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NightWatch 20110630


For the Night of 29 June 2011

North Korea-South Korea: Update. South Korea sent six contractors and six government officials to the Mount Kumgang resort to prevent North Korea from seizing the assets of a South Korean company at the resort. A South Korean Unification Ministry official said they did not resolve the conflict during the three-hour talks.

On 30 June, two days day after a government statement called on South Korea to apologize for insulting the North, a spokesman for the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army escalated the rhetoric and promised there will be violent retaliation.

"The Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army, reflecting the soaring outrage and retaliatory spirit of the millions of soldiers and people, will from this moment on consider the indiscriminate behavior of the gang of traitors which is accumulating only gross crimes before the nation to be a new declaration of war against us and will take appropriate military retaliation measures….

. "The matchless confrontation maniacs have dared to make extreme provocations to us that even risk war, only a physical settlement of fire being exchanged to and fro, remains between North and South."

Comment: The military statement so soon after a government statement suggests the military considered the first statement to be too weak; that South Korea increased the number of defamatory displays in reaction to it; or that there is a lack of coordination among policy makers and the correct message has now been sent. Whatever the reason for the escalation, the wording as translated is an unconditional statement of intent. Expect a firing incident. This is a warning.

Iraq: For the record. Al Jazeera published an article on 29 June that asserted that Iraq is the first Arab country to be governed by Shiites.

Pakistan: Policy vignettes.

Indian Relations: Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts do not satisfy India, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said 29 June. Singh said groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are linked to the Islamic State of Iraq. He said he would visit Pakistan if there were a solid goal for the visit.

Afghanistan Relations: Pakistani Defense Minister Mukhtar said 29 June that he does not know where Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar is hiding. Senior US military commanders told the US Congress this week that Pakistanis were ignoring U.S. requests to find Omar, but that they knew he was in Pakistan.

US Relations: Pakistani Defense Minister Mukhtar also said that Pakistan did not face any threat from its eastern border and that Pakistan has asked U.S. forces to leave Shamsi air base. Mukhtar said that payments from the coalition support fund had stalled and that the time had come to re-evaluate the policy in the war.

Iran-Afghanistan Relations: Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said June 29 that the Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit would be held in Islamabad in December, IRNA reported.

Comment: Shamsi, located in Baluchistan, had been used to support drone operations for about five years according to media reports. Before that, starting in 2001, it was used as a support base for US military operations in Afghanistan. The US evacuated it in April 2011 after Pakistan ordered operations to cease, according to the Pakistan Military Review. Mukhtar's display of ordering the US out of Shamsi appears to be political theater.

Nevertheless, US-Pakistani relations are in the process of change and will not be close for a generation or longer because the US and its armed forces humiliated the Pakistan Army. Mukhtar confirmed that Pakistan's foreign policy is undergoing review in light of the 2 May attack that killed bin Laden. The shift is manifest in building closer ties to Iran as well as strengthening ties to China. The Afghanistan connection almost certainly signifies a revived Afghan policy that ensures Pakistan will be involved in the post-US reconstruction of Afghanistan.

After the US military departs Afghanistan, it will remain either as a strategic threat or asset for Pakistan. Three years is not too soon to begin rebuilding the long term Pakistan investment in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: Update. The attack on a hotel in Kabul on June 28 was carried out by the Haqqani network, a Kabul official said on 29 June. Afghanistan Interior Ministry spokesman Falak Merzahi said the attackers entered the country from Pakistan. The death toll stands at 21, including nine suicide bombers. At least 18 people were injured.

Saudi Arabia: Update. This week Saudi police have arrested five women for driving.

Cuba-Venezuela: For the record. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were filmed walking together with Chavez appearing healthy after speculation that he was seriously unwell following an operation, Reuters reported. The president is recovering well and the images should assuage fears regarding his health, Venezuelan Communications Minister Andres Izarra said. Chavez will continue his recovery in the established time, however, he has not stopped working or exercising his constitutional authority and has called a ministerial meeting, Vice President Elias Jaua said.

End of NightWatch for 29 June.

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