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NightWatch 20100405

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For the Night of 5 April 2010

South Korea: Update. An article in the Korea Times about the sinking of the frigate Cheonan hints at the possibility that the ship might have been sunk by friendly fire from the frigate Sokcho, which also was patrolling near Baengnyeong Island.

The hour or so difference in reported times when Cheonan sank and Sokcho commenced firing 130 76-mm rounds at a flock of birds would seem to refute the suggestion of friendly fire, but other causes are slowly being dismissed. No cause has been dropped from consideration, but those now mentioned as improbable include an attack by a North Korean midget submarine, a recently laid North Korean mine, a torpedo attack from shore, an attack by a North Korean surface ship and an internal explosion aboard the Republic of Korea ship. The options seem to be narrowing.

China: For the record. A report commissioned by China's State Council asks leaders to accelerate international investments, The Sydney Morning Herald reported 5 April. The report said opportunities are decreasing with the recovery of the world economy, and China needs to "race against time."

The report recommends China buy more non-controlling stakes in resource joint ventures without interfering with resource pricing decisions, and the government should utilize more of China's $2.4 trillion foreign exchange reserves to create specialized foreign currency funding lines and streamlined government controls. The report said outward investment should be coordinated to avoid competition among Chinese enterprises and calls for the mobilization of overseas lobbyists and overseas Chinese communities to assist in public relations.

Thailand: During this Watch, government forces have begun preparing to disperse anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok, following a Court declaratory judgment that the government had all the authority it needed to disperse the protestors and that a court order was superfluous.

The Nation reported Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, the director of the Peacekeeping Operations Command, reportedly ordered security force to get prepared for breaking up the rally.
The red-shirt protesters, meanwhile, vowed to retaliate by raiding the Democrat Party head office and the house of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. Expect street encounters and clashes.

Pakistan: Security. Four bombings today, two in Dir District at a political rally and two in Peshawar against the US Consulate, have left 56 people killed and more than 100 injured. The bombing in Dir killed 43 people instantly. That against the US Consulate failed, but killed 7 Pakistanis outside the complex, including the bombers.

All US staff have been withdrawn to Islamabad for now, one of the goals of such an attack. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombings. As noted last week, it has recovered and is more vicious than ever. One of its objectives is to pressure the Pakistani government to stop its support for the US anti-terror policy.

Politics. President Zardari on Monday, 5 April, addressed a joint session of Parliament which convened at the start of the government's third parliamentary year. Zardari described reconciliation as the way forward, and hoped that the 18th Amendment will lead to "new beginnings".

"The people of Pakistan are ...waiting for this crucial reforms bill to pass. This initiative must lead to new beginnings," said the president. He urged parliament to pass the 18th Amendment Bill without delay, as the document would make the constitution "truly democratic and federal in character and guarantee rights and sovereignty for provinces".

Somalia Piracy: Update: Two of eight Indian vessel, hijacked by Somali pirates last week, were released over the weekend. The vessel Krishnajyot was released by Somali pirates on Saturday and Al Kadri, with 11 crew and registered at Mandvi in Kutch district in Gujarat, was released Sunday.

Pirates still hold six other Indian ships.

Yonhap reported on 6 April that the South Republic of Korea destroyer, Chungmugong Yi Sunshin, has overtaken a hijacked South Korean supertanker under control of Somali pirates, an official at Seoul's foreign ministry said. . The South Korean-operated 300,000-ton tanker, Samho Dream, carrying five South Korean and 19 Filipino crew members, was seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Sunday on its way to the United States from Iraq. It sent a distress call to the South Korean destroyer saying three pirates had boarded it.

"The 4,500-ton destroyer, named after famous Korean naval hero Yi Sunshin, was keeping a close watch over the hijacked vessel about 30 miles away, a defense ministry official said.

ABC online estimated the value of the 1.5million barrels of oil at more than $170 million. A ransom demand of $5 million would be just under 3 percent of the value of the cargo. The pirates have not yet made contact with the ship owners, according to the authorities.

Mexico: For the record. The El Paso Times reported that the Mexican government is attempting a new strategy to restore security in Ciudad Juarez. As of 5 April, Juárez will do away with its militarized strategy for enforcing law and order and rely heavily on the federal police, Mexican officials said. The Mexican army will not withdraw from the violence-plagued border city, said Enrique Torres, a spokesman for Coordinated Operation Chihuahua. Instead, they will carry out specific operations to combat drug trafficking, Torres said.

Soldiers patrolling the streets in Jeeps will no longer be a familiar sight. "Now, basically all you will find is federal and local police," he said. In April, 1900 federal police officers will be stationed there with at least 3,000 local and state police.

End of NightWatch for 5 April.

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