Night Watch

North Korea: The General Staff of the Korean People's Army said its troops have targeted the Seoul headquarters of the Chosun Ilbo, the Joongang Ilbo, the Dong-A Ilbo newspapers as well as KBS, MBC and SBS television stations and CBS radio.

"We would like to ask the Lee group if it wants to leave all this to be struck by the (North) or opt for apologizing and putting the situation under control, though belatedly," the General Staff said in an English-language ultimatum, referring to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

"If the Lee group recklessly challenges our army's eruption of resentment, it will retaliate against it with a merciless sacred war of its own style as it has already declared," the General Staff said in the ultimatum carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.

Comment: The General Staff's prominence in announcing national policy is without precedent and is a sign of the weakness of the new Kim regime. The Vice Marshals and the Generals are in control and bridle at the slightest insult.

Kim Il-sung took more than 20 years of purges to put the Army under party control. Kim Chong-il took less than half a year to undo his father's greatest legacy. Now the Army is back in control, issuing mindless threats.

Readers should understand that North Korea can strike first and hard from stockpiles, but it cannot sustain a war and cannot win one because the total amount of energy in North Korea is insufficient.

North Korea-International Atomic Energy Agency: The head of the UN nuclear agency said his organization does not plan to send a mission to North Korea any time soon, despite an invitation from Pyongyang.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano cites the North's mid- April failed launch of a satellite as negating any 'immediate prospect of an agency mission taking place.

Comment: Amano has an instinct for failure. This is the time to take advantage of an opening. His botched decision helps explain why Koreans and Japanese do not understand each other and will never understand each other.

China: Update: China's first aircraft carrier, the "Varyag" has completed its seventh sea trial. This most recent sea trial began on May 23 and lasted for more than 200 hours, and comes only 8 days after the previous trial.

Burma: Statement by the Minister of Defense of Myanmar (Burma) entitled

Deterrence and Regional Stability: A Myanmar Perspective, delivered at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore on 2 June.

"In our perspective, the acquisition of WMD is not a deterring factor anymore in this region. If the belligerents are in this region, the use of WMD will affect both sides, as well as their neighbors. And if one of the belligerents is a major power, the threat of WMD will not have any deterrent effect. Instead, diplomatic efforts at persuasion and exerting communal pressure will be more practical and effective. Reservation of political and economic measure to retaliate will be more effective. Thus, regional groupings, such as ASEAN, should have the political will to do so. On the other hand, close cooperation among regional nations must be conducted as an all-around preventive measure, because the reservation of means to retaliate is not as constructive a move as preventive measures."

"As I mentioned before, nuclear deterrence is not an option for this region. But we do have a Mutually of Assured Destruction (MAD) factor - one that is in the economic sphere. If our region as a bloc has the political will to retaliate using economic means, MAD in the economic sphere will not only affect the nations of the region - but also strongly affect the targeted agitator nation as well. In this regard, the prospect of strong domestic political pressure in their country will become a factor that will cause great concern among the politicians when they are weighing the opting of whether to undertake a risky and adventurous action."

The Defense Minister concluded,

"Regional Stability is a prerequisite for the 21st Century vision of peace and prosperity among the nations in our region

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation is the norm, surprising the basic set of Law to be adhered to for the purpose of promoting regional stability

Nuclear deterrence is not an option for this region

Only an appropriate military strength should be maintained

The key deterrent factor against any agitator who wishes to destabilize this region is the political will to reserve political and economic retaliation against that agitator

Close cooperation among regional nations plays a most supportive role."

Comment: The most important comment is Burma's apparent decision to halt its nuclear deterrent program. North Korea has been assisting Burma is developing a nuclear weapons capability for the past several years. That is the context of the Defense Minister's statement, which suggests that Burma will terminate its nuclear program.

Commercial satellite imagery should be able to confirm a halt in construction at the nuclear site. Burma is North Korea's newest nuclear client. A termination of the Burma program would constitute a major reduction in North Korea's foreign exchange earnings.

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan-NATO: NATO has concluded agreements with Central Asian nations allowing it to evacuate vehicles and other military equipment from Afghanistan and completely bypass Pakistan, which once provided the main supply route for coalition forces.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday that Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan had agreed to allow the reverse transport of alliance equipment.

Comment: Few seem to remember the US withdrawal from Vietnam. It was one of the most costly and complex operations of the war. Old timers will readily admit that withdrawal is always difficult, costly, complex and dangerous for US forces because they always have more stuff than they use.

When French forces withdrew from Guinea in 1958, it was cheaper and more humiliating to just drive most of the military vehicles into the Atlantic Ocean than to repatriate them. And that is what the French did.

The economic significance of today's announcement is that it signals that the central Asian states and transport companies will profit from the US withdrawal, not the Pakistanis and their Taliban contacts.

That message might be intended to influence interminable US-Pakistani talks about opening routes to Afghanistan from Karachi. Nevertheless it reflects an American official awareness that Pakistan cannot be trusted, but business must go on. It is necessary for the NATO withdrawal to find more reliable partners, even at higher cost.

Pakistani pride is cutting the throats of its transportation industry.

Libya: Update. As expected, Libya's assembly elections will be delayed at least until the first week of July, an unnamed Libyan official said on 4 June. The elections, the first since the fall of former leader Gadhafi, were originally scheduled for 19 June.

Comment: Several commentators judged that a delay signified infighting and inability to rig an election in favor of one or other faction.

End of NightWatch

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