For the night of 22 May 2014
North Korea-South Korea: On 22 May, a North Korean coastal battery fired two artillery shells about 150 meters from a South Korean patrol ship operating about 10 kilometers south of the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the Yellow Sea. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman said no casualties or property damage were reported.
The South Korean corvette fired back several shells into North Korean waters, aiming at a patrol ship about two kilometers north of the NLL. Some 20 South Korean and 20 Chinese fishing boats were in the area at the time.
Comment: The North has not used coastal artillery to fire on a patrol ship before, according to South Korean authorities. It has threatened frequently, but not fired. The South Korean action in firing back indicates the South is implementing its policy of not standing for any more bullying by North Korea. The North did not return counter-fire.
Talks. Part of the backdrop to this incident is a meeting in Mongolia between US and North Korean delegations to explore prospects for resuming Six Party talks.
Comment: These are talks about talks. There is no evidence to link the two events, but the North's strategists customarily like to ensure that all parties understand that its willingness to talk does not signify weakness. They do this by staging a provocation, such as sending patrol craft into South Korean waters.
The North wants talks with no conditions and openly describes them as aid talks. The US wants the North to take action on the denuclearization commitments it has already made, before the US will consider new steps and additional aid.
China: Two car bombs killed 31 people and injured 94 when they detonated in a market in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. The attackers also threw explosives. Chinese officials called it a 'violent terrorist incident.' Most analysts judge the Uighur separatists are responsible for the attack.
Comment: The Chinese government has been taking a hardline approach to Uighur attacks, but it does not seem to be working well. That almost always implies that the militants have some form of official tolerance, if not support, at some level.
Thailand: After two days of fruitless talks with the opposing political factions, General Prayuth announced that the Army was taking control of the government. He had the political leaders arrested and taken into detention; called for the former prime minister, the interim prime minister, the cabinet and up to 100 politicians to surrender; imposed a nationwide curfew between 2200 and 0500; suspended the constitution; shut down media outlets; confined protestors to their camps; sent military patrols into the streets to take control of Bangkok and restive cities in the northeast; and named himself as the prime minister.
Prayuth directed all government workers to report and function as normal.
Comment: The speed of implementation indicates significant advanced planning. The decision to take over the government obviously was made in principle long before this week, but Prayuth was willing to give talks two days to determine whether it could be avoided. The politicians' unwillingness to compromise in meetings mediated by the General triggered his action. That explains the two-phase process.
Prayuth said he wants to implement political and economic reform. There is no reason to believe he will do better than his military predecessors, most of whom proclaimed similar calls to reform. Thailand might get some relief from demonstrations, but the protestors may be relied on the test the strength of the army in short order.
Syria: Government forces have broken a year-long opposition siege of a prison in Syria's northern city of Aleppo, according to open sources.
Comment: The opposition fighters tried for a year to set free some 4,000 fighters held in the prison by government soldiers. Any loss of territory in Aleppo is significant for the opposition factions. Aleppo is the last major city they control. Lifting of the siege also means that 4,000 fighters will not rejoin the fight, which is another major setback.
Ukraine: At dawn on 22 May, gunmen attacked a Kyiv regime military checkpoint south of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv authorities blamed pro-Russia separatists for killing at least 13 soldiers, but a Ukrainian officer denied that the separatists executed this attack. He did not say who did.
An unidentified "commander", who claimed responsibility for the attack, said one of his men also was killed. This was one of four attacks overnight.
The Kyiv regime's interim Prime Minister, Arseny Yatsenuk, called for an emergency session of the UN Security Council because he claims to have evidence of Russian involvement in the ambush. He also said that war has been declared on Ukraine. "We accept this challenge, and any attempt to disrupt the presidential elections and to seize Ukrainian territory has been and will be unsuccessful."
Comment: Kyiv authorities are blaming this atrocity on Russian commandos.
Nigeria: Nigerian police said that suspected Boko Haram terrorists killed 29 farmers in a northeast village on 22 May.
Comment: Nigerian security assets seem to be non-existent. This attack is further evidence that terrorism is morphing into insurgency.
Mali: The Touareg separatists who defeated government forces on Wednesday announced on 22 May that they had taken more northern towns without a fight. "We now control Anefis, Aguelhok, Tessalit, Menaka, Ansongo, Anderamboukane and Lere," Attaye Ag Mohamed, an official with the Touareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), told the press.
UN officials running refugee camps in the north said that more than 350 government soldiers sought asylum in their camps.
The UN also said that the Touaregs released unharmed the 30 hostages they took when they routed government forces from Kidal.
Comment: If the Touareg rebel claims are accurate, they control towns or have fighting groups in positions across the narrow part of northern Mali, from Niger to Mauritania. A government force that attempts to go north by any major land route will be vulnerable to ambush.
The government forces ran when firing began. Several commentators wrote that the security situation in northern Mali has returned to the conditions of 2012 when Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb forces emerged to first cooperate with and then rout the Touareg separatists. That could happen again in a different, more intractable form.
Inept and arrogant southern Malian government officials have undone all the gains from French, UN and African intervention.
End of NightWatch for 22 May.
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