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NightWatch 20100226


For the Night of 26 February 2010

Japan: Update. The mayor of Okinawa sent a formal letter to the government in Tokyo requesting the removal of the US Marine Corps air base at Futenma.

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korean authorities detained four South Korean nationals for illegally entering the country. The four, whose identities are unknown, are under investigation by a relevant institution, KCNA said.

North Korea media published North Korea's strongly negative reaction to the announcement of a forthcoming US-South Korean military exercise from 8 to 18 March. The North threatened powerful military counteraction, which probably means it will test missiles or coastal artillery. The North's threats were excessive, considering spring training is routine in South Korea.

South Korea never threatens North Korea over its aggressive but completely routine winter training program which will culminate in mid-March. Perhaps it should start.

Thailand: Update. The Supreme Court ordered the seizure of $1.4 billion in assets belonging to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's family, Reuters reported. The Supreme Court judges agreed that ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra used his political power to benefit companies he owned during his time in office, the Bangkok Post reported Feb. 26. The companies include Shin Corp. The judges said the action caused damage to the interest of the public.

Thaksin cannot return and, should he try, he might be penniless.

Pakistan: The Lahore Province High Court ruled on 26 February that the government could not extradite five Taliban leaders to the United States or Afghanistan and invited the government to issue a response on 15 March, The Nation reported. Khalid Khwaja of Defense of Human Rights filed the petition that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Mullah Abdus Salam, Mullah Kabir, Mullah Mohammed and Amir Muaaviya were going to be turned over to the United States.

Comment: There is less in this ruling than it seems. The Lahore provincial court is not the final word on issues of national security. Its ruling is comparable to a US state Supreme Court making a ruling on the constitutionality of an issue. It is a point of view that merits respect but is not the final word.

Although Afghanistan requested extradition of the detainees on 25 February, no time was set for when this would occur. No sources reported the detainees would be moved before the middle of March. Plus, Pakistan has the right to pursue its own investigation into criminal activities before extradition. The effect of the ruling is to provide more time for Pakistani investigators. The Supreme Court of Pakistan can overrule the Lahore High Court and must defer to overriding executive policy concerns.

Afghanistan: President Karzai condemned the Kabul suicide attacks that killed at least 17 people including Indian citizens, saying the strikes won't hurt Afghan-Indian relations, The Associated Press reported 26 February.

Sayed Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, Kabul criminal police chief, stated that a suicide car bomber carried out the Kabul attack and said two other would-be attackers were shot dead by police, Agence France-Presse reported. The Afghan Interior Ministry played down reports that other gunmen entered the Safi Landmark guesthouse. Officials said 17 were killed and six others were wounded in the attack.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said there were eight assailants, adding that one detonated his car bomb in front of the hotel, two others also carried out suicide bombings and the rest are still there.

Azerbaijan: For the record. The government ordered employees to remove Islamic symbols from their offices following clashes between police and Islamic activists in Baku in mid-February, Eurasia Review reported 26 February, citing an unnamed Internal Affairs Ministry source. It was explained that the government and religion should be kept separate. An official government statement has not been released.

Azerbaijan has a secular government though the majority of the population is Muslims. Like France and Switzerland, it believes some expressions of religion are inconsistent with secular government that guarantees relative equality for all religions.

Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan accused the judiciary of overstepping its authority and warned it not to intervene in executive powers, Hurriyet Daily News reported. Erdogan said recent developments are proof Turkey is raising its democratic standards in anticipation of being allowed full entry into the European Union.

The recent developments refer to the initiation of another legal action to disqualify and disband Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) as unconstitutional because it is based on Islam and not a secular party.

Also in Turkey, in a second wave of arrests during the Sledgehammer Operation investigation of a possible coup attempt in Turkey, 17 serving soldiers and one retired soldier were detained in 13 cities.

The ruling Party has begun a multi-front legal offensive against two of its primary opponents - the judiciary and the military. As yet it has not attacked the professional bureaucracy of the government, which is the third pillar of secularism and on which the AKP must rely. That attack will come after the military is hobbled and humiliated.

Russia-Ukraine: Russia does not see legal obstacles to the possibility of Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union launched by Moscow, Belarus and Kazakhstan, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said, Ros Business Consulting reported.

The significance of this is that Russia is not content with restoring security ties to Ukraine. It wants to expand economic ties as well. Tighter economic relations with Russia would be a disaster for Ukraine, excepting energy supplies.

Romania: Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said Romania will install 20 missile interceptors, Mediafax reported today, "…the negotiating process will probably take a year and a half, that it is about 20 interceptors to be installed in an appropriate location and that Romania will inform all neighbors, primarily those that are EU and NATO members, on the progress of the negotiation and implementation of anti-missile system," Baconschi said.

This report indicates Romania already has decided to accept a missile defense system and that plans are much more advanced than earlier statements suggested.

End of NightWatch for 26 February..

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