For the Night of 26
North Korea: Two noteworthy events followed the
nuclear test today, 26 May. North
Korea fired two more short-range missiles
from a launch location on the east coast, South Korean news media reported. The second and more significant event was a
large rally in Pyongyang
in support of the nuclear detonation reported by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The missiles. The North has launched five missiles in
connection with the nuclear test, some anti-aircraft and others anti-ship from
launch sites on both coasts. A “South
Korean source” told Yonhap news agency 26 May that there were indications of more
potential activity -- possibly a test of the KN-01 anti-ship cruise missile --
off the west coast, where Pyongyang
has issued a ban on ships from 25 to 27 May.
Comment: During the past 40 years North Korean leaders
have been blustery but fundamentally risk averse. They have done nothing that
would risk the total destruction of their state -- which means Pyongyang for all practical and symbolic
purposes – until now. Even the 1976 Tree
Cutting Incident in the Joint Security Area at Panmunjom
is trivial compared to the events of the past two days, which are provocative
acts of propaganda by deed, a term
used by General Rupert Smith that has descriptive merit.
The actions in the past two days represent risk accepting
behavior, defiance bordering on recklessness. This behavior began shortly after
Kim Chong-il’s stroke in August 2008. If Kim is ordering these actions, he has
had a personality change, which can occur if dementia follows a stroke,
according to medical authorities.
NightWatch perceives three
characteristics of North Korean behavior since the missile launch in April. It
is uniformly and deliberately provocative. Between August and April, North Korean
behavior towards the outside world was inconsistent, alternately accommodating
and threatening, especially to South
The advocates of a defiant threatening demeanor are dominant.
The second characteristic is the behavior is escalating. One implication of the missile firings on 26
May is that they imply more events will follow. A North Korean diplomat in Russia
told a news outlet that additional nuclear tests and an ICBM test are also
likely to follow as part of the process of building the nuclear deterrent. The
outlook is for more and more frequent behavior.
The third characteristic is the behavior supports weapons science. Nuclear scientists as a profession have never
received public acclaim in North
Korea comparable to that which they have
received in the past two days.
One side effect of the nuclear test is to divert attention
from the obvious failure to launch a satellite. A point missed in analysis of
the Taepo Dong launch is that the North has tried to convert a ballistic
missile into a satellite launch vehicle and failed to place an object in orbit.
Nevertheless, the ballistic missile components performed well. Even a satellite
failure serves the interests of the missile weapons scientists.
To put this in perspective, Japan has a space launch vehicle
but no ballistic missiles. India’s
space launch vehicle is a separate system from its ballistic missile suite.
Space launches do not directly benefit weapons systems, as they do in North Korea.
The worst case outcome of a small yield detonation would be
that the North is on the path to miniaturize a nuclear warhead that will fit on
the missile launched in April. More ICBM-class launches might signify that the
worst case outcome had merged with the most likely outcome.
The Pyongyang rally. KCNA reported a meeting of “Pyongyangites”
(sic) was held at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium Tuesday to celebrate the second
successful nuclear test. “Attending it
were senior party, army and state officials, leading officials of party, armed
forces and power organs and working people's organizations, ministries and
national institutions, officials of organs and enterprises in the city, persons
of merits and citizens of different circles. “
”Choe Thae Bok, alternate member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the
Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, in a speech said that the
nuclear test was a grand undertaking to protect the supreme interests of the
DPRK (North Korea) and defend the dignity and sovereignty of the country and
nation in face of the U.S. imperialists' unabated threat to mount a preemptive
nuclear attack and sanctions and pressure upon it.”
speed with which the rally was organized and the rapid broadcast of the news of
the detonation to the internal North Korean populace are out of character. Under the risk averse rubrics, the leadership
waited a while before crowing about it successes. One commentator noted the leadership waited
nearly two weeks in 2006 before holding a celebratory rally like that today in Pyongyang.
Some Japanese and South Korean commentators have opined that
the nuclear test is related to the succession in some fashion and to ensuring
military support for the regime. One point not made is that Kim Chong-il has
for the first time surpassed his father in something. Kim has labored in the
shadow of Kim Il-sung … been Confucian filial in respecting his legacy.
Kim Il-sung consistently disavowed that North Korea
would become a nuclear armed state. Kim Chong-il now has put his own stamp on North Korea for
the first time, moving out from under the long shadow of his father to make his
own mark. The test is the first legacy of the Kim Chong-il regime to its
successor. If this hypothesis is accurate, expect more provocative actions,
including nuclear experiments and missile tests.
China: The nuclear test has created a crisis
in relations with North
Korea that will not be easily repaired. The
post-Olympics period is supposed to be the time of China’s
ascendancy as the leader of Northeast Asia. North Korea
has just signaled that it does not intend to follow China’s lead.
has a large number of primarily economic levers it can apply to coerce more
compliant North Korean behavior, including stopping the delivery of crude via
pipeline. Chinese leaders seem to lack the imagination or fortitude to deal
harshly with the North, up to this point, and to manage its petulance. Now they must choose between advancing China’s rise and preserving North Korea’s
historic relationship while holding their noses.
Kremlin authorities postponed the 28-29 May meeting with North Korean officials
for discussing economic, trade and technological cooperation, Itar-Tass
reported on 26 May. No date for a rescheduled
meeting was given. The question Prime
Minister Putin and his acolytes persist in sidestepping is whether it is in Russia’s interest to have a nuclear armed North Korea on its borders in the Far East. A
nuclear armed North Korea is
a wild card in a future confrontation between Russia
Russian statements show the old KGB line of converting
adversity into advantage. Russia
wants the influence of a great power and thus is unlikely to support harsh
sanctions against North Korea
and will try to cash in on its self-appointed role of international buffer for
the North Korean regime.
South Korea: South Korea announced its decision
to join the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), Yonhap
reported. The vote to become the PSI’s 95th member took place the day after North Korea’s rocket launch on April 5, but the
government delayed the announcement as it attempted to restart talks with Pyongyang.
Yesterday’s test showed there is no longer a reason to delay
the announcement. Thus the Foreign Ministry issued a statement noting Seoul’s endorsement of
the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles -- designed to stem trafficking in
weapons of mass destruction and missiles -- while also noting that a 2005
inter-Korean maritime agreement will remain in force.
has now officially joined the initiative to prevent North Korea from exporting the
technology it just demonstrated. The South is not likely to lead any effort to
arrest and inspect North Korean shipping but the act of joining PSI is mildly
defiant of the North.
Update. The federal government lifted curfews and other restrictions
in the major Sikh towns of the Punjab today.
The riots have been contained and suppressed.
Pakistan: Politics. A five-member bench of the
Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday unanimously declared Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz
(PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif eligible to
contest elections, clearing the way for Nawaz to return to parliament and
Shahbaz to return to his duties as Chief Minister.
According to the Daily Times article, the bench, comprising Justice Tassadaq
Hussain Jillani, Justice Nasirul Mulk, Justice Muhammad Moosa K Leghari,
Justice Sheikh Hakim Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani also set aside previous judgments
of the Lahore High Court (LHC) and the SC itself that declared the Sharif
brothers ineligible to contest elections. The court also disposed of Nawaz,
Shahbaz and the federal government’s review petitions, and dismissed all
appeals seeking the disqualification of the Sharif brothers.
“Consequently, the judgments of the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court
announced on June 23, 2008 and February 25, 2009, respectively are set aside
and the orders of the returning officers accepting nomination papers of Nawaz
Sharif on May 15, 2008 and Shahbaz Sharif on May 16, 2008 and the order of the
chief election commissioner on June 1, 2008 are restored,” said the short order
announced by Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jillani.
Comment: This is bad news for President Zardari who had
to back down in trying to halt the Lawyers’ Long March which was backed by
Nawaz. Nawaz is out for Zardari’s job,
or less likely, Prime Minister Gilani’s job. Gilani helped persuade Zardari
that he had to relent during the lawyers’ march and has had an ostensibly
cooperative relationship with Nawaz Sharif.
A constitutional amendment is necessary for Nawaz to serve a
third term as prime minister, but he could become President of Pakistan without
legislative legerdemain. NightWatch predicts Nawaz intends to become President. Today’s
judgment starts that process.
Security. The Daily
Times reported six suspected Taliban were killed on Tuesday in South
Waziristan after helicopter gunships were sent in to repulse an attack on a
paramilitary force fort, officials said.
The Army sent in helicopters after Taliban fired rockets at a
paramilitary force fort in Siblatoi town, 60 kilometres east of Wana in South Waziristan, military sources told Daily
Times. The clash follows build-up
of army and Taliban forces in Mehsud areas of South
Waziristan, giving rise to speculations that fresh action against
local Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud is on the cards.
An editorial in a news outlet urged the Army to bring the Swat Valley
operations to an early conclusion, after a month of attacks. Those operations
should wind down by the end of this week. The significance of the Daily
Times report above is it means operations are soon to be switched to
the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, specifically the two Waziristan
Chief of Army Staff General Kayani intends to bring the Mahsud
tribe of South Waziristan into compliance with
the federal constitution. Today’s gunship attack is an opening round.
France-UAE: French President Nicolas
Sarkozy formally opened a French military base in the United Arab Emirates, France's first permanent base in
the Gulf. The flags of France and the UAE were raised at a ceremony at the
so-called "Peace Camp" in the Abu
Dhabi emirate. Sarkozy said, “Through this base - the
first in the Middle East - France
is ready to shoulder its responsibilities to ensure stability in this strategic
Some 500 French troops will support and train capacity,
rather than taking part in actual military operations.
The real significance of the base is that it makes France
a protector of the Emirates against the Iranians. "Be assured that France is on
your side in the event your security is at risk," Mr Sarkozy said in an
interview with the UAE's official news agency. It might also help support French anti-piracy
Along with Russia,
France is inserting itself
in Middle Eastern Affairs, at the expense of the US. The base represents a strategic
French commitment to the region. The UAE has a French buffer in any future
talks with the US,
for example. The base might also prove useful in sustaining a French naval
contingent in the Gulf of Aden.
The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of
African Union peacekeepers in Somalia,
reported today. The eight-month extension also comes with an estimated $200 to
$300 million in funding to support the African Union mission.
The situation on the ground in Mogadishu is that Islamic militants are about
to recover by force the area that the African Union peacekeepers are supposedly
maintaining peace. The presidential palace in Mogadishu was mortared today.
patrol: Update. Sweden's
Navy said one of its ships detained seven suspected pirates after stopping them
from capturing a cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden.
Swedish sailors fired warning shots with a cannon, a
machine gun and a sniper rifle early Tuesday to thwart the attack on the M/V Antonis. The pirates fired a grenade launcher, but Swedish
navy spokesman Anders Grenstad said no one was
injured in the attack.
He says the crew of the Swedish corvette HMS Malmo boarded one of the fishing vessels used by the
pirates, but a second pirate boat escaped. Seven people were detained by the
Swedes, who also seized weapons and a GPS navigation system.
Two Swedish navy ships are patrolling the pirate-infested
waters off Somalia
as part of an EU flotilla. A Swedish support ship is based in Djibouti. They
began operations on 15 May, according to Stockholm News. The Swedish rules of
engagement include sending captured pirates to Kenya for trial.
Mexico-US: The Brownsville
Herald reported on 25 May that the frequency and size of marijuana
seizures keep climbing in the Rio
compared to last year, the U.S. Border Patrol announced this week.
During the week of 11 to 17 May, for example, the agency's Rio Grande Valley sector confiscated more than nine
tons of marijuana compared to 3.8 tons during the same time period in 2008.
Officials attributed the 71 percent increase in narcotics seizures to increased
manpower and a better infrastructure to prevent drug smuggling. "Our
ability to detect and apprehend is higher," according to a Border Patrol
The Border Patrol seized more marijuana in the first six months
(sic) of 2009 than in all of 2008, said another local Border Patrol spokesman.
Smugglers appear to be taking larger risks by smuggling larger quantities
because of increased Mexican patrols. (Apparently the meaning is that smugglers
plan more carefully and push larger loads because the chances of apprehension
have increased. Last year, dozens of bus riders and pickup truck drivers
carried 100 to 200 lb loads in backpacks and gymn bags daily.)
The largest seizure of the week occurred in Rio Grande City when agents found 3,883 pounds of
marijuana inside an abandoned truck. The driver of the truck led agents on a
chase away from the Rio Grande
before ditching the vehicle and fleeing on foot.
Agents found more marijuana scattered throughout a nearby dilapidated
shed. Also last week, agents seized 1,454 pounds of marijuana from two separate
vehicles after each was seen leaving the Rio
Grande area. In total, agents seized 18,159 pounds of
marijuana with an estimated street value of about $14.5 million. The drugs were
turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Rio
Grande Valley sector
has nine stations stretching from Brownsville to
The key point is that the drug flow into the US has increased during the Mexican Army
operations in Ciudad Juarez,
where violence also is again increasing.
The increase reinforces the suspicion the violence that prompted the
Army operations was a diversion for the drug cartels to harvest marijuana and
ship the harvest into the US.
End of NightWatch
for 26 May.