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NightWatch 20110810


For the Night of 10 August 2011

North Korea- South Korea: South Korean media reported the South Korean military said it fired two artillery rounds into the water near Yeonpyeong Island, northwest of Seoul, after hearing three explosions coming from North Korea near the disputed sea border, an unnamed South Korean Defense Ministry official said,

North Korea fired artillery shills that landed near the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong in an apparent training exercise, according to a South Korean Defense Ministry official and South Korean media. The ministry official said the shells landed near Yeonpyeong Island but that it was unclear whether they had landed inside South Korean territorial waters. Other reports indicated South Korean ships and artillery counter fired.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency reported 10 August that the country had not fired artillery into the disputed western sea border and that what sounded like shelling was actually explosions for construction work.

Comment: The South's forces seem a bit slow to react and poorly supported by timely and accurate tactical intelligence. The North's statement indicates it is not looking for a fight now. If accurate, it is embarrassing to Allied tactical intelligence organizations because they evidently cannot distinguish and communicate to combat forces the differences between industrial and military explosions in near real time.

China: For the record. China's first aircraft carrier set sail on sea trials for the first time Wednesday from the northeastern port of Dalian.

Comment: This report is significant only for the fact of its occurrence. There is always a first time and today is it for this refurbished but still dated weapons system. It is a matter of national pride, following the American path to national greatness in the Navy.

The start of sea trials means the first captain and crew are learning how to handle the largest ship in the Chinese fleet. It is important as an indicator of Chinese ultimate intentions. However, the Chinese are many years from being able to use this ship as an effective weapons platform, especially if they minimize the challenges of naval aviation. The US Navy needed more than half a century to develop, refine and master the techniques of flying from a moving, pitching and yawing airfield on the ocean.

But that misses the point. The Chinese do not intend to use this ship in combat. They know that in peacetime or during limited, local crises, this ship and its escorts will be an imposing and impressive display of Chinese naval dominance everywhere and every time it shows up, just as US Navy aircraft carrier task groups are. The Indians are the only Asian power that can match this updated form of gunboat diplomacy.

China-US: The US State Department sent China a message. "We would welcome any kind of explanation that China would like to give for needing this kind of equipment," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters when asked whether the carrier would raise regional tensions.

Comment: For ten years at least, high-level Chinese naval strategists and scholars have written essays debating the merits and demerits of possessing an aircraft carrier fleet.

The Chinese have made no secret about their intentions to use the ship to back-up Chinese territorial sea claims and show the flag. US Navy Admirals are fully aware of Chinese intentions because the Chinese Admirals told them. Who in Foggy Bottom does not know this? The statement looks like smarmy, shallow grandstanding.

Yemen: President Saleh agreed to consider restarting a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative to solve the crisis in the country and to ensure a peaceful transfer of power, a Yemeni government official said 10 August. The official said Saleh met with members of the Yemeni ruling party in Riyadh where he is receiving medical treatment.

Comment: The significance is that Saleh is making sure everyone knows he is still the president and in charge.

End of NightWatch for 10 August.

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