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NightWatch 20101103


For the Night of 3 November 2010

Japan-US: Update. The United States said it recognized Japanese sovereignty over the Northern Territories - the four islands in the Kurils chain that Japan claims -- during a press conference on 2 November. However, the statement said the islands that are in dispute between Japan and Russia do not fall under Article 5 of the US-Japan mutual defense treaty because they are not under Japanese administration, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley stated.

Comment: The message is that the US will not defend Japan in a fight with Russia over the Kuril Islands, even if asked. The treaty has no automatic defense provision as does the NATO treaty. On the other hand Russia is not interested in or capable of a fight in the Far East.

North Korea-China: Update. North Korean Cabinet Premier Choe Yong-rim is visiting northeastern China to step up joint economic projects, Yonhap reported 3 November, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. Choe traveled to Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, earlier in the week, and visited Changchun City on the 3rd.

Choe's trip, according to local news media, follows an October visit to the region by 12 high ranking North Korean mayoral and provincial chiefs, touring food, chemical and agricultural factories as well as other major facilities.

Comment: Choe's trip is the third high level visit related to North Korean manufacturing enterprises in regions of China that border North Korea.

Cumulatively, the reports indicate North Korea and China have reached an agreement about conducting an experiment in North Korean capitalism in northeastern China. That way, the authoritarian communist institutions in North Korea are not contaminated, but the North Korean leadership has an opportunity to assess the feasibility and profitability of implementing Chinese-style capitalist economic reforms under controlled conditions.

It seems extraordinary but a North Korean capitalist enclave in China appears to be under development in northeastern China. If confirmed, it would be genuinely extraordinary, bordering on bizarre.

India: The Chandigarh Tribune reported the results of last Wednesday's bi-annual naval conference, at which Minister of Defence Antony spoke. Antony said the government approved the construction of two new naval bases in the Bay of Bengal, opposite the Malacca Strait and Sri Lanka. At present, the only Indian naval base in Bay of Bengal is the huge naval establishment at Vishakapatnam, the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command.

The northernmost base will be built at Paradip in Orissa State, closer to Bangladesh and opposite the Malacca Strait. The southernmost base is at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu State, opposite Sri Lanka.

The Tribune commentator assessed that the two new bases are a counter to China's increased naval presence in the Bay of Bengal, including in Burma and Bangladesh. The Navy has smaller stations in the eastern Indian Ocean, but no full-size bases capable of providing all logistics support, supplies, replenishment, repair and maintenance. A third base for nuclear powered submarines also will be built at a separate location in the Bay of Bengal. The bases will take at least three  years to build.

Comment: Chinese naval interest in the eastern Indian Ocean is spurring the expansion of India's naval infrastructure. China has announced its intention to build a deep sea port at Sonadia near Cox Bazar, Bangladesh. It is also building ports in Burma/Myanmar. All are in the Bay of Bengal.

Most major Indian naval infrastructure construction has been focused against the threat from Pakistan. The new bases represent a shift in Indian strategic thinking -- to counter the threat from Chinese poaching in the Indian Ocean, without reducing vigilance against Pakistan. A new naval base in western India was announced in April 2010.

Mexico: A Mexican news outlet reported and the US State Department confirmed that four American citizens were "murdered" while visiting Juarez, Chihuahua State, over the weekend. These four were innocent bystanders in the gun fights between drug cartel fighters over the weekend.

With those four, a total of 20 Americans were killed in Juarez in October, making it the most deadly Mexican town for Americans in 2010. The US State Department today expressed condolences to the families.

End of NightWatch for 3 November.

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