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NightWatch 20101229


For the Night of 28 December 2010

North Korea: The Workers' Party daily newspaper published a commentary on the origins and legal status of the Northern Limit Line (NLL), which is the unofficial seaward extension of the Military Demarcation line. It ends with a warning to expect more clashes if the US insists on enforcing the NLL.

The commentary quotes US documents from 1975 in which "high-ranking US officials, including former US Secretary of State Kissinger,' admitted to the illegality of the "Northern Limit Line (NLL)," which was unilaterally drawn in the West Sea of Korea, and this has drawn people's attention.

"According to media, Kissinger, in a classified telegram message in February 1975, noted "'The NLL' was unilaterally drawn and has not been accepted by North Korea," and "'The NLL' is in violation of international law, since it has unilaterally divided international waters." In December 1973, then US Ambassador to South Korea, in a telegram message sent to his government, mentioned, "Many countries will regard South Korea and the United States as being wrong, if incidents occur around the 'NLL.'" A telegram message, which the US Department of State and the US Department of Defense jointly sent to the US Embassy in South Korea in December the same year, too, reportedly stressed, "It would be wrong, if South Korea assumes that the United States would agree on forcing North Korea to accept the 'NLL.'"

The commentary notes that in 1953 General Mark Clark drew the line that extended the MDL into the Yellow Sea and that it was not part of the Armistice. Thus North Korea has never accepted the NLL has having legal standing. The US action has prompted numerous clashes and the US is to blame for the sinking of the South Korean frigate, Cheonan, and the artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

Comment: The commentary makes a reasonable argument to support North Korea's rejection of the line as having any basis in international law and that the waters around the offshore islands should be considered international waters or waters used in international commerce.

However, the commentary writer contradicts his own evidence in trying to argue that his citations support the North's claim that they are within its territorial waters. Moreover, the rest of the comment proves the author does not understand the UN Law of the Seas Conventions, or, more likely, deliberately ignores them in supporting the North's claims.

The key point is the commentary reaffirms that the North does not recognize the NLL and that more clashes are likely.

For the record. Yonhap reported on 27 December that in early December a freight train carrying birthday gifts for North Korea's heir-apparent Kim Chong-un derailed and overturned, possibly because of sabotage.

Eight of the cars in the train carried televisions, watches and other items for the birthday celebration -- believed to be 8 January 2011, according to Open Radio for North Korea, which broadcasts across the border with the North.

The accident reportedly occurred when the train was traveling from the border town of Sinuiju to Pyongyang 11 December. According to the radio broadcast, North Korean public safety authorities, i.e., the state police, reportedly suspect the derailment may have been an act of sabotage by a group that opposes the succession.

Yonhap also reported that North Korean authorities have prohibited the public from calling Kim Chong-un the ''young general.'' The government in Pyongyang reportedly has notified its diplomatic missions abroad and its commercial trading delegations in China to stop using the phrase.

In its place the regime prefers that people refer to Kim Chong-un as ''honorable comrade general'' or ''brilliant comrade general.''

Comment: The North Korean leaders are adept at making themselves look foolish to outsiders. The perpetuation of Stalinist terms and usages in the North Korean dynastic despotism proves the identity of the two supposedly antithetical systems.

As for Kim Chong-un, he has done nothing of note that would make people honor him. He was educated in Switzerland which qualifies him as a member of the bourgeoisie, but not a comrade. No source has credited him as a brilliant student. He has never worn the uniform or undergone the training rigors of the Korean People's Army, just like his father.

The Kim family and its acolytes continue to explound the fantasy of their illustrious accomplishments. The people know the story is false because there is little food.  It is no wonder that the birthday train was sabotaged.

India: In response to an increase in piracy near the Lakshwadeep Islands, off southwestern India, the Indian Navy and Coast Guard have deployed four patrol ships in the Arabian Sea, supported by ocean surveillance aircraft for the next month.

The act of piracy that prompted the deployment decision was the capture by pirates of a Bangladeshi merchant ship, MV Jahan Moni, on 5 December off the coast of India's Lakshadweep Islands. The ship was en route Europe with 25 crew members and 41,000 tons of nickel ore.

Comment: The new Indian patrols are a reaction to the extension of the Somali pirates' area of operations to the central Arabian Sea into India's exclusive economic zone. Indian authorities stressed that the latest deployments complement the Navy's deployments to Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard are gaining significant operational experience and justifying their budgets.

Afghanistan: A Coalition officer told the US press today that "There is no practical way to secure the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and the U.S. military will fight insurgents outside Afghan villages where they are vulnerable." The officer remarked that securing the border would take an inordinate amount of resources and would require more cooperation from tribes inside Pakistan.

Comment: NightWatch Readers should understand that the fight in Afghanistan primarily is waged by Afghan Pashtun fighters who live in Afghanistan and hate foreigners, especially from Christian nations. The data show that Pakistan is important as the channel for logistic support to the Afghan fighters. Pakistan is not a recruitment base for anti-government fighters in Afghanistan and not a winter refuge.

The Afghan Pashtuns fight where they live. They get ammunition and supplies from Pakistan. They do not spend the winter in Pakistan, which well informed Readers and old hands recognize as complete nonsense.

The purpose of controlling the Pakistan border is to stop the flow of supplies from Pakistan, or Iran in the four western provinces. Even in open sources, it is clear that truck convoys carrying explosive fertilizer, ammunition and other supplies enter Afghanistan via its main border crossing points with impunity.

Press statements from the Coalition command in December have perpetuated a story line that security conditions in Afghanistan would improve if Pakistan would cooperate in sealing the border. In fact, the data show that control of the two major border crossing points so as to halt the flood of fertilizer and garage door openers would do a lot to undermine Taliban capabilities. The supplies come from Pakistan and some from Iran, not the manpower.

Another narrative is that Coalition forces are driving the anti-government forces out of the main cities into sparsely populated areas where they can be killed and are protecting the major population centers. Open source data for November and December show that Kandahar, Ghazni and Jalalabad cities have experienced the highest number of Taliban attacks ever. Herat City is under Iranian protection so it seldom has many attacks.

Kabul also experiences few attacks, but the conventional wisdom is that President Karzai buys protection for Kabul. Thus, the open source data do not show that any major population centers are being protected.

For the record. The New York Times reported on 28 December that militant groups in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan have increasingly cooperated in raids in an effort to regain the initiative. According to the authors, after a recent assault on a base in eastern Afghanistan, the enemy dead included fighters from Mullah Omar's Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani network and the Hekmatyar "clan," according to military officials.

Officials said the alliances suggest the factions are facing new military pressure. The groups now grant one another safe passage through controlled areas, share new recruits and coordinate propaganda responses to U.S. and allied actions, officials said. Higher cooperation has been reported in Pakistan, and U.S. and NATO officials have noted evidence of loose ties among other insurgent groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Tehrik-i-Taliban.

Special comment: Old hands will be mildly astonished and amused by the New York Times story because the US was the first to organize the disparate mujahedin groups to enable them to fight more effectively against the Soviets and their socialist proxies in Kabul.

Even then the Afghans were fractious and fratricidal. Nevertheless, they almost always cooperated in fighting outsiders, suspending clan or civil war to fight alien invaders. Mullah Omar's group is the primary conduit for outside financing from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The other two groups mentioned reportedly receive funds from Pakistani intelligence agencies.

It is not a significant insight that the anti-government forces cooperate against a common enemy. Also, this cooperation is not new. Hekmatyar and Haqqani always have been willing to cooperate with whoever pays.

Iraq-Syria: Five Iraqi Baathist factions announced the formation of the Resurrection and Renewal Party based in Damascus, Syria, Xinhua reported 28 December. The factions include the Resurrection Party, Revision and Unification, National Liberation Movement and Monadiloon Gathering. The purpose is for Baath to cooperate with national parties to form a wide popular base, according to Khalid al-Samurrae, secretary general of the Resurrection and Renewal Party.

Comment: It is not clear how much support this new party will have in Iraq, but its formation indicates that secular Iraqi Arabs judge they are not welcome in al Maliki's Shiite-dominated Iraq.

End of NightWatch for28 December.

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