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NightWatch 20101019


For the Night of 19 October 2010

Japan-China: Update. Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara described as "hysterical" China's reaction to the arrest of the Chinese fishing boat in the Senkakus. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Maehara's comment was shocking. Improving and developing China-Japan relations is in the fundamental interest of both countries, the spokesman stated, adding that Japanese Foreign Ministry comments "run in the opposite direction."

Some shipments from China resumed, but rare earth exports were still being restricted, Japanese Trade Minister Akihiro Ohata said 19 October, China Daily reported. Japanese officials will set up talks with China, Ohata stated, adding the Japanese vice minister will meet with his Chinese counterpart.

Comment: The maritime dispute continues, as China continues to apply economic pressure on Japan by manipulating rare earth exports. Foreign Minister Maehara's description of Chinese action as excessive is close to the mark, but misses the point. In the next round, the Chinese are likely to arrest Japanese fishing crews, as they have done to Vietnamese fishing crews, and require Japan to apologize.  China is expanding its exercise of the rights of the sovereign in all disputed maritime areas.

China's release of Vietnamese foreign fishermen during the ASEAN Defense Ministers' meeting in Hanoi last week was misinterpreted by some Western cheer leaders as an act of conciliation. Arrests are the acts of a sovereign; as are acts of clemency, such as the release of fishermen illegally arrested under international law. It is important to not confuse clemency with conciliation.

North Korea: Authorities caught three North Korean senior middle school students in Hyesan with 10 kilograms (about 22 lbs.) of explosives reportedly smuggled from China, according to a report by Radio Free Asia. An unnamed source said border guards had helped smuggle the students across the border into China and back into North Korea with the explosives. Another source said the intended target was the bridge by Wangdeok Station. Yangkang provincial authorities have closed the border and increased security.

Comment: This report is not confirmed, but is plausible. The location is along the China border. The North Korean border guards are notorious for their involvement in income-supplement activity - namely, smuggling goods and people in and out of North Korea.

What is unusual is the smuggling of explosives by students. In this communist state, guns, ammunition and explosives are hard to get outside mining enterprises, even by soldiers. At mines, explosives are controlled carefully. There are not a lot of civilian murders involving guns in North Korea. Miltary forces infrequently perform live fire training because of the expense. Ammunition is controlled strictly.

Similar irregular activities involving firearms and explosives followed Kim Chong-il's succession in 1994 after his father, Kim Il-sung, died. The regime cracked down hard on protestors over food and shortages of other necessities. Kim Chong-il survived multiple assassination attempts in his first six months as leader in late 1994 through early 1995.

One noteworthy difference is the age of these alleged saboteurs is much younger than the protestors in 1994. Many opposition actors were soldiers. If discontent with the regime drives youths to take such risks, then the regime has serious troubles.

India: For the record. India's Intelligence Bureau (IB) issued a terror alert on 19 October placing all military installations on high alert following a new threat from Pakistan, Press Trust of India reported. IB warned that Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Pakistan's intelligence services trained special suicide attackers to assault India's defense installations. Militants may use a sea route to enter India and carry out the attacks, according to IB sources.

India-Pakistan: According to a 109 page Indian interrogation report of the Pakistani-American jihadist, David Headley, officers through senior field grade ranks in Pakistan's intelligence services were involved directly in the 2008 Mumbai militant attacks and intended to control a further split in Kashmir-based militant groups by providing them with a victory, The Guardian reported yesterday, 18 October.

Headley, a Pakistani American originally named Daood Gilani, undertook surveillance missions of the LeT targets in the 2008 Mumbai operation, He said he regularly reported to the ISI, but the Indian interrogation report suggests that supervision of the terrorists by the ISI was often chaotic. Headley also opined that the senior officers of the agency were unaware of the Mumbai operation beforehand.

According to the Indian interrogation report and The Guardian, Headley said he met once with a Pakistan Army "Colonel Kamran" and had a series of meetings with two majors named "Sameer Ali" and "Iqbal" from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). A fellow terrorist met with Colonel Shah." At least one of eight surveillance missions in India as paid for by the ISI, who paid him $25,000.

Comment: The Guardian does not admit that the Indian interrogation report might have been leaked deliberately. In any event, the publication of key excerpts will help justify to the international community the grounds for Indian suspicions and caution in dealing with Pakistan.

Headley might have told the truth, but the Pakistanis he dealt with certainly did not use their real names or affiliations. Headley's confession of involvement in the Mumbai attacks is sufficient to convince India that Pakistanis and Pakistan itself bear ultimate responsibility for the more than 160 dead in Mumbai in 2008.

The most plausible statement by Headley is that he was told the reason for the Mumbai attacks was to unite Kashmiri militant factions that were splintering and to move militant activity out of Pakistan and against India. Otherwise, Headley has a bit for Pakistan and a bit for India.

His allegations, as reported, will reinforce India's conviction that Pakistani officials continue to support the anti-Indian Islamic terrorists. On the other hand, Pakistanis will see other comments as exonerating the Pakistani government from blame by perpetuating the notion of rogue operations within the Pakistani intelligence service.

Any long time student of the Pakistani military hierarchy knows that rogue operations by serving senior field grade officers are all but impossible. Headley told his interrogators what they wanted to hear and hardened viewpoints already set in stone.

Pakistan-NATO: For the record. NATO aircraft and gunship helicopters violated Pakistani airspace by up to 15 kilometers (nine miles) in Torkham, according to paramilitary sources in the border area, Dawn News reported 19 October. The aircraft reached the Wali Khel, Sultan Khel and Ayub Kala areas taking an aerial view of NATO supply trucks, eyewitnesses said.

Comment: NATO aircraft appear to be violating the border at will now.

Iran-Venezuela: President Chavez used his visit to Tehran to issue diatribes against the US. The Tehran-Caracas axis is real. The only missing component is the critical link to North Korea which supports Iran's best weapons programs. Readers should expect North Korean arms merchants in Venezuela.

Comment: Latin American scholars have studied the Latin American leadership and elite penchant for blaming. Montaner, Grondona and others have described cycles in the blame-game over more than 150 years in which Spain, capitalism, the native populations, the church and the "Yankees" have been the targets of blame. The result, they write, is leadership that has resorted to failed experiments in socialism that served only to perpetuate poverty in potentially rich nations. 

Some Latin countries have begun to abandon the path of blaming others. Chavez has taken Venezuela a giant step backwards.

The point is that Chavez is on a path that will validate the findings of the scholars in one of the richest countries of Latin America. His resort to blaming the US and capitalism is leading to Venezuela's gradual impoverishment.

He is doing the same old things of past Latin authoritarian leaders. Not surprisingly he is obtaining the same results, except for introducing new destabilizing elements from the Middle East into the Americas.

End of NightWatch for 19 October.

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