Night Watch

Republic of Korea-China: The Chinese embassy in Seoul conveyed its "strong dissatisfaction" to South Korea after a Chinese fisherman was shot dead by a South Korean coast guard officer during a patrol on 16 October to combat illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea. The South Korean Coast Guard fired a rubber bullet at a Chinese fishing boat that resisted arrest. The fisherman was taken to a South Korean hospital but died of the wound.

South Korea notified the Chinese Embassy of the action. China did not dispute that the fishermen were illegally within South Korean waters and fisheries.

Comment: South Korean news outlets reported that since 2007 only 11 shooting incidents have occurred off the west coast, though encounters at sea occur frequently in the various fishing seasons. This is the first time a Chinese fisherman died as the result of an incident. Most often, South Korean Coast Guard officers are killed or wounded by resisting Chinese fishermen.

This is a local incident, but the South Koreans have island ownership disputes with Japan. They will at least fire rubber bullets to defend them. Such local incidents can escalate into crises with little warning, but the Chinese appear to have admited the fishermen were operating illegally, minimizing the likelihood of escalation.

Japan: For the record: On Sunday, Japan marked the 60th anniversary of the Maritime Self-Defense Force with a major naval exercise. Some 45 ships and 8,000 sailors - including state-of-the-art destroyers, hovercraft able to launch assaults on rough coastlines and new conventionally powered submarines - took part in Fleet Review 2012. About 30 naval aircraft, mostly helicopters, and warships from the US, Singapore and Australia also participated. Observers from 20 countries, including China, watched the maneuvers.

Surprising even military officials, Prime Minister Noda's address to the sailors and soldiers included an expression - "more strenuous efforts and hard work "(isso funrei doryoku) -- used by Admiral Togo of the Japanese Imperial Navy in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The prime minister also took the unusual step of including in his speech the Five Mottos that have been recited by Japanese naval cadets since before World War II. The five mottos concern sincerity, discipline and hard work.

"The security environment surrounding our nation has become more difficult than ever before," Mr. Noda told the troops on the destroyer JS Kurama. "We have a neighbor that launches missiles disguised as satellites and engages in nuclear development. We are facing various disputes related to territory and sovereignty." The prime minister was wearing a tailcoat, the designated garb for top civilian government officials at formal military ceremonies.

Comment: The prime minister's office denied that the remarks included references to past days of glory for the Japanese navy.

The Japanese naval force is one of the best in the world. Defense of the homeland is its primary mission. Thus, when seven Chinese naval forces passed through Okinawa prefecture's waters today, a Maritime Self-Defense Force aircraft tracked them, not a coast guard unit. The Chinese ships were said to be returning from exercises west of Japan.

Three points are worth noting. Japanese Fleet Reviews occur every three years, according to the Defense Ministry, but the size of the exercise with allied participation makes a statement that Japan has the capabilities to defend its island claims and will not back down in a confrontation with Chinese naval ships. In such a confrontation, Japan would win handily, provided the location was beyond the reach of Chinese land-based air support.

The second point is the Chinese are training east of Japan in the Pacific Ocean. This is not new but it is a reminder that Chinese naval goals reach beyond the nearest island chain, extending far into the western Pacific to Guam.

The third point is a reminder that Japan had a world-class navy when China was being occupied by foreign legations. It maintained that navy from 1905 until Pearl Harbor without a regional challenger. It has the capability to restore that navy. No one will thank China or North Korea if Japan decides to rebuild its navy in order to protect itself. China and its proxy North Korea are sowing the wind…

Pakistan: Update. Evidently stung by the overwhelmingly negative Pakistani public reaction to the attack on the Pakistani teenage girl and education activist, Malala, the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), and their allies issued a defense of the shooting.

Three terrorist groups, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistani (TTP), Abu Zar of Harikat-e-Islami Uzbekistan (HIU) and al-Sahab, al-Qaida's media and propaganda arm, jointly subscribed to the press statement justifying the attack on Malala on Tuesday, 16 October. Al Qaida's Al-Sahab is the sponsor of the three-page statement which was read over the air in Urdu in the tribal agencies of western Pakistan.

The Swat District Taliban led by Maulana Fazlullah, who apparently is now based in Afghanistan's Kunar Province, claimed to have organized the attack. "The girl was part of an agenda perpetrated by the British Broadcasting Corporation to run an organized campaign against jihad, Islamic Sharia and purda or veil," according to a so-called Taliban commander who read the statement. "Now when she was shot, everyone - from Pakistan to the United States - is crying about it."

The statement questioned why NGOs, mostly US-funded, media and others decried Malala's shooting but ignored abuses and killings by the US and Pakistan governments. It said Malala deserved to die because she had spoken out against the 'mujahidin' and praised US President Barack Obama.

The Taliban justified the attack by describing Malala as a "spy of the West." The Taliban denied that they targeted her for advocating education for girls and said that they would again try to kill her if she survived. "For this espionage, infidels gave her awards and rewards. And Islam orders killing of those who are spying for enemies…. We did not attack her for raising her voice for education. We targeted her for opposing the mujahedeen and their war. Shariah (Islamic law) says that even a child can be killed if it is propagating against Islam.

The statement also contained the Taliban's calculation of Malala's age, purporting to prove she is 15 year old and an adult woman, as defined by Shariah. Thus, she is accountable for her statements as an adult.

Comment: The outpouring of support in Pakistan for Malala has been overwhelmingly sympathetic, but no Pakistanis have challenged the Taliban's right to kill a girl in defense of Islam. Many also have opposed an army offensive into the tribal agencies.

The Pakistani Taliban have wrapped themselves in Sharia, as its defenders, and have no remorse or regrets. The connection to outside agencies is not as farfetched as it might appear because the school Malala attended has a connection to the US through her father. The school is now almost closed because the students and teachers fear for their lives from Taliban threats.

It is rare for al-Qaida or its affiliates to sense the need to justify an attack. The Taliban statement, on the other hand, confirms its relationships with al Qaida and Uzbek Islamic terrorists.

Syria: Update. The Damascus government said yesterday it is "prepared to explore a truce" proposed by UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it "looked forward to talks with...Brahimi on his proposal for a ceasefire," but spokesman Jihad Maqdisi "stressed that the rebels...would also need to be involved.

Comment: The Muslim celebration of Eid al Adha begins on 26 October and will last for several days. It corresponds to the al-Asad government's proposal for a four -day ceasefire, bracketing the feast.

This is the feast of the sacrifice. It celebrates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son at god's direction. It marks the end of the hajj season. Muslims are called to personal cleanliness and are expected to wear their best clothes to prayer services. It is also celebrated by visiting family and friends.

If implemented, this would be the first ceasefire in the 19 months of fighting. As yet the opposition has not accepted the offer.

Iran-Syria: For the record. Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad on 17 October said his government backs a ceasefire in Syria for the Eid holiday and free elections to end the fighting. He said, "Anyone who is the friend of the Syrian people should try to form the basis for free elections in the country. The ceasefire and negotiations on free elections in my view is the correct road to resolution."

France-Syria: French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on 17 October that Syrian rebels have acquired surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) which have forced the government's air force to bomb rebel-held areas from high altitudes.

Comment: Fabius' statement provokes a lot of questions, including just what kind of missiles these are-lots of SAMs are highly inaccurate; how many does the opposition have; who supplied the SAMs; who provided the training; and what action at what time proves Fabius' boast. Eyewitness reports of ground attacks over the weekend with no air defense fire raise additional questions about the validity of the French claim. Why would the French inform the Syrians that the opposition has SAMs?

More importantly, if Syrian combat aircraft are attacking from higher altitudes, the SAM supplier has succeeded mainly in ensuring more civilian causalities without changing the battlefield situation.

Lebanon-Syria: Hezbollah has been accused of intervening directly in Syria's civil war by launching rocket attacks over the border from Lebanon in support of Syrian government forces. The Hezbollah fire reportedly is from bases in the Bekaa Valley.

Comment: Rocket attacks from the Bekaa Valley into Syria would explain the Lebanese Army's announcement yesterday that it will deploy units in the Bekaa Valley permanently by drawing down forces deployed on other borders in order to keep Lebanon out of the Syria fighting.

The NightWatch hypothesis is that rocket fire by Lebanese Hezbollah is Iran's answer to Turkey's artillery shelling across Syria's northern border.

France: Too odd to omit. Recession is as great a threat to Europe as debt, French President Francois Hollande said on 17 October.

Comment: Sovereign debt is driving the recession. France is in deep trouble if this represents the depth of Hollande's understanding of Europe's economic problems.

End of NightWatch for 17 October.

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Night Watch

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