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South Korea: South Korea's military will deploy cruise missiles capable of striking North Korea and accelerate the development of ballistic missiles, officials said on 12 February.

Comment: The significance of this development, when implemented, is that it would represent the public manifestation of an arms race that has been evolving for decades. Unable to support an air force, the North Koreans developed ballistic missiles to give them the ability to strike their enemies beyond the peninsula, in other words, to hold the populations of South Korea, Japan and lately Guam or possibly part of the western US at risk.

Constrained by the US and by international arms control agreements from building its own ballistic missiles, South Korea has continued to modernize its air force and has developed cruise missiles against which North Korea has no defense. It has not fielded the cruise missiles, but probably can do so quickly. The combination of North Korean long range rocket tests and nuclear detonations has removed most reasons for South Korean restraint.

If North Korean assertions about the success and potential sophistication of the device are accurate, South Korea might deem itself more vulnerable than ever, despite US assurances, and justified in quietly starting or continuing its own nuclear or other weapons research.

US and Allied deterrence measures have prevented war for six decades, but lately have had no measurable influence in deterring North Korean provocations, preventing the development of nuclear weapons and missile delivery systems or in stopping sales of North Korean missiles and conventional weapons to Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Libya. The US also has shown itself recently to be slow or unable to respond to provocations in a timely fashion. As a result, the new North Korean leader seems less intimidated by the US than were his forbears.

China cannot or will not restrain North Korea. 

There is a strategic imbalance in northeast Asia now. North Korea is a nuclear weapons state and South Korea is not. Having an Allied counter-attack capability is far less comforting than having a first strike doctrine and capability at hand. That was the key point made by the South Korean Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in testimony last week

North Korea: For the record. There follows excerpts from key North Korean statements on 12 February.

Test Announcement. "The Korean Central News Agency released the following report on Tuesday: The scientific field for national defence of the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) succeeded in the third underground nuclear test at the site for underground nuclear test in the northern part of the DPRK on Tuesday."

"The test was carried out as part of practical measures of counteraction to defend the country's security and sovereignty in the face of the ferocious hostile act of the U.S. which wantonly violated the DPRK's legitimate right to launch satellite for peaceful purposes."

"The test was conducted in a safe and perfect way on a high level with the use of a smaller and light A-bomb unlike the previous ones, yet with great explosive power."

"It was confirmed that the test did not give any adverse effect to the surrounding ecological environment."

North Korean Commentary. "Our third nuclear test is a resolute self-defensive measure to counter the United States' hostile act against the DPRK."

"The successful launch of the second version of the artificial earth satellite Kwangmyo'ngso'ng-3 in December last year, to all its intents and purposes, was a project for peaceful purposes, which was carried out according to the scientific and technological development plan for economic construction and for the improvement of the people's living standards."

"The main purpose of the nuclear test this time is to show our army and people's surging indignation at the United States' brigandish hostile act and to demonstrate the determination and capabilities of military-first Korea to defend the sovereignty of the country to the end…"

"Our nuclear test is an absolutely just self-defensive measure that violates no international law…"

"It is since long ago that the United States has put our country in the list of the targets for preemptive nuclear strikes…

"The nuclear test conducted this time is the first round of countermeasures that we have carried out by exercising maximum self-restraint…."

"If the United States makes the situation complicated by remaining hostile through to the end, we will have no choice but to take serial measures with more intense second and third response."

Comment: The North Koreans sell anything that earns hard currency. There is no evidence yet in the public domain, but it is highly likely that there were Iranian observers of the nuclear detonation, as there reportedly were for the so-called space launch in December.

China-North Korea: China's official reaction. China "firmly" opposes the latest nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.

"On 12 February 2013, the DPRK conducted another nuclear test in disregard of the common opposition of the international community," said the statement. "The Chinese government is firmly opposed to this act."

The DPRK's official KCNA news agency has confirmed the nuclear test took place.

The Foreign Ministry said in the statement that it is the firm stand of the Chinese side to bring about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, prevent nuclear proliferation and safeguard peace and stability in Northeast Asia.

Comment: The Chinese are likely to vote for more sanctions in the UN, but they are unlikely to announce in public the punishments they will inflict on North Korea for disregarding Chinese advice, if any. An easy first start is to cut off the flow of crude through the Chinese pipeline which supplies up to a million tons a year, nearly the entire North Korean supply. The range of Chinese economic pressure points on North Korea is quite extensive.

China's private reaction to the North Korean test will be a measure of its maturity as a rising world power as well as the regional hegemon. If China cannot control North Korea, it does not deserve to be considered a world power.

Syria: Update.

Qatar: Qatari authorities have given the Syrian Embassy building to the opposition Syrian National Coalition, according to a statement by the Coalition on 13 February.

Russia: Russia will continue supplying weapons to the Syrian government, according to a statement on the 13th by the head of Russia's state arms trader. Anatoly Isaikin, the director of Rosoboronexport, said that Russia sees no need to stop arms trade with Syria as it isn't prohibited by the United Nations.

End of NightWatch ###

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