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NightWatch 20100125


For the Night of 25 January 2010

Japan-UN-Haiti: For the record. The government notified the United Nations of its decision Monday to commit to the Haiti peacekeeping mission an engineering unit from the Japan Self Defense Forces (SDF). The government plans to make a formal decision at a Cabinet meeting after formulating concrete plans.

The UN notification will relay Japan's readiness to send the SDF engineering unit comprising about 300 personnel. The actual number of personnel dispatched will be determined in consultation with the United Nations.

According to Kyodo, Defense Minister Kitazawa formally instructed the SDF officers to ready themselves for this overseas deployment, after the UN Security Council passed its resolution to increase the size of the Haiti peacekeeping mission.

In contrast to some of its more conservative campaign statements, the Democratic Party coalition government is willing to support international peacekeeping operations far removed from any Japanese direct interests.

South Korea-India: South Korea and India agreed at a bilateral summit in New Delhi Monday to upgrade their relations to a "strategic partnership" and expand mutual trade volume to US$30 billion by 2014.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to expand their mutual cooperation to include diplomacy, security, global issues, and culture based on their existing economic ties, according to a joint statement issued after their meetings in New Delhi.

The leaders also agreed on the need for a pact on the civilian use of nuclear energy, a prerequisite for South Korea's participation in India's atomic power plant construction.

For South Korea, the benefits appear to be primarily economic. For India, South Korea's strategic partnership adds another "strategic relationship" with all the democracies that encircle and monitor China.

North Korea- South Korea: For the second time in a week, the senior military organizations warned South Korea against a preemptive attack or against moving military force into North Korea in the event of an internal crisis in North Korean.

"The General Staff of the Korean Peoples Army (KPA) clarifies once again the principled stand of our revolutionary armed forces to cope with the given grave situation.

1. Our revolutionary armed forces will regard the preemptive strike scenario, which the South Korean puppet authorities have already adopted as a state policy, as an undisguised declaration of war against us.

2. Our revolutionary armed forces will completely blow up the major targets [of the South Korean puppet authorities], including the command center, through prompt and decisive military actions in case the South Korean puppet authorities make any attempt to violate our dignity and sovereignty"

"The South Korean puppet warmongers must come to their senses and must not babble recklessly."

The statement is similar to past statements on this topic. What is curious is that once again, as during the time when Kim Chong-il was recovering from his stroke last year, official statements from North Korea are alternating between conciliatory and threatening. That is a sign of a lack of coordination which is characteristic of a lack of firm leadership.

Burma (Myanmar): For the record. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will be freed when her house arrest ends in November, according to a government minister quoted by witnesses, Reuters reported 25 January. Lat week, Home Minister Major General Maung Oo told local officials that the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner would be released in November. Eyewitnesses said the comment was made to an audience of several hundred people in Kyaukpadaung, a town about 350 miles north of the former capital of Yangon.

The military junta that governs Burma is attempting to use Suu Kyi to help legitimate its program for elections and military-guided democracy, Burmese style.

Sri Lanka: Tomorrow, 26 January, is presidential Election Day. President Rajapaksa and General (ret) Fonseka are in a race too close to call. On Sunday, former President Chandrika Kumuratunga announced she backed Fonseka because of the violence, intimidation and corruption in President Rajapaksa's administration. Four people have died and several hundred have been injured in violent acts during the two month election campaign period that ended Saturday.

Based on very limited data and a sense that the electorate wants a change, NightWatch predicts the General will win, probably without requiring a runoff.

India-Pakistan: Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram criticized Pakistani Prime MInister Gilani for asserting Islamabad cannot guarantee that another Mumbai-style attack will not occur, Press Trust of India reported 25 January. Chidambaram said Pakistan will be held responsible if another such attack happens and said he did not believe Pakistan could "get away with this charade of making a distinction between state and non-state … if an attack emanates from Pakistan soil."

Pakistan: A lawyer filed a petition on Sunday with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) that challenged the eligibility of Asif Ali Zardari to serve as president of Pakistan after the Supreme Court invalidated his eligibility last month by invalidating Musharraf's National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO).

In a separate action, the Lawyers National Coordination Council on Sunday warned the government that if the Supreme Court verdict invalidating the NRO was not implemented the legal fraternity would stage a protest against the government on 28 January. The Lawyers National Coordination Council announced that individuals and organizations were not above the Constitution and they were bound to consult the courts for all the crimes, including corruption.

The number of groups who seek the disqualification and removal of President Zardari appears to be growing, but it certainly includes Pakistan's legal profession. Last March, Zardari wanted to call out the security forces to stop the lawyer's march to Islamabad to force Zardari to reinstate the current Chief Justice of Pakistan.

As Zardari feared, now the lawyers are out to get him. Prime Minister Gilani has taken the stand that the President of Pakistan is immune from the rulings of the Supreme Court about issues of criminal liability so long as he holds office.

The new challenge is that Zardari should never have held office because the grounds establishing his eligibility have been found to be unconstitutional and ultra vires President General Musharraf.

The curious point is that Zardari's opponents have an uncanny knack for timing their latest internal crisis to US pressure on the Islamabad government to take more action against tribal militants. Ironically, both Zardari and the opposition benefit from the US pressure. Zardari deflects the pressure to concentrate on the internal instability threat. The opposition takes advantage of the US attention to advance their cause to remove the President. The net result for the US is no action against the militants.

Afghanistan: Update. On Sunday the government announced general elections, set for 22 May, have been rescheduled for 18 September owing to a lack of financing for the elections. International donors are unwilling to contribute the $50 million for the elections until the government makes fundamental changes to the system and process. The United Nations refuses to back elections until changes are made.

The refusal of finance is a direct reaction to last August's election fraud.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Today Al-Huthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Huthi used an audiotape to announce a unilateral cease-fire with Saudi Arabia, saying that his followers would withdraw from Saudi territories, DPA reported. The rebel leader threatened open war if Saudi Arabia continued attacks in the Yemeni province of Saada.

Previously, the al-Huthi denied they were operating inside Saudi Arabia. Saudi versions of the fighting look slightly more credible in light of al Huthi's cease-fire.

End of NightWatch for 25 January.

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