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South Korea: The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) held a random inspection on 11 June to check the defense readiness of selected military units, including the ballistic missile command, front-line artillery units and the Air Force.

"The inspection put an emphasis on solidifying counterstrike capabilities against the units that could launch an attack on our soil, as well their support and command units," a JCS official said on condition of anonymity.

"If provoked, we will punish the enemy's core units, such as the headquarters of their division, corps or higher military commands."

Maj. Gen. Lee Young-joo concurred with him, saying the South Korean military has been beefing up its military for an immediate counterstrike against the North's top commanding military units.

"Today's military readiness drill proved that our military is ready to punish the core forces of provocation without delay if provoked by the North," he said.

Comment: Moving beyond the military bravado, South Korean President Lee announced that it is the policy of his government to retaliate against provocations. 'It is now our government's clear policy to respond strongly and immediately in times of military provocation,' Lee said during a discussion with journalists at his office in the Blue House in Seoul.

This statement, backed up by drills, actually works to ensure stability on the peninsula. The North's provocations usually attempt to exploit lapses in South Korean readiness. The last thing the North wants is to provoke an exchange of fire when the US-South Korean forces are at high readiness. The North can do damage, but will lose every such encounter… by a large margin.

The next time, the South will shoot back. Civilian and military leaders in Seoul have had more than a year to mull over how to respond to future provocations. They have decided to retaliate swiftly and military drills back up the decision.

The North Koreans appear to have gotten the message, as indicated below.

North Korea: On Saturday, a foreign ministry spokesman said that North Korea has no plans to conduct a third nuclear test at present. He accused South Korea of trying to bait the North into a test through its criticism of the Pyongyang government.

Comment: Whatever else it may be, the new North Korean leadership is intimidated by China much more than Kim Chong-il ever was. Two months ago, Chinese leaders told the North's leaders there will be no more tests or actions that promote instability in northeast Asia and the North Koreans are complying.

The North would never admit that it was obeying directions from China, but it implicitly acknowledges the South Korean warning of immediate retaliation through the propaganda posture of claiming to have been wrongfully accused.


Burma (Myanmar): US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday urged an immediate end to religious violence in Myanmar and called for efforts at reconciliation as security forces tried to restore order. At least seven people have died since Friday in western Myanmar in a cycle of apparent revenge attacks between majority Buddhists and the Muslim minority.

President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency in Rakhine State near Bangladesh in a televised address Sunday, effectively establishing military control of the area after unrest claimed at least 17 lives in recent days, according to state media.

Comment: A Brilliant and extremely well-informed Reader provided background on the latest uprising in Burma.

In western Burma's Rakhine State (formerly Arakan State) a million Muslims, originally from Bangladesh and known as the Rohingya, live in poverty and discrimination by the Burmese who are Buddhists. The military junta and most Burmese neglect the Muslim minority. Three years ago, the NightWatch Reader predicted that any relaxation of political constraints by the junta would lead to an initial outburst of violence and then an insurgency.

The Burmese junta has a narrow interpretation of political tolerance. The Rohingya and other minority groups have a more expansive interpretation.

Although the Rohingya claim a religious and ethnic connection with the Bengalis of Bangladesh, the government in Dhaka discourages Rohingyas from taking refuge in southern Bangladesh. The Burmese government considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and stateless.

The uprising poses a threat mainly to local law and order, but it is a test of the Burmese civilian government's commitment to law and order. At this point, the government has failed that test because its reflexive instinct was to declare martial law. The Rohingya are too few and too isolated to sustain an ethnic uprising, but they have exposed the limits of tolerance in the new Burma.

End of NightWatch for 11 June.

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