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NightWatch 20100524

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For the Night of 24 May 2010

Administrative note: NightWatch is traveling and is encountering the usual technical problems. NightWatch regrets any inconvenience.

This is a summary of the items for the night of 24 May.

Japan: Prime Minister Hatoyama gave South Korean President Lee nearly unconditional backing for sanctions, support for UN action and countermeasures against North Korea in responding to the sinking of the patrol ship Cheonan.

South Korea: In his statement about countermeasures, South Korean President Lee exempted South Korean participation in the Kaesong industrial estate from the suspension of trade. More ominously, he said South Korea will bar North Korean ships from transiting South Korean waters and shipping lanes as short cuts to North Korean ports.

Comment: The ban on using South Korean shipping lanes affects Haeju and several smaller ports in southwestern North Korea. In the past North and South Korea narrowly missed clashes at sea with tactical air support over the North's insistence on using short cuts through South Korean waters.

If Lee is serious about this restriction, the North is sure to test it and that portends more sea clashes off the west coast.

North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency published a warning attributed to an operational field commander of the Korean People's Army over South Korean propaganda/psychological warfare operations along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

The warning stated:

"Timed to coincide with the evermore undisguised moves to resume the psychological warfare against the DPRK in the areas along the MDL, there appeared a slogan for the said warfare at MP [military police] post 330 of the puppet Third Infantry Division in the Demilitarized Zone in the central sector of the front and it is set to install even louder speaker for resuming the broadcasting as part of the said warfare.

This is an open breach of the inter-Korean military agreement, a grave military provocation to the DPRK and a serious incident driving the inter-Korean relations to the worst phase.

The KPA soldiers are now greatly enraged by this provocation of the group of traitors and asking for the issue of an order to blow up such means for the psychological warfare as the new slogan and louder speaker with their sighting shots.

Requested by the soldiers and upon the authorization of the superior, I serve the South Korean group of traitors the following warning: 1. The slogan for psychological warfare against the DPRK carved on a wall of the building of MP post 330 should be immediately removed and those involved in the crime sternly punished.

2. In case the above-said slogan is left as it is and such new means for the said warfare as louder speaker are set up, defying our demand, there will start the firing of direct sighting shots to destroy them.

If the group of traitors challenges the just reaction of the DPRK, this will be followed by stronger physical strike to eliminate the root cause of the provocations."

Comment: Warnings attributed to field commanders are almost unprecedented. The specificity in the statement indicates this is not a bluff. Expect shooting incidents across the DMZ, as well as naval clashes. Activation of civil defense measures would indicate the North is preparing to escalate to all out war as it threatened last week. This is a warning item.

Thailand: The crisis management center has proposed extending the curfew through 31 May in Bangkok and 23 provinces, though Bangkok continues to return to normal and is open for business. The security forces remain vigilant against more unrest and claims to have intelligence that groups threaten it.

Opposition leaders introduced motions of no confidence against the Prime Minister and his key staff and of impeachment in parliament today. The opposition must test the government's strength.

India: In a rare press conference, Prime Minister Singh announced the India will make a serious effort to engage Pakistan on all outstanding issues because India must have good relations with its neighbors to achieve full development. Apparently, the government has encapsulated its concerns about anti-Indian terrorism from Pakistan in the concept of "full development."

Niger: The ruling military junta is about to decree that all future presidential candidates must have university degrees and that members of parliament must be secondary school graduates. The opposition protested this elitist approach because the country is only 20% literates. The junta promises to restore democracy in a year and that none of its members will run for office. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 24 May.

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