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NightWatch 20091119


For the Night of 19 November 2009

US-South Korea-North Korea: President Obama told a joint press conference on Thursday the US will be sending Ambassador Bosworth to North Korea on 8 December to engage in direct talks with the North Koreans." Presidents Obama and Lee also expressed close agreement about their approach to the North, which North Korean media described as stoking tensions.

Last month, first Chinese and later North Korean media announced the North's willingness to engage in multi-lateral talks, including Six Party Talks on the nuclear issue, conditioned on progress in then non-existent bilateral talks. A North Korean Vice Foreign Minister also had talks about the talks in New York.

Some countries and analysts will interpret the announcement of bilateral talks as rewarding bad behavior. Another view is that the US loses nothing by going the extra diplomatic distance to determine whether the North will live up to its promises. A third view is the North never lives up to its promises as negotiated.

All three have elements of truth, but without some form of engagement there is no prospect of restraining the North's nuclear weapons program.

North Korea-China: In a brief statement on 20 November Korean Central Broadcasting Station announced that Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie "will visit our country soon."

Choe Thae Bok, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of the DPRK met a delegation of cadres from the Communist Party of China led by Wang Wei, vice-minister of Supervision of China.

Choe said the traditional friendship created by revolutionaries of the elder generation of the two countries was a "common treasure" to the two peoples. It was the DPRK government's unswerving stand to keep improving the DPRK-China relationship and he believed this would be the case.

Three visits announced or taking place within a week is noteworthy, but not exceptional during a year that is dedicated to celebrating 60 years of relations. The Chinese appear to be engaging North Korea simultaneously in multiple dimensions at this time.

The North customarily stages some limited provocation to show that its willingness to talk should not be interpreted as a sign of weakness. This time it appears to be manipulating the exchange of visiting Chinese delegations to show that its willingness to talk with the US does not signify desperation, isolation or a lack of options.

Some analysts might argue it is difficult to tell who is manipulating whom. In many circumstances that is the case, but in this the Chinese attempts to manipulate the North have been long-standing colossal failures, except in military matters.

For the record. The Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed the forthcoming start of a bilateral dialogue between the US and North Korea.

Pakistan: Security. Another suicide bomb exploded at the main gate of a Pakistani court complex on Khyber Road in Peshawar located near the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel, Agence France-Presse reported 19 November. Authorities reported the attacker was on foot trying to enter the judicial complex; when security personnel stopped him and he detonated.

Through the day the death toll climbed to 20, while over 50 people were wounded. Every day this week there has been at least one bombing in Peshawar.

Separately, unidentified attackers attacked a police patrol in Peshawar, The News International reported today. The attack left one policeman dead and many others wounded. The News reported that a bomb planted on the road exploded while the police were conducting a routine patrol in Punj Khatta Chowk, and after the blast the attackers opened fire.

Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai was sworn in for a second five-year term during a ceremony in Kabul led by the head of the Supreme Court Abdul Salam Azimi, The Associated Press (AP) reported today. .

Following the ceremony, Karzai said his country's security forces should take the lead in tackling the insurgency, adding that they should be able to take control of security in the next five years. Karzai also said officials who are corrupt should be tried and prosecuted. The president stressed he wants expert, competent ministers in his government, and said his administration would seriously fight drug traffickers.

The country was under a security lock down to prevent disruption. Two incidents were reported by the Afghan media, in the south.

Iraq: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said plans are going ahead for a large troop withdrawal from Iraq next spring, AP reported late on 19 November. Speaking at a Pentagon news conference, Gates said that warnings that politics could delay Iraqi elections slated for January 2010 are not affecting his plans for the troop withdrawal.

Earlier on the 19th, General Odierno, in charge of US forces in Iraq, said the delay in elections could delay the US withdrawal and make other changes in the security situation. The impression, probably inadvertent, was that some folks considered the US still responsible for Iraqi security in an operational sense.

Gates set the record straight and seems to understand that the Iraqi government is now responsible for security, which looks appropriate. The US forces are now guests and probably restraints on excessive Iranian meddling.

Too many people are talking in public.

Lebanon: For the record. Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has been re-elected as secretary-general of militant group Hezbollah, AP reported, citing a Hezbollah statement released Nov. 19. Naim Kassim was re-elected as Nasrallah's deputy

Israel-NATO: For the first time, an Israeli missile ship will join NATO's Active Endeavor operation in the next few months, The Jerusalem Post reported today. Active Endeavor has the mission of patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to stop terrorism and prevent the movement of weapons of mass destruction,

Israeli naval participation is the result of an agreement between Israeli Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and NATO's Chairman of the Military Committee Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paoloa.

Operation Active Endeavour began in October 2001 as one of eight NATO responses to the 9/11 attack on the US under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Article 5 provides that an armed attack against one or more of them (the 28 NATO Members) in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense....

Algeria-Egypt-Sudan: The day after Egypt's soccer team lost a World Cup qualifying match to Algeria in Khartoum, Sudan, the Egyptian government recalled its ambassador from Algiers for consultations, saying the cause of the recall was Algerian fans' violence against Egyptians following the game, Egypt's state-run EGYNews reported.

The Sudanese government, outraged by Egypt's insinuation that 15,000 Sudanese security personnel were at fault, summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Khartoum to convey its anger over Egyptian media coverage of the game's aftermath. Sudan insists there were only a few scuffles after the game.

The Algerian football team beat Egypt in a decisive World Cup qualifying match in Sudan on Wednesday. IN so doing, it won the last African spot for the finals in South Africa next year. One news service reported this is the first time in 20 years than an Algerian team has qualified.

Somalia: For the record. A 20-year-old woman divorcee accused of committing adultery in Somalia was stoned to death by Islamists in front of a crowd of about 200 people. A judge working for the militant group al-Shabaab said she had had an affair with an unmarried 29-year-old man. He said she gave birth to a still-born baby and was found guilty of adultery.

She was buried vertically up to her waste for the stoning. Her boyfriend was given 100 lashes. He was unmarried, thus merited the more lenient punishment.

The BBC reported this is thought to be the second time a woman has been stoned to death for adultery by al-Shabaab. Earlier this month, a man was stoned to death for adultery in the port town of Merka, south of Mogadishu. His pregnant girlfriend was spared, until she gives birth.

End of NightWatch for 19 November.

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