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NightWatch 20100422


For the Night of 22 April 2010

South Korea:  Reuters reported on 22 April that the South Korean military also believes a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine sank the patrol ship Cheonan last month, based on intelligence gathered jointly with the United States.

ROK military intelligence sent the report of "certain" North Korean involvement to the presidential Blue House soon after the incident, Yonhap quoted a high-ranking military source as saying. It is the military intelligence assessment that North Korea attacked with a heavy torpedo. North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200 kg (441 lb) warheads, according to a military source.

Comment: The military personnel in both countries agree on something at last. South Korean President Lee laid out the next step earlier this month when he called for an investigation by neutral parties so the results of the investigation would be beyond demurrer.

This means he will move cautiously to build pressure on North Korea over this incident. China today called for caution, implying by the advisory that it is monitoring the reports about the cause of the sinking by a North Korean torpedo.  The Chinese appear to have been the dupes of Kim Chong-il, but will work to avert a crisis, as being bad for business. Tension in northeast Asia is rising.

Thailand:  Early on 22 April unidentified persons from among the Red Shirt protestors fired six M79 grenades into a crowd of pro-government Yellow Shirt demonstrators, killing three and injuring 70 people, according to Deputy Prime Minister Suthep. "It was clear that it was shot from behind the King Rama VI Monument where the Red Shirts are rallying," he told reporters. According to a Western diplomat who asked not to be named, one Japanese and one Australian were believed to be among the injured.

The Yellow Shirts were demonstrating for an end to the Red Shirt demonstrations which have been continuous since 12 March.

Two events followed. The Red Shirts ended their blockage of a troop train from northeastern Thailand and the Prime Minister summoned an emergency meeting of security officials.

Comment: Martial law in Bangkok became more likely today. It is not automatic that Red Shirts fired the M79 grenades. Every political group is suspect for different reasons. The likelihood of a crackdown is much more certain.

India-Pakistan: Indian Prime Minister Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani are not scheduled to meet separately for bilateral talks during the late-April South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Bhutan, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said 22 April, PTI reported.

Rao said India wants progress in the Mumbai trials and destruction of Pakistan's terror infrastructure before returning to the composite dialogue. During the summit, Singh will meet leaders from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan.

Comment: Gilani's comments at the nuclear security summit in Washington indicated that bilateral talks would be held. The Indians have been consistent in insisting that no talks will be held until Pakistan deals effectively with the perpetrators of the Mumbai bombings and with anti-Indian terrorists who operate from Pakistan.

Kyrgyzstan: Update. The interim government said it would hold a referendum on a new constitution on 27 July and elections for parliament and president on 10 October, according to Agence France-Presse. Omurbek Tekebayev, deputy head of the interim government, announced the dates on national television.

Tekebayev said the new constitution to be presented to voters in the 27 July referendum would make Kyrgyzstan a parliamentary republic, reduce the powers of the president and prevent authoritarianism.

Syria-US: The Obama administration has decided the need for a U.S. Ambassador in Damascus outweighs concerns about Syrian transfer of SCUD ballistic missiles to Lebanese Hezbollah, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said 22 April. According to Clinton, an ambassador could assess the situation in Damascus more accurately. She said such an appointment, indicating restoration of normal diplomatic relations, would not be a reward for Syria.

Comment: Clinton's and State's reasoning is tortured. A great power can do what it chooses, but its actions and motives deserve better explanations. A confirmed transfer of SCUD missiles to Hezbollah from or even through Syria is so strategically destabilizing that it would justify a suspension of US relations with Syria and Lebanon. There can be no business as usual until this issue is clarified.

Paraguay:  For the record.  President Fernando Lugo will ask congress on 22 April to declare a state of emergency in five departments in the northern part of the country to help facilitate the capture of members of Paraguayan People's Army (EPP), Reuters reported. The emergency could last up to 60 days and will permit Lugo to detain and transport people, as well as restrict public meetings throughout the country.

France: Reuters reported the government announced on Thursday it would apply a proposed ban on face-covering veils to visiting tourists as well as residents, even as skepticism mounted over the legality of the plan.

Junior Family Minister Nadine Morano said visitors would have to "respect the law" and uncover their faces, prompting critics to speculate whether Saudi luxury shoppers would be forced to unveil themselves on the glitzy Champs-Elysees.

Earlier this week President Sarkozy said France respects the dignity of women and will not allow them to be debased by the veil while they are in France. It is French law and all must respect it. Ironically, Muslim men and women think the veil protects women's dignity. This is a cultural clash.

Venezuela-Cuba: Recently retired Venezuelan General Antonio Rivero denounced the presence of Cubans in the Venezuelan armed forces, claiming they are in strategic positions of state security, Globovision reported 22 April.

Rivero said he was removed from the Venezuelan Chiefs of Staff because of his opinions on the presence of Cuban military personnel. He claimed that orders given by Cuban personnel often contradicted those of Venezuelan commanders and that, in these cases, Cuban decisions prevailed. Rivero retired voluntarily from the armed forces on 7 April.

Comment: The Cuban presence and influence have been issues since at least 2003. Venezuelans at various levels of national life have questioned Chavez' perceived need to import and rely on Cubans - de facto mercenaries - to "assist" one of the wealthier countries in Latin America.

The first Cuban programs involved agriculture - hardly a Cuban forte - education and Cuba's version of doctors. Later came security assistance. General Rivero now adds state security. Chavez evidently thinks he cannot be safe without hired guns from Cuba.  This is a study in democracy.

Mexico: A ccording to The Associated Press, dozens of gunmen burst into a Holiday Inn and another hotel in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey Wednesday, searching from room-to-room and abducting at least six people, prosecutors said.

Nuevo Leon state attorney general Alejandro Garza y Garza said that between 20 and 30 gunmen abducted four guests and a receptionist from the 17-story Holiday Inn in Mexico's industrial hub, which has seen a surge in violence recently.

The gunmen had with them a handcuffed man who led them to the fifth floor, Garza y Garza said. The assailants stormed room 517 where an Asian guest was staying, realized he wasn't who they were looking for and left, he said. The group then searched at least seven more rooms on the fifth floor, apparently looking for specific targets, before going across the street to the Hotel Mission where they abducted a receptionist, the attorney general said.

Those abducted included three male guests who registered at the Holiday Inn as businessmen from Mexico City and a woman registered as from the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. He said the attackers stole a computer containing the Holiday Inn's hotel registry and the hotel's security videos.

The U.S. Consulate in Monterrey denied media reports that an American woman had been kidnapped from the Holiday Inn, and it repeated warnings to U.S. citizens to be wary of violence in Nuevo Leon State.

NightWatch Comment:  Somehow a warning to be "wary of violence" does not seem to cover the threat. How can American tourists in a Holiday Inn in Monterrey, Mexico, know what to do to protect themselves so as to "be wary of violence," except not to travel to Mexico? I

f the State Department means "don't go there," it owes it to the taxpayers to be plain speaking. Concerning travel to Mexico, the time for polite, diplomatic euphemisms has passed.

Another anecdote reported in The Brownsville Herald quoted Border Patrol and local police that several illegal immigrants entered an elementary school to escape the Border Patrol. Their presence on the campus caused a school-wide lockdown of kids in their class rooms. One of the intruders was caught, but five escaped.

The image of American kids locked in school rooms -- a potential killing zone -- in a Texas grade school against Mexican illegals is outrageous … as if locked classroom doors would deter potential terrorists or predatory murderers. Fortunately, and no credit to Federal or local law enforcement or school authorities, no one got hurt this time.

Locked doors don't work any better in Texas than in Afghanistan. At least in Afghanistan, American, British, Canadian, Dutch and German soldiers or Marines are likely to come to the rescue; but not in Texas or Arizona.

The data indicate Americans should stay out of the northern Mexico crime buffer zone and need to fortify the southern border. If security in Afghanistan is more important than security in Texas, then the Defense Department and the associated Congressional committees need new leadership and an epiphany!

This is a NightWatch warning: worse threats are yet to come.

End of NightWatch for 22 April.

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