For the night of 17 December 2012
Japan: Japan's Liberal Democratic Party returned to power following an overwhelming victory in the 16 December general election, setting the stage for Shinzo Abe to resume the premiership.
The results of Japan's general elections were basically clear by the evening of the 16th, according to a Chinese account of the outcome. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in opposition for more than three years, regained power after winning more than half of the Diet seats.
LDP President Shinzo Abe will be selected as prime minister at a special Diet session that will convene on 26 December. Abe campaigned on a slogan of "taking back Japan," by which he meant, among other things, to upgrade the Self-Defense forces into a national defense force, to increase military spending and to strengthen maritime security.
Comment: The hegemonic Chinese actions near the Senkakus and in the South China Sea plus the North Korean rocket launches and past nuclear tests, in combination, are reviving Japanese nationalism and pride in past military strength. Both Chinese and North Korean actions are direct contributors to the return of the Liberal Democratic Party to power because the Japanese voters apparently feel vulnerable. That is tonight's good news, for Allied interests.
North Korea is driven mostly by a desperate impulse to survive. It has long since lost the capability or opportunity to wage a war of reunification. It retains the capability to start a war of national suicide. The larger present threat from North Korea is that it will sell its weapons, not that it will use them.
China's position is different. It is deliberately challenging Japan, and its Southeast Asian neighbors, in quasi-military fashion in the dispute over the islands, almost daring Japan to defend itself. The poll results show that Japanese voters understand the Chinese military challenge and are prepared to respond to it.
Under a new Chinese leadership that will govern for the next ten years, China will continue to assert its hegemony in Asia, in almost ancient terms but with new technology and modern legal sophistry. All the states on China's eastern and southeastern periphery thoroughly understand China's determination to dominate the region and its resources.
An Asian arms buildup is inevitable between the Chinese communists and the Allied powers. Eventually, there will be clashes between Japanese forces and Chinese forces over the Senkakus, but not yet probably because the Japanese are better than the Chinese now.
South Korea: For the record. On 19 December, South Korean voters will directly elect a new president to a single five-year term that begins on 25 February 2013. The front runner is Park Geun-hye, the daughter of South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, who is considered center-right. Her opponent is Moon Jae-in who tends to be center-left.
Comment: If elected, Ms. Park would be the first woman president of South Korea. The candidates agree that North Korea needs to be re-engaged. They differ about how to proceed and on domestic economic issues. Ms. Park tends towards continuing the hard line policies of the incumbent administration. Mr. Moon is much less belligerent.
The North Korea satellite launch seems to have helped favor Ms. Park's electoral prospects, but the South Korean economy is the overriding issue with voters, according to most commentators.
China: China has submitted to the United Nations what it calls geological evidence that it contends prove that disputed islands in the East China Sea are Chinese territory.
China says its continental shelf extends across to the Okinawa Trough, just off the Japanese island of Okinawa, an area that takes in island territories owned by Japan.
The continental shelf is the relatively gently sloping seabed from the shoreline that ends when the seabed drops off steeply to much greater depths. Waters on the continental shelf are usually around 600 feet at most.
Details of China's claim are in its presentation Partial Submission Concerning the Outer Limits of the Continental Shelf beyond 200 Nautical Miles in the East China Sea.
Xinhua the state-run news agency reported Chen Lianzeng, deputy head of China's State Oceanic Administration, saying geological characteristics show that the continental shelf in the sea is the natural extension of China's land territory.
Comment: The Chinese submission is an example of legal chicanery as a high art. Japan's ownership of the islands is by right of conquest and occupation. China's submission to the UN is based on geology. This is an incongruity. Geology has no standing against physical occupation and administration.
The Chinese are seeking the moral high ground and presenting themselves as victims. In fact, they are manipulating the UN to back-up their assertions of ownership with scientific documentation in a forum that is hostile to the US and US allies. China does not want to administer the Senkakus. It wants to explore and exploit seabed resources. .
Fortunately, Japan has no obligation to comply with any UN determination, which ineluctably would rule against Japan.
Egypt: In Saturday's first round of voting in the constitutional referendum - in ten of Egypt's 27 provinces - 55.8% of the voters approved the new constitution, according to a count taken by the Muslim Brotherhood who stationed representatives at all polling stations. Turnout was low, estimated at 32% of registered voters.
The strongest "no" vote was in Cairo, with 68 percent, according to the official website of Egypt's state television. The "yes" vote narrowly carried Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, with nearly 56 percent.
Comment: A second round of voting will be held on 22 December. Islamists enjoy wide support in most of the 17 provinces in the second round. Thus this constitution will pass, proving again that Mursi's election was not an accident.
Egypt is a much more religiously devout and conservative country than the educated urban elites in Cairo appreciate. They are the ones who are out of touch with the heart of Egypt. They also are the ones who will lose the most under the new constitution, along with Egyptian women.
Egyptians are voting to restrict human rights and political freedom. They are choosing to go backwards, as is their right in a democracy.
Libya: Libya's ruling national congress ordered the temporary closure of its borders with four of its neighbors on 16 December and declared its desert south a closed military zone.
The national assembly ordered that land borders with Chad, Niger, Sudan and Algeria be temporarily closed pending new regulations. It also said the provinces of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, al-Shati, Sabha, Murzuq and Kufra are considered closed military zones.
Comment: The rise of southern tribal opposition to the new government and increased jihadist tendencies are responsible for the new order. The government has no capabilities to enforce its mandate in the south, making this order a statement that the government recognizes it has a problem.
Modern Libya is an artificial creation of the Italians. It appears to be devolving into its ancient regions of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan - in the south.
End of NightWatch for 17 December.
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