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NightWatch 20150301

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For the night of 1 March 2015

North Korea: On Monday, 2 March, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published a statement by a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army (KPA). It warned that The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will take the "toughest measures" to retaliate against the Allied military exercises that began on the 2d.

The statement warned that the DPRK "will never remain a passive onlooker" to the drills. The retaliation measures will involve "all the ground, sea, underwater, air and cyber striking means." It said the situation is inching to the brink of war.

Comment: Readers should understand North Korean propaganda denunciations as attempts to build morale for a jaded North Korean work force. The threat of a war started by North Korea is vanishingly small.

In the past 20 years, the North's exaggeration of the threat of war has become so shopworn and overused that North Korean workers no longer believe it. The workers understand that the exaggerated threat of war is a metaphor which means they must work harder for the comfort of the Kim family.

North Korea- South Korea: A release by the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) reported that North Korea launched two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan on Monday, 2 March. "North Korea fired two short-range missiles with a range of some 490 kilometers into the East Sea from its western port city of Nampo between 6:32 a.m. and 6:41 a.m. today," the JCS statement read.

The JCS statement commented that the launches "appear to be the North's provocations in opposition to the joint annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises," which began on 2 March. The JCS said it "remains vigilant against any additional launches while strengthening the readiness posture."

Comment: The Allied training will last until mid-April.

The North's leadership seemed to place great weight on its "magnanimous" offer to halt nuclear tests in return for a US/Allied agreement to suspend annual training. The Allies ignored the North's sophomoric proposal because it lacked substantive reciprocity by North Korea. The North has shown no signs of test preparations for years.

Yemen: Yemen and Iran signed a civil aviation agreement on Saturday, Yemeni state news agency SABA reported.

The deal, signed in Tehran by the aviation authorities of both countries, allows Yemen and Iran each to fly up to 14 flights a week in both directions, SABA said. The websites of the Iranian and Yemeni national airlines indicated there were currently no flights between the two nations.

Iran announced on Sunday that its first flight landed in Sana'a only a day after the two countries signed a landmark aviation deal.

Iran's ISNA news agency reported that a plane from Iranian airliner Mahan Air had taken a cargo of humanitarian aid - mostly medicine - for Yemen. The cargo was contributed by the Red Crescent of Iran. Passenger flights will be added soon.

Comment: The civil aviation agreement is benign on its face. Nevertheless, Iran appears to be moving rapidly to buttress the Houthis in taking control in Sana'a. In acting quickly, Iran might be providing critical help in timely fashion to the new regime, but it also risks confirming the worst fears of all groups prone to resist Iranian influence.

Russia-Lithuania: Russia said on Friday it had formally complained that Lithuania's supply of weapons to Ukraine violated its international arms trade commitments.

"The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pointed out that such supplies represent a direct violation of Lithuania's legal commitments in the area of export of armaments," the Russian embassy in Vilnius said. Russia said Lithuania was violating the international Arms Trade Treaty as well as European Union and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) agreements.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius denied the accusations. In a letter of reply to the Russian Ministry, he wrote, "We have supplied help to the Ukrainian army in small quantities and openly, and yet we are reprimanded by the country that continually supplies arms to the conflict in Ukraine, in non-symbolic quantities, and denies doing so."

Comment: The Russians are probing for a reason to exert more pressure on Lithuania. They appear to be searching for a justification for meddling, as they did in eastern Ukraine.

Lithuania: Lithuania has reinstated compulsory military service for males. After a meeting of military leaders and top government officials, President Dalia Grybauskaite said the measure was necessary because of "growing aggression" in Ukraine.

Military officials said Lithuania will reinstate national service for five years starting in September, when it will enlist some 3,000 men, ages 19 to 27. They will serve for nine months.

The Lithuanian Army has 15,000 soldiers - down from nearly the 39,000 it had before joining the NATO alliance in 2004. It has no military combat aircraft or tanks.

General Jonas Vytautas Zukas, the defense chief, said a shortage of soldiers endangers national security.

Comment: Lithuanian strategists, who include some dual US citizens, implemented a policy of calculated strategic weakness to ensure NATO would respond to Russian threats. NATO did respond with regular exercises and with combat aircraft deployments on a rotating schedule.

NATO has no requirement to defend Ukraine, but NATO's supine response to Russian aggression in Ukraine is one of two primary drivers in Lithuania's decision to institute conscription. The other driver is recent Russian "snap" all arms exercises that could be interpreted as rehearsals for a Russian attack against Lithuania. Those have persuaded the Vilnius government that Lithuanian soldiers must be capable of making a stand on their own for a while until NATO reinforcements arrive.

The institution of conscription conveys Lithuania's message that it is doing its part and expects NATO to do the same.

Special Administrative Announcement

A NightWatch Special Administrative Announcement last June informed Readers that changes were on the horizon for NightWatch. To better serve you, we conducted a survey of Readers' preferences. We received an overwhelming and positive response. Long-time Readers will note that NightWatch has incorporated the preferences and changes Readers said they wanted most. Included in these changes is the conversion of NightWatch to a paid subscription, which will begin 16 March 2015.

To our valued Readers, we are extending the enrollment date for current subscribers to 31 March 2015 during which time you will continue to receive NightWatch free of charge. In addition to a complimentary two week sign-up period, you will also receive a 40% discount on the monthly cost of $3.49 if you sign up for an annual subscription at a cost of $24.99.

As the period for subscription nears, we shall publish directions about how to sign up and make payment, starting 16 March.

We have received multiple requests about rates for students, classes, large and small companies and other groups. We greatly appreciate those inquiries. Our intention is to ensure all interested Readers have access to NightWatch, while paying the bills. We shall provide additional guidance on these issues.

NightWatch has been a free service for eight years. We hope through subscriptions we can continue to provide this service for years to come.

End of NightWatch for 1 March.

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