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NightWatch 20130422

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NightWatch

For the night of 22 April 2013

North Korea: Update. On 22 April there were no new statements;  there was no new missile activity and no new activity was reported at the nuclear test site in northeastern North Korea.

State rice distribution in major cities has been increased in April as a step towards normalizing rice distribution by September. State food distribution has been irregular for many years.

China:  Senior Chinese and US military officials met in Beijing on 22 April to discuss bilateral military relations and issues of common concern, Xinhua reported. According to US press, Chinese Chief of the General Staff General Fang Fenghui told US Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey that the North Koreans, "… held their third nuclear test and it is very likely they are going to hold their fourth test."

He apparently provided no additional details, but restated China's policy that all sides should work on the North Koreans to stop their nuclear programs and return to talks.

Comment: General Fang's comments are the first time that China has provided even vague information about its judgment of future North Korean behavior. General Fang said nothing that has not already been reported, but the significance is that he gave credibility to the press coverage.

Pakistan: According to Pakistani press, Pakistan's caretaker government on Monday refused to put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, telling the Supreme Court that it was beyond its mandate.

Comment: The caretaker government's position is precisely accurate and has nothing to do with the charges against Musharraf. The tasks of the caretaker government are primarily to prepare and oversee the general elections while ensuring the government continues to operate. It has no authority to make new initiatives, such as the Musharraf prosecution.

Thus Musharraf gets a temporary pass on a capital charge because of timing.

The Supreme Court usually has no independent authority to order a trial on treason, but Chief Justice Chaudhry might be able to find a way. He is the highest ranking justice that Musharraf imprisoned in 2007. It is likely that Chaudhry strongly wants justice for Musharraf.

The influence of the Army is likely to restrain the Chief Justice. During the past five years, he and Chief of Army Staff General Kayani have worked together on several occasions to prevent internal tension for leading to a breakdown of law and order in protest of the misdeeds of President Zardari and the Pakistan People's Party-led coalition.

Jordan-Israel: Jordan has opened up two corridors of its airspace for use by Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles seeking to monitor the conflict in Syria, a Western military source said, The Jerusalem Post reported 22 April.

Comment: This development, if confirmed, is another example of how the Syrian fighting is influencing the security decisions of Syria's neighbors, drawing them into an expanding crisis.

Mali-France: Update. On 22 April the French parliament voted unanimously to prolong military operations in Mali. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault vowed that French forces would remain until the operation can be declared a "military success"

Meanwhile, a French colonel warned that Mali's army still suffers from a lack of training and crucial funds, months after the EU began a military training mission for the Malian forces.

Comment: This vote has more to do with French domestic politics than with a clear set of achievable objectives that might constitute military success. This vote probably signifies that France will not cut and run before it can make a formal handover of responsibility to a UN-backed peacekeeping force, which still has yet to be approved. Other than that, the concept of military success in Mali is an oxymoron. The French mission is creeping.

End of NightWatch for 22 April.

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