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NightWatch 20101214


For the Night of 14 December 2010

Japan-China: Special Comment: Over the weekend the Japanese government announced a fundamental redirection of defense policy. For all of Japan's post-war existence, defense policy has been crafted to support the US in a war against the Soviet Union in the Far East.

The policy was modified on the margins to support counter-terror and anti-piracy in the Indian Ocean; to perform humanitarian operations in Indonesia and to do development work in Iraq. Still the bedrock of defense policy remained defense against the Russians even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, nearly 20 years ago.

Increasingly frequent confrontations with China over ownership of the Senkaku Islands plus China's blunt assertiveness from Malawi to Kamchatka have prompted Japan to redirect its defense energies to prepare for future confrontations and crises with China.

Nearly 20 years of US pressure on Japan to shoulder a greater share of security responsibilities in international affairs has been a strong influence in the background. This cost of the US protective umbrella has been the prime driver in US pressure. The US has required that the Japanese should pay more for US protection and do more to protect their interests.

For short term purposes - almost entirely economic -- the US has encouraged fundamental shifts in strategy and operations by American allies that have long term consequences and systemic effects that many American strategists clearly have not considered. Once the Asians take over, the era of US dominance in Asia will have ended. The time is drawing near when the US must change its style of engagement, whether it wants to or not.

There are two imperatives driving Asian security. Asians are taking responsibility for Asian security. The outcome of this drive is a return to a 200 year old baseline for Asian security that does not include a dominant role for the United States.

The second imperative is waning US influence. As Asians take charge in Asia, the US will have a decreasing ability to coerce  or cajole its Asian Allies to support US policies -- no more than the Chinese have on North Korea.

China-Japan: Japan should take its Asian neighbors into consideration regarding military issues, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on 14 December. The statement follows remarks made by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan that he would deploy Japan's Self-Defense Forces to the Korean Peninsula in the event of an emergency.

In light of the region's history, Japan needs to consider the feelings and concerns of its neighbors and act more prudently regarding such matters, the spokeswoman said.

Comment: Yesterday, on 13 December the Japanese government clarified that Japan will not send troops to the Korean peninsula in the event of an emergency without an invitation. The delay in the Chinese official comment looks deliberately contrived to stir up distrust among the Allies.

Russia- Far East: For the record. Troops of the operational-strategic command Vostok [East] have been put on alert in connection with the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General Nikolay Makarov told journalists on Tuesday, 14 December, in Moscow.

"Of course we have taken measures to increase the troops' combat readiness," he said. The troops were put on alert due to the "inappropriate situation" that had arisen on the Korean Peninsula, he added. "We are continuing to monitor the situation," Makarov said.

North Korea-China:  Chinese diplomatic sources told the press on 14 December that North Korea seeks "unconditional" six-way talks to address the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and rejects U.S. and South Korean demands that it take steps towards denuclearization before talks resume.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said the Pyongyang government responded positively to China's proposal for new talks, adding that both countries believe the talks are important for the denuclearization of the peninsula and normalization of relations. She said China and North Korea urge all parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, take a responsible attitude to avoid escalating tensions, and play a constructive role in restoring peace and stability to the region.

Comment: The message from the Chinese Foreign Ministry is that State Councilor Dai's recent diplomacy succeeded, thereby contradicting earlier negative press reports.

The curious word is "unconditional" because the North always has conditions for negotiations. They include American recognition of North Korea as a nuclear armed state.

The Chinese press statement about North Korean willingness to engage in talks might be face-saving for State Councilor Dai, but is not credible. North Korea simply did not respond to the Chinese proposal for emergency six party talks last month. The parties are not ready for talks.

Venezuela: Lawmakers Tuesday granted preliminary approval to President Chavez's request to govern by decree for up to a year, Venezuelan media reported. A final vote on the measure, which Chavez says will allow him to act more quickly to help Venezuelans hurt by flooding that killed 40 people and left tens of thousands homeless, is expected Thursday.

Opponents say the move is aimed at shoring up Chavez's power ahead of a new parliament that convenes on 5 January with a decidedly smaller majority for Chavez' United Socialist Party of Venezuela. Ruling by decree would provide Chavez with a way to circumvent a less friendly national assembly for a full year, they say.

"Now, I need special powers that the Constitution gives me to make, in the coming days, special laws to face the emergency of these days," Chavez said, according to the state-run AVN news agency

Comment: This would be the fourth time that parliament has approved granting the president the power to legislate by decree. The great weakness of democracy is that the electorate or their elected representatives have the power to vote out democracy. Chavez' messianic vision has no room for opposition or dissent. This is a study in democracy.

End of NightWatch for 14 December.

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