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NightWatch 20130328

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NightWatch

For the night of 28 March 2013

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency published another report about war preparations. Emphasis added by NightWatch.

"…After receiving a report from Lieutenant General Kim Rak Gyom on the technical conditions of the strategic strike means of the KPA, he (Kim Jung Un) made an important decision."

"He said he has judged the time has come to settle accounts with the U.S. imperialists in view of the prevailing situation."

"If they make a reckless provocation with huge strategic forces, the KPA should mercilessly strike the U.S. mainland, their stronghold, their military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea, he said."

"He examined and finally ratified the plan of the Strategic Rocket Force for firepower strike."

"The U.S. imperialists let B-2A make sorties over South Korea in succession, indicating once again that their hostile acts against the DPRK have entered a reckless phase, going beyond the phase of threat and blackmail, he said."

"B-2A's flight to the sky above South Korea is not a simple demonstration of forces in reaction to the tough stand of the DPRK but an ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula, he noted, underlining the need to put a definite end to the times when they could threaten and blackmail the DPRK with nukes."

"He declared the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK would react to the U.S. nuclear blackmail with a merciless nuclear attack, and war of aggression with an all-out war of justice."

"He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets of the KPA, ordering them to be standby for fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in South Korea."

"He ordered the KPA to blow up and reduce everything to ashes at a single strike, if an order is issued."

Comment: There is less here than is apparent because North Korea has had a rocket and missile firing plan for years. All the forces are not always on high alert, but some are. The statement simply restates the normal command procedure: fire when ordered.

The statement almost belabors the point that no order has been issued. The threat of North Korean retaliation for a provocation is what armies are supposed to do. Somebody in the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Central Committee apparently judges that every time the US makes any show of force, the North must put on another phony skit that makes Kim look defiant and unafraid.

This is theater and it is clumsy. Nevertheless the situation is dangerous because Kim has raised the tension higher than his father and grandfather dared, in abandoning the armistice and raising artillery, rocket and missiles units to full combat readiness and placing them on standby. He has made the situation accident prone with no fail safe mechanisms.

Kim Il-sung and Kim Chong-il took similar measures during periods of tension, but they maintained fail safe mechanisms. They also never publicized their decisions and actions because that would have given away the element of surprise. They intended to win, if war ever occurred, and knew they needed to catch the Allies unready and unawares as a force multiplier in order to succeed. Neither condition applies now because of all the bombast from the North.

The sensationalism and staged photo ops in North Korean media are the strongest indication yet that Kim's inner circle is engaged in public theater to show the populace and the geriatric Army leaders that Kim is a worthy leader; to discipline a society that has become complacent and to strengthen loyalty.

Nevertheless, the situation is dangerous. Kim and his advisors have brought parts of North Korea's forces to the brink of general war, even though the country is not ready for it.

The challenge now is to find a way to de-escalate the situation before people get hurt. Kim needs to have something to show for the expense, aggravation and inconvenience he has caused since December.

From the Allies he said he wants a permanent peace treaty, the end of sanctions and normal relations with the US. Kim's needs do not require the Allies to throw him a life line by making concessions without him making the first concessions.

He says he wants to settle accounts. It is time for him to come up with a bill of particulars.

Kaesong update.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said that 160 South Koreans traveled to the Kaesong complex from the South. The total number of South Koreans at Kaesong on Thursday was more than 1,000.

South Korean presidential official said about 1,300 regular phone and fax lines connecting the South to the Kaesong industrial complex are still operating normally without disruptions. North Korean officials at the complex worked with South Korean business managers to arrange today's crossing of the Demilitarized Zone.

Soliciting Tourism in China

The Daily NK reported today that North Korea recently sent its director of tourism to China to drum up hard-currency paying Chinese tourists with package deals. Air Koryo will add more flights to the number of weekly flights from Beijing to Pyongyang starting 12 April.

North Korean officials also have begun another round of working with Chinese officials in the provinces adjacent to North Korea to increase tourism and trade.

When asked whether it is safe to travel to North Korea because of the crisis situation, the tourism director said that war definitely will not break out so don't worry.

Mali-France: France will reduce its troop numbers in Mali to 2,000 by July and to 1,000 by the end of the year, down from 4,000 at present, President Hollande said on Thursday.

Comment: This staged withdrawal plan is much more protracted than the three earlier announcements about early withdrawal of forces. The French have learned they cannot just leave and do not intend to.  Thuss, the announcement  serves as a warning to the jihadists and terrorists, who reportedly have continued to plot their return after the French withdrawal. 

End of NightWatch for 28 March.

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