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NightWatch 20100113


For the Night of 13 January 2010

North Korea-South Korea: The head of the North's delegation to the North-South military working group talks warned his South Korean counterparts to stop scattering anti-DPRK leaflets in North Korea from balloons. The warning stated that on 31 October last year took the North noted the daily escalating scattering of leaflets by the authorities of the South side and seriously warned that unless they take necessary measures to stop it, this will adversely affect the north-south relations beyond imagination.

As the ensuing report shows, the North appears to be desperate to earn cash. Economic ties with the South are not likely to be damaged during the current period of North Korean outreach. As for why South Korean groups persist in irritating the North; it's the Asian way.

North Korea: Economics. Kyodo reported that North Korea is pursuing programs to restrain sales of raw minerals and ores to Chinese and other enterprises in favor of selling processed and refined metals. The North complains that Chinese enterprises are trying to secure natural resources and are going ''to exterminate them root and branch."

At a conference in China last year, Kim Chol Jun, Director of the Economy Institute at the North Korean Academy of Social Sciences, disclosed the new more restrictive export policy for unprocessed natural resources. He said, ''Mineral resources are exported at high prices by processing them. Exports of cheap unprocessed goods are a loss to the state.''

North Korea has large iron ore deposits and is reported to be rich in rare metals including molybdenum and rare earth plus manganese and nickel. A South Korean Unification Ministry estimate values the North's underground mineral deposits at about 6,984 trillion won (about 540 trillion yen). The North's magnesite, a metal used for reducing the weight of automobile parts, is the world's largest at 3 billion to 4 billion tons.

For almost all of its independent existence, the North has been selling its mineral wealth at a bargain for the purchaser, usually Japan and China. Now it apparently is pursuing a strategy for investing in secondary industrial processing in order to increase the return.

This resembles the Stalinist heavy industry strategy that failed under Kim Il-sung, but technology and the minerals in demand have changed. The commentary in Kyodo did not mention who would be the primary investors. Russia is a good bet, along with Japan and South Korea. North Korea strongly resists becoming a protectorate of China and can count on South Korea to help it.

India-Jammu and Kashmir State: Troops have vacated all hospitals and schools in Jammu and Kashmir State because of the improving security situation there. During his visit to the State, Defence Minister AK Antony said that paramilitary police would take over more responsibilities from the army. He said that from mid-January they would be responsible for security on the key Jammu-Srinagar highway.

India is gradually normalizing the security situation there. Soldiers billeted in schools and hospitals get in the way of prosperity, now that security conditions are improving. The federal government has been slow to respond, but the Congress Party-led coalition has taken the risks necessary to accelerate return to normal business conditions in Kashmir.

Occasionally shooting incidents take place along the Line of Control or the international border. Last week a firefight took place near Jammu, in the southern part of the region. For old hands who remember the start of the Kashmir insurgency in the late 1980s, the lowering military profile in Kashmir is tonight's good news.

Afghanistan: The United States has no direct contact with Taliban leaders, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke said, Aaj TV reported 13 January.

Holbrooke said, however, that U.S. President Barack Obama has stated that Taliban who lay down their weapons will be welcomed in joining with the Afghan government for the betterment of Afghanistan. Holbrooke, accompanied by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, made his comments at a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Holbrooke's statement is odd. A search did not find President Obama to have made such a statement in that way, but President Karzai did. The US President might have the power, but not the authority, to welcome the Taliban into President Karzai's government.

Holbrooke's turn of phrase is likely to reinforce the Pakistanis in a mistaken belief that the US really is in control of the Afghanistan government. That message also will not play well in Kabul. Moreover, it reinforces the Taliban propaganda theme that Karzai is a puppet of the US.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister said today that Saudi troops have regained control of a border village occupied by Yemeni Shia rebels since November. The Prince told state TV that four Saudi soldiers and "hundreds" of rebels were killed in the clashes and that the death toll of Saudi soldiers in the border conflict with Yemen's Huthi rebels now stands at 82.

Saudi operations against the Huthis began last November after rebels killed a Saudi soldier along the border.

Yemen: The Interior Ministry said Yemeni forces killed at least 19 rebels in the northern city of Saada and arrested another 20, indicating that Yemeni military operations against the Huthis also continue.

For the record. Asharq Al-Awsat reported today that Al Qaida has established three training camps in Yemen's Shabwa Province, citing informed, but unidentified Yemeni sources. The camps are former Aden Abyan Islamic Army camps located in the Jabul Kur region. Members of this group are suspected of participating in the attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbor in October 2000.

Al Qaida reportedly also is active in the regions of al-Bayda and Marib, southeast of Sanaa, and that "the people in the region know the location of these groups." The source also said that recently al Qaida has "attracted many young people."

This report has not been corroborated by other sources. Yemen has become a magnet for young would-be jihadists in the past few months.

Turkey-Israel: A second Israeli apology for rude diplomatic behavior towards the Turkish ambassador appears to have prevented a rupture in relations. Nevertheless, Turkey is asserting itself as a leader in the Muslim world, after nearly 100 years since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Assuming that Turkey accepts the latest apology -- it rejected a less formal apology earlier --

the planned visit by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak to Turkey on Sunday should proceed. Turkey has long been an ally of Israel, but relations have deteriorated as Ankara has repeatedly criticized Israel for its offensive in Gaza a year ago.

Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan said today that while he does not want to see nuclear weapons in his region, it would be unfair to ask one country to steer away from the weaponry and allow another to have them, The Anatolia News Agency reported. Speaking at Moscow State University, he said the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council should set an example in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Erdogan appears to have consented to Iranian and other national nuclear weapons programs as long as Israel has a nuclear weapons program.

Ukraine: Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko accused rival presidential candidate, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, of planning to commit electoral fraud in the elections on 17 January. Reuters reported. Timoshenko said Yanukovich's party is organizing a massive fraud operation in the eastern part of Ukraine - where pro-Russian support is strong.

Yanukovich denied the charge, saying that as an opposition candidate currently without a government post he has no power to falsify election results. Yanukovich is pro-Russian.

Pro-western incumbent President Yuschenko is running far behind Yanukovich. His goal of having Ukraine join NATO is likely to die with his presidency next Sunday. He failed to improve the living standards of Ukrainians. Yanukovich has promised to restore economic growth. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 13 January.

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