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North Korea: North Korea announced plans Friday, 16 March, to launch a satellite into space using a long-range rocket.

The liftoff is scheduled to occur between 12 and 16 April from the west coast launch complex at Tongchang-ri, in North Pyongan Province, 25 miles from China in northwestern North Korea, to test satellite technology, a spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said in a statement carried by state media. Footage aired Friday on state-run TV showed Kim Jong Un observing the 2009 rocket launch.

Comment: This would be the first launch from the new west coast complex, which has been under construction for about ten years. All prior launches have been from Musudan-ri, also known as Taepodong, on the northeast coast.

The Tongchang-ri facility has a southern orientation towards the Philippines, which complicates tracking and interception. The facility is three times larger than Musudan-ri and much of the missile preparation takes place underground, denying some early warning indicators based on early launch preparations that are detectable at Musudan-ri.

The launch date corresponds to the celebration of the 100th birthday of Kim Il-sung on 15 April. The timing makes it clear the North Koreans intend this as a tribute to the president for eternity and father of the country.

The North Koreans agreed to a moratorium on long-range missile launches in return for food aid and are proscribed by UN sanctions from missile launches. However, there is no way that the North will not launch a missile for Kim's birthday, if it has the technical capability. It will beg an exception for science and argue that this missile is part of a peaceful space program.

All of that is nonsense because everything in North Korea, from toothpaste to nails to toilet paper to missiles, is dual use for civilian and military purposes. Even civilian soup spoons and shoelaces have military mobilization identification numbers. There is no guns vs. butter issue in North Korea. Everything is guns and butter.

That means the US objection to the rocket launch, actually a missile launch, is justified, but it showcases the many ineluctable bases for misunderstanding. The North will never understand or accept US objections to an act of homage to Kim Il-sung. The US will never understand why the North persists in jeopardizing food for its people for a birthday celebration event.

Finally, the TV footage of Kim Jong-un at the 2009 missile test associates him with the "cutting edge" of North Korean technology, which seems to be a theme he supports. That footage probably was doctored by North Korean propagandists.

Iraq-Kurdistan-ExxonMobil: ExxonMobil has frozen its deal with Kurdistan, Iraqi oil minister Abdel Karim al-Luaibi said on 16 March, citing a letter sent from the oil company to the Iraqi government on the 5th.

Comment: When US companies begin to hedge their investments, that is the indicator that the risks have become too great to continue the project. The Kurds will soon be on their own. The development bubble is near to bursting.

Iraq-Iran-Syria: The Iraqi government has refused US requests to stop Iranian cargo flights to Syria, despite credible intelligence that the aircraft are transporting up to 30 tons of weapons for the Syrian government. One of the recent requests was made directly to Prime Minister al-Maliki, but he said the flights carried humanitarian aid.

Comment: The irony is that earlier this week al Maliki ordered Iraqi security forces to halt arms smuggling and infiltration from Iraq. The targets of this order were not Iranian aircraft, but Iraqi Sunni Arab smugglers and fighters who have been assisting the Syrian opposition.

End of NightWatch.

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