Night Watch

North Korea-South Korea: The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcast a warning message.

"The special operation action group of the Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army issued the following notice Monday: The indignation of the army and people of the DPRK at the group of rat-like Lee Myung Bak is running high…."

"In view of the situation getting graver as the days go by, the KPA Supreme Command special operation action group issues the following notice upon authorization: The special actions of our revolutionary armed forces will start soon to meet the reckless challenge of the group of traitors."

"Those actions are an eruption of the public anger and resentment and a sacred war of all service personnel and people to protect the dignity of our supreme leadership."

"Their targets are the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors, the arch criminals, and the group of rat-like elements including conservative media destroying the mainstay of the fair public opinion."

"Once the above-said special actions kick off, they will reduce all the rat-like groups and the bases for provocations to ashes in three or four minutes, in much shorter time, by unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style."

"Our revolutionary armed forces do not make an empty talk."

Comment: This statement uses unusually direct language that conveys a direct threat to the political and media leaders of South Korea. There is no precedent for such a threat in decades. Allied Readers have no choice but to take it seriously, even though it is vastly disproportionate to the alleged offense.

The references to ashes in minutes bring to mind an attack by fuel-air explosive grenades, rather than other kinds of explosives that blast and shock but do not burn.

A North Korean decapitation attack against the South has not occurred since three North Korean assassins used bombs in a failed attack against South Korean President Chon Doo-hwan during a state visit to Rangoon, Burma, in October 1983.

An attack against the South Korean leaders would confirm that the collective leadership for whom Kim Jung-un fronts is an old school Korean communist and military cabal … hardline and resolute. It is also out of touch with Northeast Asia today. Even the use of language is deranged and out of place.

Readers may be certain that South Korea has the means to retaliate in kind.

China-North Korea: According to an official Chinese news release, Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday that advancing friendship and cooperation between China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) will continue to be the guideline of the ruling party and government of China.

Hu made the remark when he met a Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) delegation from the DPRK, headed by Kim Yong-il. Kim is an alternate member of the Political Bureau and secretary of the WPK Central Committee. He is also the head of the international department of the WPK.

Hu said China-DPRK friendship was created and fostered by older generations of leaders and has become a common wealth of both countries. China will as always work with DPRK comrades to maintain high-level contact and exchanges between the political parties, promote practical cooperation and good-neighborly friendship and strengthen communication and coordination on major regional and international issues, according to Hu.

Comment: This is part of the tongue-lashing because the North Koreans have failed in all of these activities since the death of Kim Chong-il. Hu's seems to be reminding the new leaders about the legacy and baggage of the past. Hu was instructing the new leadership about what China expects in return for its support.

Hu added the two sides will make unremitting efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, realize long-term security of Northeast Asia and promote common development.

Comment: This is directive language that instructs North Korea about Chinese expectations. Other comments by Hu reinforce the Chinese demand that the North must maintain stability and peace on the peninsula.

The language of Chinese congratulations, acceptance of Kim Jong-un as the new leaders, and of solidarity is overshadowed by the reference to older generations and the Chinese expectations of future North Korean behavior. Hu did not use the customary, historic cliché that Chinese and North Korean relations are as close as "lips and teeth."

Readers should expect to read other, more positive interpretations of Hu's remarks, as "affirming" relations despite the missile fiasco. If those commentaries fail to highlight Hu's message of realizing long term security and promoting common development plus the omission of the usual terminology about lips and teeth, then they have missed the main points of Hu's remarks and the significance of this visit.

The absence of the "lips and teeth" metaphor signifies that this visit was not a reaffirmation of relations. Rather, it signifies strain. If a North Korean provocation occurs, as noted above, it will have no Chinese backing and China will visit consequences on North Korea for not maintaining stability and peace.

China-Philippines: China is de-escalating the situation in Huangyan Island in the South China Sea by withdrawing two law enforcement vessels, according to a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines on 23 April.

Two Chinese ships, the Fishery Administration ship "Yuzheng 310 " and the Chinese Maritime Surveillance ship No. 084, already left the Huangyan Island area by Sunday. The spokesman said, "There is only one Maritime Surveillance ship remaining in the Huangyan Island area for its law enforcement mission."

"The withdrawal of the two ships proves once again China is not escalating the situation as some people said, but de-escalating the situation," the spokesman said. "China is ready to settle this incident through friendly diplomatic consultations."

However, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said that Huangyan Island is an integral part of Chinese territory and China has indisputable sovereignty over the island.

Comment: The Chinese have eased the tension for now, but in no way have moderated their claim to sovereignty. Some Philippine news outlets charge that the Chinese are not standing down, just rotating ships.

Negotiations mean the Chinese will attempt to persuade the Philippines that their claim is invalid.

The foreign ministry has no control over and limited knowledge about the activities by ships of the Fishery Administration or Maritime Surveillance. Such information firewalls enable China to play good guy-bad guy with all the states bordering the South China Sea. The actions of the Fishery Administration and Maritime Surveillance are more credible and more important than anything the foreign ministry officials say.

Sudan-Uganda: The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 23 April summoned the Ugandan Ambassador to convey Sudan's strong protest and asked for clarification about the statements attributed to the Commander of the Ugandan Army concerning Uganda's support for South Sudan in any possible conflict with Sudan.

The Foreign Ministry informed the Ugandan Ambassador that it waited for two days for an Ugandan official retraction before calling in the Ugandan ambassador.

Comment: Diplomatic action of this sort shows that Sudanese authorities appreciate that this conflict could expand into a regional conflict. The Sudanese action also is an indicator that escalation is now somewhat more likely than it was before the Ugandan ambassador was summoned.

Mali-US: For the record. US Africa Command announced that on 20 April three US soldiers and three civilians died in an automobile crash in Bamako. One was from the Army's intelligence and security command and two were from special forces - Special Operations Command. The civilians were not identified, but almost certainly were clandestine agents.

Comment: This announcement is the first US admission since the government overthrow that US military and government civilians are present and active in Mali. The US has sent military and apparently civilian intelligence personnel to assist and improve the counter-terrorism capabilities of several Sahelian African states, including Mali.

Some people in Mali will interpret this announcement as confirming early news service accusations that US military personnel encouraged the US-trained Mali Army captain to overthrow his government.

End of NightWatch

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