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NightWatch 20110704


For the Night of 4 July 2011

Japan: For the record. A Japanese exploration team found large deposits of rare earth minerals on the Pacific Ocean floor, according to British journal Nature Geoscience. The discovery is estimated between 80-100 billion metric tons, nearly a thousand times more than current proven reserves of 110 million tons as estimated by the U.S. Geological Survey. The discovery could alter the supply-demand dynamics of the global rare-earth market, according to team leader Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth sciences at Tokyo University.

Comment: China has manipulated sales of rare earth minerals to Japan for political advantages, including during localized crises. This discovery offers the promise of neutralizing a significant part of China's economic leverage in dealing with modern economies, such as Japan's.

North Korea-South Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported that in Pyongyang city a large army-people rally took place at Kim Il Sung Square on 4 July to denounce the crimes committed by South Korean President Lee Myung Bak's group of "unparalleled traitors."

According to the report, "The rally was attended by … more than 100 000 in all."

"A statement by a spokesman for the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army (KPA) was read out at the rally …. Army General Jang Jong Nam said on behalf of the service persons of the KPA: 'Now that South Korean confrontation maniacs without equals in the world dared to perpetrate such extreme provocation as not ruling out even a war against the DPRK, there remains between the north and the south only physical settlement of returning fire for fire.'

Comment: The North is still talking about an exchange of fire. The rally, which was well publicized inside North Korea, is part of the indoctrination program to prepare the populace for a crisis.

North Korea- European Union: The European Commission said the situation in some areas of North Korea has become so dire that an increasing number of North Koreans have resorted to eating grass. The Commission has agreed to send enough food for 650,000 of the neediest North Koreans.

South Korea Monday ruled out any major government food aid for North Korea in response to the European Union program. "We have no plan to provide the North with large-scale government food aid," said Lee Jong-Joo, spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry which handles cross-border ties.

Thailand: On Sunday, 3 July, the proxy party of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won a sweeping electoral victory over Prime Minister Abhisit's Democatic Party. Phuea Thai which is headed by Thaksin's youngest sister, Yingluck (pronounced Yinglak) won a plurality. On Monday, Yingluck and other political leaders announced they are forming a coalition of five political parties with Yingluck as prime minister.

Yingluck, who will be Thailand's first female prime minister, said she expected the coalition would have a total of 299 MPs -- 265 of Phuea Thai, 19 of Chartthaipattana, 7 of Chart Pattana Puea Pandin, 7 of Palang Chon, and 1 of Mahachon. The 299 MPs should be enough to ensure a solid majority, she said.

Yingluck said the recent election victory was not a victory for her Party, but a chance to serve the Thai people. She said the new government would be required to improve the economy, rebuild morale and good governance in the bureaucracy, get rid of corruption and assure the public that all political parties are subject to scrutiny.

Comment: Thailand's opposition Phuea Thai Party won 255 parliamentary seats, whereas Prime Minister Abhisit's Democratic Party won a total of 163 seats, according to the Royal Thai Police and the Election Commission, according to the Thai news service, The Nation.

Thailand is in an electoral loop. This is at least the third time that the populist message of Thaksin and his proxies have carried an election. The rural poor outside Bangkok outnumber the actual wielders of power, the Bangkok elite. Thus Thaksin's or any populist movement should win every election, if the votes are counted fairly.

On the other hand, winning an election is not the same as exercising power or remaining in office in Thailand. In recognition of the mistakes her brother Thaksin made, Yingluck announced one of her first priorities is to prepare the nation for the King's 84th birthday celebration. She also must restore international confidence in the economy, which her predecessor, Abhisit, failed to do.

Afghanistan: The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldier missing in from southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province is from the United Kingdom, British Defense Ministry officials stated 4 July, BBC reported. An air and ground search was launched and the soldier's next of kin was informed, according to the ministry. The Taliban claimed it killed a soldier in the Helmand area. However, no gun battle took place, according to an ISAF spokesman.

Yemen: President Saleh will not cede power until he returns from a Riyadh hospital to oversee the transition, an unnamed cabinet official said 3 July. Saleh supports the Gulf Cooperation Council plan, and he has asked the foreign minister to do everything he can to make sure the plan succeeds, the official said.

However, Saleh stipulated that he must oversee the transition. Any transition would entail a six- to eight-month waiting period for a new election, during which Saleh would remain president, according to the official.

Comment: The opposition will understand Saleh's latest concession as, in fact, a variation of his unwavering insistence that he serve as President until a replacement is elected.

Venezuela: Update. President Chavez returned to Caracas early in the morning on 4 July. The unexpected homecoming occurred one day before Venezuela's 200th independence anniversary. Chavez said his treatment for cancer was just beginning.

End of NightWatch for 4 July.

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