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NightWatch 20101207


For the Night of 7 December 2010

The Korea Confrontation

South Korea-North Korea: Anti-Pyongyang leaflets were sent across the border 7 December and Seoul is ready to resume propaganda broadcasts as a retaliatory measure against North Korea's artillery attack, South Korea's Defense Ministry said, Yonhap reported.

Comment: Last summer the North announced that it would retaliate for dropping leaflets from balloons that float across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with a "physical" response. Likewise the North designated a resumption of propaganda broadcasts from South Korea across the DMZ as a trigger for a retaliatory attack at the loudspeakers and the broadcast facilities

The salient lesson from the shelling on 23 November is that the North is disposed to retaliate asymmetrically for minor provocations. The new leadership team is particularly prickly and is not giving second chances.

Today's statements could be propaganda baiting, but the warning against dropping propaganda leaflets from balloons was specific and pointed. Readers should be prepared for limited shooting across the DMZ at the leaflet launch facility.

Offshore Islands. A South Korean military official said sounds of distant artillery fire were heard again on Wednesday, 8 December, from North Korea opposite the South Korean islands in the Yellow Sea.
However, no shells landed in South Korean claimed waters or on Yeonpyeong Island. The official said,
"We assumed North Korea was carrying out its regular firing exercises."

Comment: Last week when artillery fire was heard, the South Koreans interpreted it as a warning. There are few, if any, "regular firing exercises" at this time of the year. The North Korean armed forces are in the first week of the annual winter training cycle. Usually this week is reserved for class room instruction and indoctrination and physical fitness training.

China-the World: China does not hope to "replace" the United States as the world's dominant power, and others should not fear China's rise, Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo wrote in an essay posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website. China will not engage in an arms race because its resources are better spent on development and guaranteeing that its people have enough to eat, Dai wrote.

The world should welcome and support China's development but must also "understand and respect" Beijing's interests, including its territorial integrity and its stance on weapons sales to Taiwan. Dai wrote that China will actively participate in issues related to the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Darfur, adding that China will be "a responsible participant in the international system."

Comment: Dai's essay has a defensive tone that suggests the international community expects too much of China. If that is the case, the Chinese nurtured those expectations by their world-wide economic offensive, infrastructure projects in central, south and southeast Asia, port developments in the Indian Ocean and aggressive actions to assert Chinese territorial sea claims in East and Southeast Asia.

In promising to be a "responsible participant" in the international system Dai is trying to lower expectations. He is disavowing any pretense to leadership with respect to North Korea and Iran, both of whom are Chinese clients and beneficiaries. Chinese actions, arms sales and investments contradict the self-effacing theme. Nonetheless, the modern successor to the Central Kingdom appears to be trying to tutor the rest of the world on how to look on and behave towards China.

India-Pakistan: On 7 December both countries experienced sensational terrorist bombings by Islamists. In India the Indian Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for bombing the Hindu shrine at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh on the Ganges River. One child was killed and dozens of people were injured.

The Indian Mujahedeen surfaced in 2007 when it claimed responsibility for near simultaneous bombings in Varanasi, Faizabad and Lucknow, all in Uttar Pradesh. It has claimed responsibility for subsequent attacks and says it is avenging the demolition of a mosque in Uttar Pradesh in 1992.

In Pakistan, the Chief Minister of Baluchistan, Nawab Aslam Raisani, narrowly escaped assassination by a suicide bomber who attacked the Chief Minister's convoy in Quetta. The blast killed ten people including five policemen. A new Islamist terrorist group claimed responsibility but the police judge the outlawed Lashkar e Jhangvi was responsible and local residents executed the attack.

Comment: The attacks are not related except in time, but they show that both countries are victims of attacks from home grown extremists. Working backwards from the effects, a living systems analysis compels the conclusion that significant local support systems enable these attacks and that deliberate or negligent lapses in security make such attacks possible.

One major difference in the two is that attacks by Islamic extremists on Hindu shrines always risk an uncontrollable backlash by militant Hindus against all Muslims, once the blood-letting starts. The Indian Muslims always suffer badly in those violent spasms.

In Pakistan, there will be local consequences, but the support system remains unthreatened and undiminished.

End of NightWatch for 7 December.

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