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NightWatch 20091207


For the Night of 7 December 2009

North Korea: Update. During the weekend, foreign diplomats, accredited in Pyongyang, claimed that large spontaneous rallies protesting the currency devaluation and replacement have been breaking out in the North Korean capital and other major cities. The Army has been put on a heightened state of alert in case of mass acts of disobedience.

North Korea-South Korea: Delegations from North and South Korea will begin a joint inspection of industrial complexes in China and Vietnam on 12 December, according to the South Korean Ministry of Unification. The South will send 10 officials led by Kim Young-tak, the senior representative for inter-Korean dialogue at the ministry.

"We are making preparations, assuming that the delegates will depart on the 12th. Flight schedules and other personnel have yet to be confirmed,'' ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung told reporters. He did not elaborate, saying that the two Koreas agreed not to make the details public.

South Korea proposed the joint survey in June as part of efforts to benchmark industrial parks abroad and learn lessons to develop the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North. The survey results are expected to form the basis of assessing North Korea's demands for a drastic increase in salaries for North Korean workers at the complex and rent for the site.

The two Koreas conducted similar inspections in 2005 and 2007.

North Korea-US: Ambassador Bosworth, special representative in charge of policy for North Korea, is due in Pyongyang on 8 December to open direct talks with the North. North Korea announced that it was willing to return to multilateral talks depending on the progress in direct talks with the US.

A pro-North Korean media outlet, Choson Sinbo on 5 December published a commentary on the North's objectives in direct talks, which is to replace the Armistice with a peace agreement.

In the article, the writer recalled that North and South Korea once proposed the idea of holding "trilateral or four-party summit talks" to pursue the issue of declaring an end to the war in the agreement of leaders two years ago…. "In order to guarantee peace on the Korean peninsula, the process of the DPRK and the United States, which are the two parties at war and direct parties in the nuclear issue, putting an end to their hostile relations should first be carried out in the end. If belligerent nations which are aiming their gun muzzles at each other attempt to hold direct negotiations and fundamentally resolve the pending issues, "peace" will be a subject that cannot be ignored."

"Special Representative Bosworth's visit to Pyongyang is not an idea of any individual foreign official. Last August, the DPRK opened the phase of dialogue with the United States based on General Secretary Kim Jong Il's decisive measure. President Obama, who is also the supreme commander of US Forces, came to dispatch a special envoy to the DPRK. A dialogue venue, where mutual willingness on policy can be exchanged while a high degree of political judgment is in action, came to be prepared. This is the very reason why DPRK-US talks, which will be held in Pyongyang, have attracted the attention of the world."

Not much new, but the article is a reminder that the North considers its initiatives to be responsible for the US interest in sending Bosworth, which is typical. But the movement is by a US delegate is traveling to Pyongyang, which the North considers a diplomatic victory because of the brilliance of Kim Chong-il.

It would have been better for the US to hold such talks in Kuala Lumpur. At least Bosworth would not appear in Asian eyes as a supplicant.

The agenda is not nuclear talks, but the end of the armistice. The lack of progress towards a peace agreement is the meaning of the North's recurring accusation that the US has a hostile attitude, i.e., it won't negotiate a permanent peace

North Korea-Iran: Kyodo World Service reported on 6 December that Iran has decided to postpone the test launch of a new intermediate-range ballistic missile apparently due to problems with the delivery of components ordered from North Korea, a Western diplomatic source said Sunday.

According to Kyodo's account, Tehran told Pyongyang that electronic parts for improving the missile's accuracy have yet to arrive from North Korea. North Korea claims it shipped the components in 10 Iran-bound containers that were seized in the United Arab Emirates in July.

''The shipment of the electronic components was supposed to be part of the new agreement signed in late 2008 between Iran and North Korea for the continued supply of the new missile's technology,'' the diplomatic source said. Iran supposedly suspects the components were not actually in the containers, according to the source.

North Korea is believed to have developed the new intermediate-range missile by modifying a Soviet-made submarine-launched ballistic missile, the SSN6, one of the most reliable nuclear-capable missiles ever built. It is known as the BM-25 or Musudan among Western intelligence circles and military experts. Several sources indicate Iran bought this system from North Korea in 2005 and has a complete firing unit of 18 missiles, according to the Israeli Intelligence Chief in 2006. It probably lacks the latest electronics or production technology.

''The test, when it succeeds, will enable Iran to improve its operational SSM (surface-to-surface missile) capability, to advance to mass production of the new missile,'' the source added, noting that the missile's target range is between 2,500 and 3,500 kilometers depending on the warhead payload, thus posing a threat to most of Europe.

This is the most dangerous operational missile that Iran and North Korea have. No source in the public domain has reported that Iran has acquired production technology for the missile, but the North Koreans are known to sell turnkey production capabilities, which they did to Syria and Pakistan for other ballistic missiles.

The delay might be a measure of success for the counter-proliferation lobby. The usual explanation is the Iran's are always trying to stiff the North Koreans by not paying on time or not paying the amount due. Still the Iranian arms relationship is one of the most enduring that North Korea has, after Syria and Pakistan.

Philippines: Update. Rebel forces loyal to a powerful Muslim clan whose stronghold is under martial law in the southern Philippines have engaged troops in clashes, Agence France-Presse reported 7 December. Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said the rebel groups and the Philippine National Police were engaged in firefights.

During the weekend, security officials found large weapons caches in the stronghold of the clan responsible for the massacre of the family and supporters of an opposition politician. One report said the clan has a militia of 3,000 armed men. Nevertheless, the Muslims will be the losers. They are too few to reverse the domination by the Philippine Christians. These incidents serve the Christians more than the political interests of the Muslims, even in the Muslim autonomous region, because Muslims are fighting other Muslims. The Philippine Army intervenes to keep the death toll from becoming too embarrassing.

India-Israel: For the record. Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi will begin a three-day visit to India on 8 December, Press Trust of India reported. General Ashkenazi will meet with Indian Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and the leaders of the Navy and the Air Force. A delegation of Israeli defense officials also is accompanying General Ashkenazi.

This visit is almost not newsworthy which why it is significant. The two usually discuss advanced weapons systems and subsystems, intelligence, special forces operations and air defense. They also could talk about Israeli access to India, say, after an attack on Iran, but that is speculation based purely on geography.

Pakistan: During this Watch, the News International reported the death toll from today's two bombings in Lahore, in eastern Pakistan close to the Indian border, rose to 37 with 100 injured.

In western Pakistan, authorities in the North West Frontier Province government said ten people died when a suicide bomber detonated outside a Peshawar courthouse, Agence France-Presse reported 7 December. Bilor said the bomber arrived in a rickshaw and tried to enter the building, but was blocked by security. At least 49 people were wounded in the blast including three policemen and two lawyers.

On Friday, a suicide bomber detonated at the Parade Land Askari Mosque in Rawalpindi in northern Pakistan, killing 44 and injuring 17. This mosque is located close to Army General Headquarters. A serving major general of the Pakistan Army, a brigadier, two lieutenant colonels, a major and a number of soldiers were among those killed in the multi-pronged attack.

According to which quoted the Ministry of Interior, at least 366 Pakistanis have been killed and 901 injured through November 2009 in seven bombing attacks targeting m

Comment: In Peshawar, bombings have became nearly a daily occurrence in the past two weeks. They are less frequent in Lahore. In both cities, local internal intelligence and security are poor or penetrated by Islamist sympathizers. In Rawalpindi, attacks also are infrequent, but occur randomly with impunity and are well targeted, apparently with the planning, guidance and leadership of former Pakistan Army officers.

The genuinely ironic twist to today's events is a report in the 7 December edition of Dawn News that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban) leaders have said they will cease attacks on Pakistani soil if the government agrees to sit with them on the negotiation table. The leader of a legal Islamic political party told Dawn News that Interior Minister Rehman Malik contacted him to seek his party's opinion on the Pakistani Taliban's latest strategy. Rehman Malik disclosed that Taliban had contacted the government for a dialogue and if their offer was accepted the Taliban would abandon suicide attacks and other subversive activities in the country.

Afghanistan-US-NATO: The United States wants to get all the new troops allies have pledged into Afghanistan by mid-2010, Reuters reported 7 December, citing a Pentagon official. U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said some of the additional troops allies have committed are already in Afghanistan. What?

The numbers reports start to look like a shell game. The NATO countries apparently are getting credit as supporting the US new plan by double counting forces they deployed to improve security during the elections.

The US press is reporting as future increases some forces that are already counted in the current totals of NATO and International Security Assistance Force. Extending time in country for forces already present does not raise the total of new forces to near 40,000, as one news commentator reported yesterday. This kind of troop math might make good sound bites in NATO and the US, but the Taliban are not deceived. So how many countries really are adding to their commitments already in Afghanistan? Clearly not the 20 mentioned during the weekend.

Iran: Update. Today more than 2,000 Iranian students gathered outside Tehran University's technical facility and marched toward the university's mosque, BBC Monitoring reported, citing Fars News Agency. Coinciding with Students Day, the students chanted "death to opponents of leaders" and "God is great; Khamenei is the leader," Fars reported.

Fars did not report the violent clashes in Tehran between police and other students who are continuing to express their opposition to the fraudulent re-election of President Ahmadi-Nejad.

The BBC reported at one university, students tore down a poster of Mr Ahmadi-Nejad and trampled on it. Elsewhere, in a highly unusual move, they chanted against the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Police and members of the government's Basij militia tried to contain the protest within the universities. At the gates of Tehran University and several other universities, there were angry clashes. As in previous protests, opposition supporters, some wearing green scarves and masks, chanted "Death to the Dictator". Green is the color adopted by the reformist movement in recent months.

The significance of the protests is that they show the student opposition movement is still alive, for whatever that is worth. They also show it is fragmented, dispersed and has no impact on national policy except to reinforce the harshness and accelerate the speed of the leadership movement to oligarchic dictatorship

Venezuela: For the record. Today President Chavez announced the arrival of a first shipment of modern tanks from Russia. He said the tanks are needed because Colombia plans to wage war against Venezuela!

Bolivia: Update. President Evo Morales is claiming victory in Sunday's presidential election and looks to have secured a second five-year term. Exit polls suggest Mr Morales polled at least 63% of the vote.

The tragedy is that the poor are the electoral majority, but the rich minority controls the wealth.

End of NightWatch for 7 December.

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