, a few key government bureaucrats and well-heeled marshals and generals. It is impervious to change, much less modernization.
Internal security. According to a South Korean news outlet report, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has stationed around 100 armored vehicles at his house, summer home and other facilities for fear of a military coup or uprising.
Kim reportedly "is extremely nervous about the possibility of an emergency developing inside North Korea." He recently ordered officials to "place top priority" on his personal security and to keep his daily itinerary top secret.
As a result, the venues of events he attends are swarming with guards carrying automatic rifles and hand grenades. Security agents cordon off areas surrounding events attended by Kim and confiscate watches and cigarettes from pedestrians. Mobile phone signals are also jammed.
A diplomat opined that Kim Jong-un desperately needs to bolster his personal security detail due to mounting opposition to his efforts to rein in the military."
North Korea watchers say there is growing public discontent with the young leader. There has apparently been a surge in disobedience and a lack of discipline in the military. Sources say military officers grumble at the appointment of Choe Ryong-hae as director of the People's Army General Political Bureau, a top military position, despite the fact that he has no military experience.
Military morale of senior officers reportedly is poor because of Kim's continuing purges. Veteran officials in the Workers Party are unhappy about the young leader's confusing reshuffles and impulsive orders. They apparently complain secretly that the inexperienced leader is "running wild."
The South Korean news service judged that Kim's efforts since June to improve the North's economy floundered on fierce opposition from party hardliners afraid of losing their grip on power. High-ranking party officials ignore Kim's orders and write them off as unrealistic, and are instead busy watching their backs or looking for ways to make money.
Comment: In the half year following his father's death, Kim Jong-un was open about his public appearances, appeared often with his wife and breathed fresh air and ideas into the sclerotic North Korean system. He tested the limits of a highly conservative communist system.
News reports during the past six months indicate the system has counter-attacked to preserve itself. Kim is being shaped by the party and government bureaucracies and the military to conform to their idea of a leader.
So a rocket will be launched to honor a dead, much despised tyrant, despite rampant malnutrition in North Korea and the reported wishes of the autocratic leader. This is what the generals and the bureaucrats want. So….. who really runs North Korea?
China-India; China warned India to stop oil exploration in the South China Sea after the Indian Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Joshi, said he was prepared to send Indian naval ships there to protect its interests.
India's state oil company, ONGC, is exploring three oil blocks close to the disputed Spratly Islands - known as Nansha Islands in China - in partnership with the Vietnamese government, which claims sovereignty over the collection of 45 tiny islands and atolls, along with China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
China told Vietnam on 6 December to stop unilateral oil exploration in disputed areas of the South China Sea and to not harass Chinese fishing boats, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
Comment: The Chinese have now made clear that they intend to administer the South China Sea as territorial waters, just as they announced. In the Chinese view, the Vietnamese and Indians are lawbreakers and must be stopped and possibly punished.
The Indian Navy is more professional and combat capable than the Chinese, but it is based a long way from the South China Sea. China's warnings might persuade Indian political and naval authorities to adopt a more aggressive patrolling regime to contest Chinese claims and protect Indian investments, in support of all of the Southeast Asian nations.
Special Comment: A NightWatch bias is the judgment that the Indian armed forces are determined to avenge their humiliation by Chinese forces in the 1962 border war, however long it takes. A grudge match awaits, despite the passage of a half century. Both Indian and Chinese military leaders know it and expect it. Strategic leadership of Asia is at stake.
Pakistan-Afghanistan: Pakistani news services reported that a senior Pakistan Army official stationed in South Waziristan Agency said the Pakistan Taliban (Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan) is engaged in a leadership struggle. The current commander, Hakimullah Mehsud, reportedly has lost favor with the rank and file and is likely to be deposed by deputy leader, Wali-ur-Rehman.
The deputy is viewed as more moderate and pragmatic. He is expected to reach a truce with the Pakistani government and turn the Pakistani Taliban towards attacking American targets in Afghanistan.
The army official said, "Rehman is fast emerging as a consensus candidate officially to replace Hakimullah. Now we may see the brutal commander replaced by a more pragmatic one for whom reconciliation with the Pakistani government has become a priority.
Comment: Two years ago the al Qaida affiliated groups split over whether the main effort should be against the US in Afghanistan or against the pro-US government in Pakistan. The Afghanistan Taliban under Mullah Omar broke with al Qaida and remained dedicated to fight in Afghanistan, using Pakistan as the logistics base and safe haven. That has proven to be a winning strategy.
The Pakistani Taliban, encouraged by al Qaida's leader Zawahiri, fought against the government in Islamabad to no substantial, measurable effect. Instead, the Pakistani Taliban failed to expand beyond the tribal agencies and generated a backlash against their harsh, religiously justified atrocities, which bordered on mindless local punishments.
The nail in the coffin for the Pakistani Taliban Ultras, led by Hakimullah, apparently was the attempted murder of the 14-year old girl for attending school. The worldwide outrage over that attack appears to have split the Pashtun terrorists in the tribal agencies, resulting in the leadership struggle.
A shift in strategic emphasis towards Afghanistan is an enormous windfall for the government in Islamabad. If the shift occurs, the Pakistan Army can take a rest from campaigning in the tribal agencies in the northwest.
The news for Afghanistan and the residual Western combat forces there is not so good. The great rift in the Pashtun fighting groups will have been healed in favor of hastening the departure of Western forces from Afghanistan, just when they are most vulnerable.
Egypt: Politics. President Mohamed Mursi today denounced the deadly clashes in Cairo and other large towns. He promised investigations into the violence and insisted that peaceful dialogue was the only way to get through the crisis. He promised to punish those responsible for violence.
Mursi also vowed that Egypt would not return to the oppressive dictatorships of its past, defending his decrees which prompted the protests. He said it was lawful for him to self-appoint near-absolute powers, setting him above judicial oversight.
"While we express the right to freedom of expression, I cannot tolerate that any person perpetrate the killing of any person. I cannot tolerate any act of killing or vandalism," he said. Mursi said that he would continue to carry out his duties and will suspend his decrees after a constitutional referendum, regardless of the referendum's outcome.
Security. The Republican Guard ordered protestors to evacuate the area surrounding the presidential palace in Cairo and banned protests after 3 p.m. on 6 December.
Comment: In the past weeks, brilliant and perceptive Readers have asked what happened to the Egyptian Army. Events in the past 24 hours have helped answer the questions. The armored forces of the Army are as important to the survival of the Mursi government as they were to the Mubarak government.
Mursi's constitutional overreach since 22 November has worked to negate his domination of the Army over its failure to secure Sinai. Yesterday, 5 December, Mursi's staff requested Army tanks to protect the Presidential Palace.
The Army is back, on its terms, and the survival of the Mursi government appears to depend on the decisions of the Army leadership.
Note for analysts: A key point is that the demonstrations and demonstrators are necessary but not sufficient causes of the overthrow of the government. The fate of the government actually lies with the Army, the necessary and sufficient cause of government overthrow or government survival. There is irony that Mursi's survival in office might now depend on the Army --- the force he tried to neutralize in order to run for office.
Tunisia: Update. Workers in four Tunisian regions, Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, Gafsa and Sfax, went on strike on 6 December, amid rising tensions with Ennahda, Tunisia's ruling mainstream Islamist party.
Comment: As reported previously, the citizens got the vote, but not the things they protested about: lack of jobs, low pay, high prices for bread and high prices for and limited availability of cooking and heating fuels. The Islamist government has made Tunisia more devout, but not better fed, better paid, more employed or warmer in winter.
End of NightWatch for 6 December.
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