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NightWatch 20100831


For the Night of 31 August 2010

South Korea-North Korea: The Republic of Korea's Red Cross has offered 10bn won ($8.3m) worth of aid to help North Korea cope with the effects of extensive flooding in the far northwest. A Ministry of Unification official said the aid offer includes medical kits, emergency food and supplies.

The Red Cross conveyed the offer in a letter to its counterpart in the North today. The North has not yet responded.

Comment: The last offer of food aid was in October 2009, after a two year interruption because the North declared it no longer needed the aid.

South Korea-US: Update. The two allies are scheduled to hold joint naval exercises on 5 September in the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula's west coast, designed to send a deterrence signal to North Korea, an unidentified military source told South Korean media on 31 August. The exercise will last through 9 September and will focus on anti-submarine warfare tactics, including detecting and destroying North Korean submarines. Two US Aegis-equipped destroyers will participate.

Comment: The Yellow Sea exercise is the second or third in the series intended to show force and improve skills in response to the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March. Probably as a coincidence, it may take place during the most important North Korean party meeting in 44 years, the 3rd Party Conference, which is to elect new supreme leaders. Observers speculate the Conference will convene on 6 or 9 September. The Allied exercise will be a good test of the North's latest commitment to easing tension.

China: For the record. According to an item posted to, earlier this month, two Chinese satellites met up in orbit. Depending on whom you believe, the post related, it's either a sign of China's increasingly-sophisticated space program - or a sign of its increasingly-sophisticated space warfare program.

The author asserted that the US is the only other country capable of rendezvousing satellites in space. This capability has several benign implications, such as clearing space debris, but a larger number of offensive space warfare implications, including destruction of "enemy" satellites and satellite systems.

Comment: It is easy to underestimate China's mixed-tech capabilities. For example, in January 2007 the Chinese surprised the US with an earth-based, ballistic missile capability to shoot down an orbiting satellite. Lately, it is reputed to have refined the capability to use rather clunky ballistic missiles linked to over-the-horizon radars to shoot US aircraft carriers.

One of the problems in monitoring a country with a population of more than a billion people is that it can develop workable solutions that countries with smaller populations will have rejected as unworkable because they are inefficient.

The top ten per cent of the Chinese population totals more than 130,000,000 smart people. The top ten per cent of the US population totals 30.7 million smart people. That means, for example, that China can apply thousands of engineers to solve a problem that only 100 US engineers might be working on. More is not better in problem solving, but the Chinese are showing that "many more" can find different, workable paths to problem solving.

Taiwan: Taiwan plans to deploy its own cruise missiles by the end of this year, according to Taiwan lawmaker, Lin Yu fang. Lin, a University of Virginia-educated military affairs specialist who is a member of the Foreign and National Defense Committee, said Taiwan started producing the Hsiungfeng 2E cruise missiles after it acquired the "key components" needed for their manufacture. A source close to the ministry said the military has produced at least dozens of the missiles.

The Hsiungfeng IIE is a surface-to-surface cruise missile that has a range of 800kms and carries a 200kg conventional warhead. It can range Shanghai, Hong Kong and coastal cities in between. In 2008 the government ordered the production of 300 missiles as a partial counter to the China's basing of more than 1,300 ballistic missiles along the coast opposite Taiwan.

Comment: There is asymmetry in the missile threat across the Taiwan Strait. Neither country has a proven, reliable defense against the other's missiles. The Chinese ballistic missiles can saturate Taiwan's limited air defense capability, but Taiwan's cruise missiles can penetrate China's air defense systems to attack Shanghai and Hong Kong. Both hold civilian populations hostage.

Cross-Strait tension has eased since the Kuomintang, led by President Ma, returned to office in 2008 because the Kuomingtang shares China's "One China" policy and opposes independence for Taiwan. Nevertheless, neither country is relaxing its guard. A Chinese academic told a conference in Singapore in June that China will not reduce its missiles until it is clear that the pro-independence party on Taiwan, the Democratic Progressive Party, does not win the 2012 elections.

India: Update. External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told parliament the government is concerned about China's activity in the Indian Ocean. Krishna said the Indian government has noticed that China is showing more than the normal interest in the Indian Ocean affairs. So we are closely monitoring the Chinese intentions."

Comment: Krishna provided no details on Chinese activity, but the timing of Krishna's remarks suggest a response to three developments reported in the news this week. First is the report that China has increased security personnel in the Himalayan area opposite northern Kashmir.

The mission of the Chinese troops is to protect railroad workers building a rail line from far western China to northern Pakistan, across the roof of the world. Indian military authorities in Kashmir reported the increased troop presence on the border and assessed it as not threatening.

The second item is the report that two Chinese naval ships are making a port call in Burma (Myanmar). China is also planning to build a high-speed railroad from southwest China into Burma and as far south as Malaysia.

The third item is the announcement today that a Chinese holding company has signed an agreement to invest $450 million to expand the cargo handling capacity at the port of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Since May 2009, China has committed $6 billion to repair infrastructure that was neglected or damaged during the civil war against the Tamils.

Economically, the Chinese say they are, and are in fact, rebuilding the "Silk Road" routes by land and sea. Strategically, they are encircling India with Chinese client states.

Afghanistan: NATO forces have reversed or blunted the Taliban's momentum in some but not all areas of Afghanistan, General Petraeus said in an interview with NATO TV on 31 August. He said the insurgents were fighting to take back Marjah in Helmand Province, which he described as one of the most important command and control areas for the Taliban and the nexus for the illegal narcotics industry.

Petraeus also said NATO's campaign to secure the southern city of Kandahar had just begun and would be difficult.

NightWatch questions: When and how did the Coalition forces lose Kandahar? The baseline for analysis is November 2001 when Omar and his sycophants fled in tears from Kandahar to Quetta, Pakistan, about the time bin Laden and Zawahiri eluded US special forces to flee from Tora Bora to Parachinar, Pakistan.

Karzai himself with US advisors led the fight to take Kandahar from Omar, advancing from the north. The US Marines based their operations in Kandahar, having entered Afghanistan from Karachi, Pakistan.

Initially the Marines were camped just south of Kandahar until the security situation clarified, enabling them to move to the airport. Without a secure Kandahar in late 2001, US operations south of Kabul would have failed. In November 2001 and all of 2002, Kandahar was more secure than Kabul. US forces were welcomed, after the savage Taliban atrocities.

So the question remains and requires some explanation, what happened? How did the US Marines, primarily -- NATO forces had not yet been invited -- lose Kandahar? Feedback is welcome, especially from Marines or others who were there.

A second point worth noting is the role of Pakistan in harboring enemies, especially during the Musharraf regime. Readers will readily recognize there is a pattern of Pakistan giving refuge to enemies of the Afghanistan and the United States, while claiming to be a US ally.

The election of a civilian government has not changed that pattern, relative to Afghanistan or India, for that matter. Pakistan continues to support regional instability as a matter of state policy because its armed forces are incapable of defending Pakistan. It is a workable, short term, day-to-day security policy for Pakistan that ensures all its neighbors, except China, are under stress from Pakistan-based and supported terrorists.

Israel-Palestinian Authority: Hamas' military wing claimed responsibility for the West Bank shooting that killed four Israelis near Hebron 31 August. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida confirmed that Hamas had carried out the attack.

Comment: Hamas' ownership of the attack could constitute an admission of crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The International Criminal Court in The Hague has the authority to issue warrants for their arrest for crimes against humanity, if the Palestinian Authority is unwilling or unable to prosecute the criminals.

As mentioned in multiple international media commentaries, Hamas wanted either to prevent the talks or test the determination of the parties to persist in holding them, despite violence. Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reaffirmed their decisions to meet this Thursday in Washington for talks.

Palestinian fighters have learned that Israel's political response cannot be taken for granted. They also will learn that Israel's asymmetrical military response is certain. The Israelis also will have the opportunity to determine the Palestinian tolerance for violence while holding talks.

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End of NightWatch for 31 August.

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