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NightWatch 20100923


For the Night of 23 September 2010

Japan-US: Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara said 23 September that US Secretary of State Clinton acknowledged that the Senkaku islands are subject to the Japan-U.S. security treaty, according to a report in Kyodo. Clinton said the disputed islands fall under Article 5 of the security treaty, which permits the United States to defend Japan in the event of armed attack against Japan, Maehara said.

U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Washington has no position on the dispute and encourages China and Japan to continue pursuing a resolution through their legal systems.

Comment: US security treaties with Asian allies contain no automatic "go to war" clauses. All of them only require the parties to consult consistent with their own national laws and procedures. Thus, in 1975 when Vietnamese naval forces seized islands in the Spratly group that the Philippines held, the US consulted and determined the Vietnamese communist seizure of the islands required no defense response by the US because the Vietnamese seizure of disputed islands was outside the meaning of the defense treaty.

In light of that precedent, the Japanese Foreign Minister's statement says less than it appears and seems mostly aimed at intimidating the Chinese. The Japanese fully understand the requirements of the US security treaty. The US Secretary's statement does not mean the US will fight on behalf of Japan over ownership of the Senkakus.

The Philippine precedent suggets the US will treat an attack against disputed territory to be outside the intent of the treaty when it was written… unless the US decides otherwise. A great power always can change its mind and the rules.

North Korea: North Korean radio announced on 23 September that the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly appointed First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok-chu as Vice Premier. His portfolio will be foreign affairs. The new First Vice Foreign Minister is Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.

Comment: Both are highly significant appointments for several reasons. Kang has been First Vice Foreign Minister since 1986 and is at least four years overdue for promotion. He and Kim Kye Gwan are arguably the most proficient English speakers in the foreign ministry. Both have been to the US and are familiar with Americans and policy matters involving the US, especially the nuclear issues and the Six Party Talks.

Kang's appointment is the first time that a person of his ability and foreign policy experience with the US has reached the vice premiership. As First Vice Foreign Minister he had on his desk a dedicated direct phone line to the desk of Kim Chong-il, he said, and took calls from Kim Chong-il at all hours of the night. Kang has had strong influence on foreign policy and now, finally, will have some executive authority, as one of the vice premiers.

Kim Kye Gwan's promotion replaces Kang with a man of very similar attributes and skills, ensuring policy continuity in the Foreign Ministry. The appointments are positive indications that talks with the US, at least, will resume after the new Party leadership is announced, probably late next week.

Pakistan: Pursuant to an order of a three-judge panel of the Supreme Court, authorities arrested in court the former managing director of the Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and the former head of the Intelligence Bureau, a retired Army Brigadier.

Comment: The Supreme Court has reached the end of its patience with government obstruction in executing the law. The two men had convictions for corruption that had been suspended by Musharraf's National Reconciliation Ordinance. Last December the Court invalidated that Ordinance on constitutional grounds, which automatically restored the corruption convictions and sentences for the two men and many other officials.

The elected civilian government has slow-rolled execution of the Supreme Court's order reinstating corruption convictions from before the Musharraf era. The Law Ministry's dilatory approach allowed these two men to continue in public service and others to flee into self-imposed exile in England and Saudi Arabia.

Today's editorial in Pakistan's Daily Times called yesterday's Court action a wakeup call for the government because "the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should have acted on the Court's orders after the NRO was declared unconstitutional, but did not." The editorial concluded, "Arrests made inside courtrooms, let alone the Supreme Court, are not a norm in the legal world, but it seems that the Court finally has lost patience with the government's lack of action. New precedents are being set in Pakistan's legal history."

Pakistani military and civilian political interests resemble a set of competing guilds. The Chief Justice of Pakistan is trying to break the cohesion of the guilds with the express purpose of preventing another military coup by establishing the supremacy of the Pakistani constitution and the rule of law. He is not likely to succeed because he needs military support to counter the civilian politicians.

Kyrgyzstan- Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states will help Kyrgyzstan stabilize the situation in the country's southern region, a source in the Russian Federal Security Service said 23 September after a regional SCO anti-terrorism council meeting, Interfax reported.

The council decided that law-enforcement agencies of member states will assist Kyrgyzstan maintain security by organizing information exchanges regarding regional militant activities, the source said. The source also said the council elected Chinese Deputy Minister for Public Security Meng Hongwei to chair the anti-terrorism council for one year. The council is set to meet next in Usbekistan in March 2011. Representatives from Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan attended the meeting.

Comment: The Moscow-centered Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) declined to undertake a more intrusive intervention mission. The Beijing-led SCO mission is primarily an intelligence exchange, but potentially affords China unprecedented access to information about central Asian security issues. The SCO will accrue positive publicity for its limited mission, upstaging the CSTO.

The Chinese-led organization looks cooperative. The Russian-led organization looks timid. This in fact confuses different missions and burdens, but the public perception is likely to favor the Chinese-led initiative in the Russian sphere of influence.

Kyrgyzstan-Russia: Issues between Russia and Kyrgyzstan over Russia's military bases in Kyrgyzstan have been addressed and an agreement will be signed, probably on the 24th.

Comment: The Russians have four military facilities or bases in Kyrgyzstan, including Kant air base. Under the new agreement they will be consolidated in a single command structure and all will be governed by the new agreement, instead of four separate agreements. Russia's lease will probably be good for the next four or five decades.

Tajikistan: The al Qaida-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has claimed responsibility for the recent attack on a military convoy in the Kamarob gorge in eastern Tajikistan. According to official information, 25 defense ministry servicemen were killed and 15 others were injured in the attack.

Abdufattoh Ahmadi, a spokesman for the IMU, said the reason behind the attack was Tajik policies that include closing thousands of mosques, arresting Muslims without grounds and banning women from wearing Islamic clothes. He said militant attacks would continue unless the government ceases pursuing such policies.

Comment: The Tajik government and security forces have mounted operations against the IMU fighters. They represent no threat to the government, but are an annoyance and are being kept on the run to prevent them from building a base.

Bahrain: For the record. Bahrain's Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifah bin Salman al-Khalifah told a meeting of regional leaders that Iran's security is equivalent to that of Bahrain and the Middle East and the Bahraini government will not accept any threat or aggression against the Islamic republic. Iran's position on global issues contributed to sustainable security in the region and created a feeling of pride within the Muslim world, he said, adding that "extra-territorial powers" wish to destabilize the region to push ill-fated goals.

Officials from Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt also attended the meeting.

Comment: The Sheikh's pro-Iranian statements are part of Bahrain's defense against Iranian pressure. To paraphrase and amend the CIA Factbook, Bahrain's location, small size and significant Shiite population governed by a Sunni Sheikh require the King to balance his foreign policy.

The US side of the balance is rooted in post-War history in that Bahrain has been a base for the US Navy continuously since 1947. It presently hosts the headquarters of the US 5th Fleet. If this seems incongruent with statements about Iran's security, this is the Middle East. Bahrain derives no benefit from a conflict on the waters of or in the skies over the Persian Gulf.

Niger: The former armed Touareg movements offered to assist in operations to secure northern Niger during a meeting in the northern city of Agadez on 22 September, Radio France Internationale reported. The group expressed concern about some 4,000 ex-Touareg fighters who have been abandoned since their demobilization in 2009. The Touareg groups who organized the meeting called on Niger authorities and France and Algeria to avoid becoming additional sources of insecurity in the Sahel.

Comment: The Touaregs need jobs and have the knowledge and skills to expand the security capabilities of the Nigerien forces in the desert. The question is where their loyalties lie. The report of the meeting carries an undercurrent of extortion.

NightWatch Special Announcement:

Kforce Government Solutions (KGS) is pleased to announce that it will sponsor the first ever short course entitled "NightWatch Concepts of Analysis" on the afternoon of 29 September at the AFCEA auditorium. The Instructor/Facilitator will be Mr. John F. McCreary, founder of NightWatch.

Please follow the link below to register for the course and to obtain further information about the course, the instructor, the location and the fee schedule.

End of NightWatch for 23 September.

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