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NightWatch 20110614


For the Night of 14 June 2011

North Korea-US: On 13 June, a US Defense Department spokesman confirmed that a US Navy destroyer stopped a suspected North Korean arms carrier off the coast of China in the South China Sea on 26 May. The MV Light, a Belize- flagged cargo ship of 4,650 dwt was believed to have a crew of North Koreans and suspected of carrying banned weapons bound for Burma, in violation of UN resolutions prohibiting all forms of weapons proliferation from North Korea. One news source reported the ship might have been carrying ballistic missiles or missile-related equipment.

According to maritime news sources, the US warned Singapore and Malaysia of the ship's approach and obtained an agreement from several Southeast Asian nations to refuse to allow the ship to call at their ports. The USS Campbell maintained surveillance of the ship until 29 May, when MV Light returned to North Korea.

The ship is Chinese-owned, by Ever Ocean Shipping Agency Co. and operated by Dalian Sea Glory Shipping Co. of Liaoning, China. North Korean state media have not reported or commented on this incident.

Comment: The cargo has not been confirmed. MV Light seems to be small for a North Korean arms carrier, but size might have been a deliberate feature of a deception and evasion strategy, which failed. Nevertheless, the North Koreans may be expected to persist in attempting to sell and ship weapons because they need the hard currency. Weapons and illegal drugs are their top sellers

South China Sea

China: A Foreign Ministry spokesman said China will not use force or the threat of force to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea and instead will pursue more dialogue with the relevant countries. The spokesman said he hoped other countries will do more for stability and peace in the region.

Comment:  Chinese law enforcement ships have already used coercion against Vietnamese and Philippine commercial ships. Nevertheless, the Foreign Ministry continues to make anouncements renouncing the use of force. The policy towards the South China Sea is uncoordinated. The actions of the law enforcement ships is more consistent with China's position on alienation of national territory.

Philippines: President Benigno Aquino III also said on 14 June that his country does not want any conflict in the South China Sea and that the Philippines' treaty partner, the United States, could help ensure that all countries in the region have freedom of navigation and conform to international law.

Aquino's office also said it would rename the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea, following the recent use of the term by the Philippine Foreign Affairs and Defense Departments. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said all nations name the South China Sea based on how they perceive it, adding Vietnam calls it the East Sea. Hmm...

Palestinian Authority: Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on a prime minister to lead the new unity government, according to a statement by Fatah member Azzam al-Ahmad. Fatah and Hamas agreed during talks in Cairo not to nominate the current prime minister in the West Bank, Salam Fayyad, to lead the government. Palestinian Investment Fund head Mohammed Mustafa and an independent politician, Mustafa Barghouti, are the two potential candidates, according to the sources.

Comment: Despite serious policy differences, the two factions continue to work together in a united front to prepare for a unilateral declaration of statehood that both hope will be approved at the UN General Assembly session this fall.

End of NightWatch for 14 June.

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