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NightWatch 20101104


For the Night of 4 November 2010

South Korea: For the record. The National Defense Ministry said Monday it will reconsider whether to keep the current practice of listing former service members who ended up in North Korea during the Korean War as killed in action even after they are confirmed alive in the communist nation.

The move came after four former South Korean soldiers lost long ago in North Korea showed up for meetings with their relatives from the South in the latest round of family reunions that took place at the North's Mount Kumgang resort over the weekend. In South Korea, the ex-soldiers have been listed as killed in action during the 1950-53 war because their fate could not be confirmed.

Since 2000, 19 former South Korean soldiers who are classified as killed in action have been confirmed alive in the North. Seventeen of them showed up for reunions with their long-lost relatives from the South, and one of them succeeded in fleeing the North to the South.

North Korea claims it is holding no POWs and that all former South Korean soldiers voluntarily defected.

Some 8,000 US soldiers from the Korean War remain unaccounted.

North Korea: According to North Korean media, in a report dated 1 November, "Kim Chong-il, the great leader of our party and our people who is the general secretary of the Workers Party of Korea and chairman of the National Defense Commission, attended a closing performance of the October concert given by U'nhasu, along with people's army soldiers." … Also attending the performance were Comrade Kim Cho'ng-u'n/Jung-un, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission of the WPK…. And others.

Comment: This report is the first official publication to list Jung-un in second place after his father. Usually the second listed official is Vice Marshal Ri, Jung-un's minder. The Vice Marshal is leading a military delegation to Cuba at this time, where he proclaimed North Korea will side with Cuba if it is ever attacked by the US.

China: A demonstration triggered by land acquisition and compensation disputes over highway maintenance has continued since 2 November in Shaotong, China, the Hong Kong Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy announced on the 4th.  Fifty vehicles have reportedly been torched, 10 of which were police cars. The 41st Mobile Division of the People's Armed Police, stationed in Mengzhi, Yunnan Province, dispatched 2,000 officers to suppress the demonstration. Thousands of people blocked bridges and highways, clashing with public security and armed police.

Comment: Uprisings over local grievances occur much more often in China than Western, especially US, media report. China is a turbulent country because of ethnic, religious, economic, social and political inequities in the communist system, plus bureaucratic overreaching and graft. These stresses make rural populations incendiary. Nevertheless, it is unusual for a large contingent of People's Armed Police to be required to contain a local demonstration.

India: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is upgrading its capabilities in the northeastern region of the country by revamping eight advance landing grounds and improving major airfields, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik said Tuesday, 2 November.

"We are going for composite upgradation of capabilities in the northeast. It should have been done a long time ago. Eight advance landing grounds are being upgraded and there are five to six major air fields where infrastructure will be improved to enable them to receive more modern aircraft."

The upgrade is part of the Modernization of Air Field Infrastructure (MAFI) project and included airfields in Bagdogra, Panagarh, Tezpur, Chabua, Saluwa and Guwahati. It also included improvement to eight advanced landing grounds in the region. "After the northeast, we will concentrate in the north, so that both can take off at the same time," he said adding that significant progress was made on the ground and the project was being overseen by an empowered committee headed by the Vice-Chief of the IAF, Air Marshal P K Barbora.

Comment: The primary threat in eastern India is from China. A year ago Prime Minister Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh State in eastern India, which borders China which China claims and calls "southern Tibet. Singh announced upgrades to and expansion of army facilities, plus additional basing of 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers in two army divisions.

Last night, NightWatch reported on pending naval infrastructure improvements. Today's report establishes that plans announced last year for upgrades to the air force infrastructure also are in progress. The Indian armed services are preparing for a wide range of contingencies involving China. The infrastructure expansion and upgrades should be complete within five years.

Afghanistan: Several high-ranking Taliban leaders met in late October to discuss their conditions for ending the war in Afghanistan, an unnamed source close to the Taliban said, Afghan Islamic Press reported 4 November. The leaders agreed on seven conditions that would be presented if the West asked for talks.

- the United States should release all prisoners from Guantanamo;

- the government should release Taliban detainees from Bagram, Pol-e Charkhi and other prisons;

-the US should remove the names of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan leaders from a U.S. blacklist;

-the US should announce the withdrawal of all U.S.-led foreign forces within two months;

-the US should cease all military operations throughout the country;

-the US should recognize the Islamic Movement of the Taliban as a political party; and,

-the US should replace the Afghan Constitution with Islamic law.

The source said the leaders would be flexible once talks began and that they want to open a dialogue with Washington before the government in Kabul joins. He reiterated that the conditions were the unofficial Taliban position.

Comment: The authenticity of the overture as a Taliban action is not confirmed. It is reported because it is making the international rounds. Among many problems with the statement, it is the first to contain specific terms as the starting points for negotiation. That is not the usual Taliban style. Taliban usually begin with the huge condition that foreign forces must withdraw before the Taliban will negotiate.

The most unusual condition is that the US should recognize the Taliban as a political party. No Taliban leader has ever used that language. Taliban leaders always claim they are the rightful government, and describe themselves as an emirate or caliphate, never as a movement. This does not look genuine on the surface.

Afghanistan-Iran: Update. Iran has spent $500 million in Afghanistan on projects rebuilding and restructuring Afghan infrastructure, Iranian Foreign Ministry official Mahmoud Barimani said at a 4 November meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Afghanistan. Iran, like other nations in the region, has a strong interest in a secure, stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan, Barimani said.

Comment: Barimani's statement apparently only includes government-to-government amounts; lacks a time frame and is unclear whether it includes the bags of money delivered to Karzai. Iranian policy operations in Afghanistan are complex and multi-tiered.

Barimani's amount, for example, does not include amounts spent by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in eastern Iran to maintain a buffer zone of Taliban groups inside Nimruz, Farah and Herat Provinces to harass US and Afghan forces inside western Afghanistan.

Somalia: A senior official from the Mujahidin Movement of Al-Shabaab, Shaykh Fu'ad Muhammad Khalaf aka Shongole, has vowed that his group will wage war on the people of Uganda and Burundi to revenge for the killings that are carried out against innocent civilians by their troops in Somalia.

Speaking to hundreds of people at Dabaqyayn Mosque in Mogadishu's Huriwaa District where a seminar for Mogadishu traditional elders was concluded today, Shongole threatened that his group will soon carry out attacks on Burundi and Uganda, adding that they will make all efforts to retaliate against the enemy of Islam. Shaykh Shongole called on Somalis to join the holy Jihad against Transitional Federal Government and African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu.

Comment: The threat is a riposte to recent Ugandan and Burundian commitments to reinforce their African Union force contingents. It also implies an admission that al Shabaab is under stress from the African Union forces. External attacks almost always are intended to create a diversion as a pressure release.

Al Shabaab has operatives that can implement the threat, as they proved during the World Cup match last summer. However, sensational suicide or other bombings in foreign capitals have thus far backfired by reinforcing the commitment of the African Union members to defeat al Shabaab in Somalia.

End of NightWatch for 4 November.

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