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NightWatch 20150119

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NightWatch

For the night of 19 January 2015

Japan-China: Three China Coast Guard ships sailed into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea on Monday, the Japan Coast Guard said. A Japan Coast Guard patrol ship issued a warning that urged the Chinese ships to leave. The intrusion was the second this year. China Coast Guard ships last entered the waters on 9 January.

Comment: There was no reported exchange of fire and no close calls by the ships. The two might have been testing recently approved crisis avoidance and communications procedures.

On 12 January Japan's Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said that Japan and China agreed to an early activation of a maritime and air crisis management mechanism for the Senkaku Islands/Diaoyus. The mechanism includes a hotline between authorities, apparently the Coast Guards; use of a common radio frequency for ships and aircraft in proximity to the islands and annual working meetings on crisis management.

Comment: The mechanism should help prevent incidents from escalating. On the other hand it is a clear statement by both nations that they have no intention of dropping their claims or backing down from asserting them.

Vietnam-China: Chinese police shot dead two ethnic Uighurs who were trying to cross the border into Vietnam, state media said on the 19th. A "conflict" occurred when the Uighurs "violently resisted arrest" near a highway tollbooth on Sunday night in Pingxiang city in the southern region of Guangxi Province, the China News Service said.

The Ministry of Public Security said that since May a task force on human smuggling across the country's southwestern borders had uncovered 262 cases. The authorities said they worry that Uighurs go abroad to contact Islamist militants. The smuggling is "mainly organized abroad and controlled behind the scenes by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in efforts to spread religious extremism, and bewitch and incite people to flee abroad to take part in jihadist activities," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

Comment: This event is significant because it confirms the Uighur connection through Vietnam. Uighurs reside primarily in far northwestern China. Nevertheless, during the past year, Uighur militants attacked public transportation stations in several major cities in southern China. The smuggling is not for human bondage, but for aiding Uighur militants in reaching Islamist training centers and returning to China to conduct terrorist attacks.

Ukraine: Fighting at the Donetsk airport continued. Both sides claim to hold it. Fighting also has increased near Luhansk and in other areas along the front line.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister accused the Russians of sending in reinforcements, including two battalions of soldiers, 25 tanks, artillery and anti-aircraft systems.

Ukraine said it lost 3 soldiers killed and 66 wounded in recent fighting. The rebels admitted 12 killed and 62 wounded.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin warned that Ukraine was making a strategic mistake in seeking a military solution to the crisis. He said that it might lead to irreversible consequences for Ukrainian statehood. "Yesterday's developments and those overnight show that in Kyiv words are at odds with actions."

"By all accounts, the 'party of war', the current policy-maker in Ukraine, is once again demonstrating that contrary to their hypocritically peace-loving statements, in reality they are (seeking victory) by shelling, attacks, an economic blockade and further destruction of towns and villages."

Ukrainian President Poroshenko said he is ready for a contact group meeting, but the Russians said Ukraine must be ready to end the fighting before Russia will join more talks.

Comment: The latest increase in fighting appears to be a Ukrainian test to determine whether there has been any weakening of Russia's commitment to stand by its eastern Ukrainian proxies in rebellion. The reports of reinforcements of men and equipment suggest Ukraine got its answer.

Russia will not help the eastern regions to secede from Ukraine …at least not yet… nor will it allow them to be defeated.

Ukraine will not allow the rebel regions to be independent nor self-governing under rebel leadership. There are no grounds for a peace agreement.

Cameroon: Update. Local officials said that at least 24 of 80 hostages taken by Boko Haram either escaped or were set free to obstruct the Cameroonian troops in pursuit. The troops succeeded in exchanging gunfire with the terrorists before they escaped into Nigeria. No casualties were reported.

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End of NightWatch for 19 January.

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