For the Night of 29 October 2009


Japan-US:  Prime Minister Hatoyama restated that his government will review comprehensively the Japan-U.S. alliance and will continue developing bilateral ties, The Associated Press reported 29 October.


Hatoyama said the comprehensive review of the alliance coincides with next year's marking of the 50th anniversary of the revision of the bilateral security treaty. He said the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy, adding that Japan will deepen the ties in a multilayered way.


The Democratic Party coalition government leaders are fast learners in the hardball of alliance politics.  US governments from both parties have yet to demonstrate they understand the significance of partnership and mature relationships. The world has changed, but the attitudes of some Americans seem stuck in an earlier, less complex era.


China-North Korea:  Chinese President Hu has invited North Korean leader Kim Chong-il for a visit to China, Reuters reported 29 October. Hu told a visiting official of the Workers' Party of Korea, Choe Thae Bok, to convey the invitation, adding that Kim should visit "at a time convenient to him."


The timing of this invitation, soon after Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to Pyongyang, suggests Wen’s visit did not achieve the results President Hu and the Chinese Politburo wanted. Readers could conclude that Wen’s visit to Pyongyang was a failure.  


North Korea-US:  The State Department said the United States and North Korea failed to make progress toward resumption of six-party nuclear negotiations during talks held on the sidelines of an academic seminar in San Diego, Yonhap reported 29 October. 


An official stated that Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for the Six-Party Talks, and North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Gun discussed many issues, but the US delegate was not prepared to say there was progress toward resuming the Six-Party Talks. Kim will likely attend another seminar in New York to continue informal talks with Ri.


The North repeatedly has declared the Six Party Talks venue to be dead.  It is unclear why the US would insist on reviving a talks venue that was not productive and which the North cannot rejoin without losing face.


This insistence conveys to the North’s leaders that the US does not respect them and is not serious about talks.  If the US is serious about making progress in nuclear non-proliferation, it needs to use more creativity and imagination.


India-Jammu and Kashmir State:  The Army plans to withdraw about 15,000 troops from Jammu and Kashmir State, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Biplab Nath, Reuters reported 29 October.  Nath said one army division has been moving out of the Poonch and Rajouri districts because the security situation has improved there.


Poonch and Rajouri sectors are on the Line of Control and are notorious infiltration routes from Pakistani held Kashmir.  The withdrawal of a division from the Line of Control has no precedent in the last 20 years of fighting in Indian Kashmir. Depending on where the unit relocates, this would be the first major army formation to withdraw and the strongest indication that police forces now have the Kashmir security situation under control.


Rajouri District, at one time one of the most violent and unstable in Kashmir, has a website and office of tourism.


Pakistan-US:  For the record.  The US secretary of state questioned Pakistan's commitment to the fight against al-Qaida, saying she found it hard to believe that no-one in the Pakistan government knows where senior figures are hiding.


"I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to," she told a group of newspaper editors during a meeting in the city of Lahore on Thursday.


Bravo for Secretary Clinton.  Either the Pakistani security services contain senior officers who know where bin Laden is and are lying or they are incompetent and ought to be dismissed. There are no other explanations for Pakistan having become the headquarters for al Qaida and the base area for international Islamic terrorism.


Afghanistan:  The Taliban in Afghanistan plan to intensify their attacks to disrupt the upcoming runoff presidential election, Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said 29 October, according to Agence France-Presse.


If the Taliban do as Ahmadi said, a Tajik is likely to be the next president of Afghanistan. No Pashtun wants that.  A more likely strategy is for the Pashtuns to vote for their favorite son, Hamid Karzai.  If the voter turnout is as this note expects – Karzai wins easily -- it will tend to be the strongest proof yet that the fight is a civil war featuring a Pashtun uprising.


Iran-International Atomic Energy Agency: Iran is expected to propose two changes to the International Atomic Energy Agency's deal on Iranian uranium enrichment, Javan newspaper reported today, citing an unnamed source.


 First, Iran wants to "gradually" send its low-enriched uranium stock to be processed in several batches rather than 75 percent of it all at once.


Second, Iran wants to receive highly enriched uranium fuel simultaneous to when it hands over its low-enriched uranium.


So…. why would the US back a plan for Iran to receive highly enriched uranium from Russia even in small batches? Plus, what is the enrichment percentage of the uranium involved in this transfer?


In short, for now, Iran has again rejected the IAEA proposal by countering with its own. The Iranians would be stunned in the event the IAEA accepted the latest Iranian proposal because it appears deliberately crafted to be unacceptable. The IAEA should call Tehran’s bluff.


Ecuador-Russia:  Update. Russian President Medvedev and Ecuadorian President Correa signed a $22 million military deal and other energy and trade agreements in Moscow on 29 October, The Associated Press reported. Under the deal, Russia will provide two Mi-17 helicopters to Ecuador. Medvedev said the deal was just a beginning as Moscow has renewed ties with countries in Latin America.


This looks like a good deal except it is with the Russians.


Honduras:  Update.  Negotiations between representatives for interim President Micheletti and ousted President Zelaya began again on 29 October, according to Reuters. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon participated in the talks. Shannon will hold meetings with representatives from the two sides as well as Micheletti and Zelaya themselves.


It is bewildering that the US will not sit back and await the results of the November presidential elections which remain on schedule. If Zelaya is as popular as he contends, the vote will provide the proof. If he is as dirty as Micheletti, the Supreme Court, the Congress and the Army contend, the vote will show he could not win without using the patronage powers of the presidency to rig the election.


What could be wrong with letting the democratic process proceed without further US meddling? If Zelaya were in power, the US probably would be meddling to ensure a credible outcome in a rigged election, as it is doing in Afghanistan. 


End of NightWatch for 29 October.