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NightWatch 20100613


For the Night of 13 June 2010

The Korea Confrontation

North Korea: On Saturday North Korea repeated its warning that it will attack South Korean loudspeakers. The warning was renewed after South Korea announced it decided to resume the propaganda broadcasts across the Demilitarized Zone after the UN Security Council deliberates the sinking of the Cheonan. Excerpts from the North's statement follow.

"The commander of the Korea People's Army Front's Central Zone has already solemnly clarified at home and abroad our army's firm position that, should the gang of traitors resume anti-Republic psychological warfare in the front area, we would completely eradicate all means of psychological warfare, including loudspeakers, with direct-aimed destructive shots. "

"This notwithstanding, the gang of traitors, gone nuts over confrontation with fellow countrymen, is persisting in frantically bustling about in preparations for resuming full-scale anti-Republic psychological warfare in the front area."

"Following traitor Lee Myung-bak's so-called address to the people on 24 May, puppet Defense Minister Kim Tae-young declared steps to resume anti-Republic psychological warfare. Since then, the puppets have already installed loudspeakers for psychological warfare in 11 places in the Military Demarcation Line [MDL] area. It is stepping up preparations to install additional loudspeakers for anti-Republic psychological warfare in more than 30 places as a secondary step, and in 94 places in the long term."

"What is more, it is attempting to set up even electronic display boards for psychological warfare in 11 places….When viewed from a military point that psychological warfare is one of the basic operational forms for carrying out a war, the installation of the means for an anti-Republic psychological warfare is a direct proclamation of war against us."

"Therefore, as already gravely warned by the commander of the front's central zone, our revolutionary armed forces will launch into an action for an all-out military strike to completely put an end to the gang of traitors' means for an anti-Republic psychological warfare on all fronts without leaving any traces.

The resolute military strike by our revolutionary armed forces is by no means a one-for-one response on the principle of proportion which the gang of traitors is babbling about. They should bear in mind that our military response is a merciless military strike foreseeing even Seoul's sea of fire which is a stronghold of the gang of traitors.

Comment: The North Koreans are serious about the warning. The statement contains no conditional language. The North will shoot at the speakers or otherwise destroy them. The details of the statement show they are registering targets to take them out.

The statement also exposes the reasoning the North uses to declare this or that act a direct "proclamation of war," as a justification for taking action. In short, anything that is dual use - useful in peacetime and wartime - is an act of war when South Korea or the allies use it or do it.

The "sea of fire" reference has several antecedents, but the most famous is during the 1994 crisis, when a military spokesman threatened that North Korea would turn Seoul into a "sea of fire." This time the North did NOT threaten to turn Seoul into a sea of fire as Yonhap and other news services reported. The text above contains the exact quote. "Foreseeing" is a mistranslation for "foreshadowing."

The North's propagandists have overused it so that it no longer evokes the concern of 1994. The North's leaders can turn Seoul into a sea of fire with missiles and artillery. In the process, they would lose their entire country, but South Korea would survive.

In 1994, during the nuclear crisis then, it was scary. Against the background of severe food shortages and economic privation, it comes off a bit unhinged.

UN: The UN Security Council announced it will take up the issue of the Cheonan's sinking in the coming week. The Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea will make presentations on the 14th.

South Korea: Yonhap reported that up to a dozen senior military officers might face criminal charges for their mishandling national security and national defense during and after the sinking of the Cheonan. The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) found that 12 of the 25 military officers named by the Board as deserving reprimand also can be charged in addition to disciplinary measures, the board's chairman Kim Hwang-sik told a parliamentary committee on Friday, 11 June.

The BAI released an interim report Thursday on its probe of how the military dealt with the sinking of Ch'o'nan (Cheonan). The Board recommended punitive measures against 25 senior officers, including General Lee Sang-eui, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), for mishandling the situation.

The BAI report blamed the military for failing to take the necessary countermeasures despite earlier intelligence on the possibility of the North's torpedo attack. Also, the BAI criticized the military for delaying its initial report on the sinking to top commanders and distorting key facts.

General Lee was accused of being absent from the defense ministry's main command and control center on the night of the North's torpedo attack in the Yellow Sea, state auditors said. Instead, Lee slept at his office under the influence of alcohol before showing up at the command and control center at 5 a.m. on the morning of 27 March, BAI officials said. A separate news service described him as severely drunk.

Lee also is suspected of having manipulated an internal document to pretend that he was present at the command and control center throughout the night of 26 March, when the Cheonan sank, killing 46 sailors.

Lee offered his resignation on 13 June. More officers can be added on the list of those to be disciplined when the BAI's probe is finished in about a month.

Comment: South Korea holds senior officers accountable for systemic failures that cause the country to lose face.

Pakistan: Comment: The London School of Economics' report about the Pakistani intelligence service providing support to the Taliban received much attention. It is based on less than a dozen interviews of field commanders and one mid-level official done in February and March 2010. Their assertions of Pakistani intelligence involvement are information conjectural and not based on direct evidence or observation, according to the report itself.

The report does not establish with credibility the nature of the relationship between the Taliban and Pakistani intelligence, which is its stated purpose. However, it is a reminder that the Taliban insurgency is financed, armed and supplied from and through Pakistan. Without Pakistan as a secure safehaven and base, the Afghanistan insurgency would degenerate into an organized crime problem. Whatever Pakistan has done to improve security conditions in its territory, it has done nothing to impede the river of supply that feeds the Taliban insurgency and runs through Pakistan.

The Taliban supply system must be one of the largest employers in Pakistan, paralleling and feeding off the US/NATO supply system, which probably explains why more trucks are not destroyed in Pakistan. The Taliban rely on them too.

Kyrgyzstan: The interim government passed a decree declaring a partial mobilization of civilian reservists in the wake of violent outbursts in the south of the country, RIA Novosti reported 12 June, citing an interim government spokesman. So far, the clashes have claimed 77 lives and left 1024 injured. Kyrgyz recruitment offices will begin registering reservists 13 June.

The fighting is in Osh and Jalalabad, major towns that supported ousted President Bakiyev.

Note to new analysts: Mobilization is a military term of art that means call-up of reservists from civilian life. It does not mean movement of military forces. That is called "movement." Mind, "deployment" also is different from movement and mobilization. The terms are not interchangeable.

Mobilization is a high cost civilian activity that expands the size  and, ideally, the capabilities of the armed forces. Military capabilities are enlarged by drawing upon civilian resources and by disrupting civilian normality. It means the unrest in Osh and Jalalabad exceeded the capabilities of the forces on active duty to contain and suppress the disorders, i.e., the government needs more men in uniform. Partial or full mobilization always mean a security problem is serious.

Russia-Kyrgyzstan: President Medvedev ordered reinforcement of the Russian military contingent currently in Kirgizia to ensure the safety of service personnel of the Armed Force of the Russian Federation and their families.

"In connection with the continuing exacerbation of the situation in Kirgizia, a battalion of the 31st Separate Air Assault Brigade of the Airborne Troops arrived in the republic today," chief of the Russian Defense Ministry's press service and information directorate told ITAR-TASS.

"A reduced-strength battalion flew from Ulyanovsk today with its organic small arms to ensure the safety of Russian service personnel and their families, and to reinforce the defense and protection of Russian military facilities in Kirgizia, and has already arrived there."

Note: Russia declined a Kyrgyz government request for peacekeepers.

Iran-Turkey: Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad said on 13 June that the United States pressured Turkey to abstain on a U.N. Security Council vote approving new sanctions against Iran, instead of voting against the sanctions, Islamic Republic TV reported. Ahmadi-Nejad said Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told him US President Obama spoke with Erdogan on the telephone requesting Turkey's abstention for 90 minutes. Erdogan also allegedly told Ahmadi-Nejad that Obama said he needed to "do something" about Iran, that he was under pressure from the US Congress and that the sanctions were not strong and would have no effect on Iran.

Comment: If Ahmadi-Nejad's statements are accurate, the Turkish prime minister committed an egregious betrayal of confidence. If the Turkish government does not deny this report, the US is entitled to consider it and treat it as authentic. Turkey is behaving as an ally of Iran more than an ally of the US.

Many commentators have warned about Turkey's aspirations for leadership in the Gaza confrontation. A point overlooked is it is not a Muslim problem, so much as an Arab political problem. Turks are not really welcome except to the extent that they provide diversion from Arab handling of the problem. The same is also true of the Persians in Iran.

Support for HAMAS is not a path to leadership in the Arab world for outsiders. Arab leaders also apparently judge that strong support for HAMAS does not advance their interests.

Iraq: For the record. A one-hour meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and al-Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi on 12 June ended with both parties agreeing to form a national partnership government encompassing all groups, Aswat al-Iraq reported.

This announcement did not state who will be the prime minister.

Saudi Arabia: For the record. On the afternoon of 12 June responded to The Times of London report that the Saudi forces would allow Israeli jets to use Saudi airspace to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, Jerusalem Post reported. The Saudi Defense Ministry described the report as being baseless and untrue.

Comment: This minor fracas looks like a Saudi reminder to the Persians of what can happen if they continue to intrude in Arab affairs, such as Gaza, or are shown to have developed a nuclear weapons capability. A Saudi denial is required and an important part of the message that will feed Iranian anxiety.

End of NightWatch for 13 June.

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