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NightWatch 20100520


For the Night of 20 May 2010

South Korea-North Korea: The South Korean Ministry of National Defense telecast a detailed presentation of the findings from the investigation of the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan. The centerpiece of the presentation was the matching of recovered parts of a torpedo, primarily the propulsion system, to corresponding components on a blueprint of a North Korean torpedo of the kind the North produces for itself and sells to Iran.

President Lee announced that the North will be made to admit its wrong doing. He promised stern counter-measures … which are not the same as retaliation and can be interpreted many ways.

During the South's presentation, a spokesman for the North Korean National Defense Commission (NDC), which Kim Chong-il chairs, denounced the South Korean presentation and made three points.

First the NDC said it "will send" its own investigation team to South Korea to examine the evidence.

Second it threatened all out war for retaliation, retribution and sanctions'

Third we "will define any small incident that takes place in the territorial waters, skies, and land where we exercise our sovereignty, including the West Sea of Korea (Yellow Sea), as the confrontation maniacs' provocation, and will counter with unlimited retaliatory strikes and merciless strong physical strikes. (Note: "unlimited physical strikes" is a euphemism for "attacks by nuclear weapons.")

The lead item is unprecedented. It hints of an extraordinary opportunity; it's the only initiative that is not conditionally reactive. It is the one the North hopes the South will accept. It would seem to be worth putting the North to its proof.

The quality of the South's demonstrative evidence is such to even make it hard for China and Russia to stand behind North Korea in this incident. War is not likely, but increased tension and testiness are.

China-Burma: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected to visit Myanmar and meet Myanmar's General Than Shwe in late May or early June, diplomatic sources said, Irrawaddy reported 20 May. The sources said Wen's visit will focus on stability and reconciliation in Myanmar ahead of Myanmar's 2010 elections and ties between Myanmar and North Korea.

Comment: Chinese officials privately have said that China is disappointed by Myanmar's banning of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the "88 Generation Students" group from the election. Wen's statesman-like quality and China's maturity as a world leader would be manifest in a visit to Aung, as did US ASD Kurt Campbell. Not a chance!

Thailand: Update. The government said that order has been restored in Bangkok, but not normality. The government extended the curfew in 23 provinces for three more days

Pakistan: Update. Today the government blocked Youtube for an indefinite period.

In political news, Musharraf confirmed that he intends to return to Pakistan, form a new political party and run for high office.

Iraq: President Jalal Talabani met winning Iraqi political coalitions -- minus al-Iraqiya List -- on 20 May to urge blocs to set aside their differences and hasten the formation of the new cabinet, an adviser to Talabani said, according to AK News. One member of parliament, who arranged the meeting, said al-Iraqiya did not attend because most members are ex-Baathist, so they do not agree with the Kurds and see the Kurds supporting Shiite lists.

An al-Iraqiya spokesman said his bloc did not attend because of Prime Minister al-Maliki's insistence on keeping his post and because the announcement and ratification of election results were suspended.

Comment: Al Maliki's demand that he retain his position is a stumbling bloc in building alliances with all groups that fared better than his bloc did in the elections or with those that he requires to build a coalition. The man is politically toxic and refuses to accept that fact.

End of NightWatch for 20 May.

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