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NightWatch 20100208


For the Night of 8 February 2010

North Korea-South Korea: Update. A North-South working-level meeting for resuming tours to Mount Ku'mgang and to the Kaeso'ng joint industrial zone was held in Kaeso'ng on 8 February, as scheduled. News services have published no results from the talks.

North Korea-China:
Update. In Pyongyang today, Chinese envoy for nuclear talks Wang Jiarui met Choe Thae Bok, the Speaker of the Supreme Peoples Assembly, to discuss mutual ties. The announcement did not mention resumption of Six Party Talks, but that was the reported purpose of Wang's visit.

It is worth noting that Wang made the trip to Pyongyang despite the Chinese bitterness over US arms sales to Taiwan and its threat to stop cooperating with the US on substantive issues.

Sri Lanka: Defeated presidential candidate retired General Sarath Fonseka has been arrested, BBC reported 8 February. The former army chief was arrested with his media secretary Senaka de Silva according to the Daily Mirror. Military spokesman Major Prasad Samarasingha confirmed that the General has been arrested from his Colombo office for committing military offences.

Agence France-Presse reported that Fonseka was arrested hours after he said he would give evidence to any international investigation into the final stages of the fighting against Tamil Tiger rebels in May last year. The government refuses to permit any investigation into reports that senior officials ordered Fonseka and his troops to murder surrendering Tamil rebel leaders in the final days of the resistance by the Tamil Tigers.

Incumbent President Rajapaksa's government is not a good winner, even against a fellow Sinhalese presidential candidate. Fonseka is the only four-star general in Sri Lankan history.

India: IANS reported that yesterday (7 February), India executed its fourth test launch of Indian-built Agni-III ballistic missile. The Agni-III has a range of more than 3,000 kms, which qualifies it as an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). It can carry conventional explosives or a nuclear warhead of up to 1.5 tons.

The press announcement said this was a full range test into the Indian Ocean. The missile's range covers almost all of China, all of Southeast Asia down to Java, all of Central Asia and all of the Middle East to the Nile River in Sudan.

This missile is a strategic weapon that has no military role in any fight with Pakistan except to threaten China, Pakistan's principal arms supplier.

Ukraine: The Central Election Commission will announce the official results of last Sunday's run-off presidential election on 17 February, according to Commission Chairman Volodymyr Shapoval at a press conference today.

The Central Election Commission reported Monday that pro-Russian opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yanukovych was ahead 48.6 percent to 45.8 percent with 87.31 percent of the vote counted. The narrowness of the lead did not prevent Yanukovych from declaring victory over incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his main opponent for the presidency.

If the result stands, a Yanukovych victory could restore much of Moscow's influence in a country that has worked to expand its ties to the West. It also means that Ukraine will withdraw its application for membership in NATO, at least for now.

Polls show that most Ukrainian voters still support the economic and political goals of the 2004 Orange revolution, but many are deeply disillusioned with the failure of its leaders to carry out promised reforms. Ukrainian voters had the option of voting against all candidates. Those votes apparently enable Yanukovych to win.

Somalia: Iran's Press TV reported today that al Shabaab Islamic militant fighters vacated strongholds in Mogadishu, the capital, in anticipation of a government offensive. Unidentified sources reported the movement has been removing weapons and vehicles from those districts it held.

The Christian Science Monitor reported that 2,500 government soldiers, trained in Kenya and other African Union states, began returning last month and will form the spear head for the government offensive. Expect US air support once the offensive begins, as in Yemen. If successful, this would be the first relief for the Mogadishu government in more than a year… and the first significant setback to the Islamists.

Costa Rica: Laura Chinchilla, a social conservative who opposes abortion but wants more help for the poor, is Costa Rica's first female president after a convincing election triumph. She is a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and is the vice president to outgoing President Arias. Arias is due to hand over to Chinchilla on 8 May.

Her main opponents conceded defeat and the 50-year-old ruling party candidate joined thousands of supporters celebrating in San Jose early on Monday. First results showed she won 47 per cent of the votes counted, way ahead of her rivals and above the 40 per cent needed to avoid a run-off.

Voters in Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua and Panama also have elected women to the presidency. Costa Rica is one of the most successful and stable democracies in Latin America. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 8 February.

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