Night Watch

North Korea: According to multiple North Korean media, the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, a North Korean organization, issued the following statement on Tuesday, warning foreigners to leave South Korea.

 

"The situation on the Korean Peninsula is inching close to a thermonuclear war due to the evermore undisguised hostile actions of the United States and the South Korean puppet warmongers and their moves for a war against the DPRK (North Korea).

 

"The prevailing situation is seriously affecting peace and security not only on the peninsula but in the rest of the Asia-Pacific…."

 

"Once a war is ignited on the peninsula, it will be an all-out war, i.e., a merciless sacred retaliatory war to be waged by the DPRK."

 

"It does not want to see foreigners in South Korea fall victim to the war."

 

"The committee informs all foreign institutions and enterprises and foreigners including tourists in Seoul and all other parts of South Korea that they are requested to take measures for shelter and evacuation in advance for their safety."

 

Comment: Some of the North Korean statements appear aimed at causing a panic reaction. This is one of them. If so, the North has misjudged the South Korean population as well as the US. Besides it is impossible to evacuate foreigners because there are so many.

 

This statement is a crudely crafted attempt to generate panic and cause social discord. As such, it is astonishingly misguided, or naïve.

 

Old Korea hands will recall that one North Korean strategy for unifying the two Koreas was to use terrorist attacks and artillery fire against South Korea in order to collapse the civil order and break the military chain of command and the national will. In this scenario, the actual invasion by the Korean People's Army was to be more an operation to mop up pockets of resistance and to restore stability to a South Korea in chaos.

 

Kim Il-sung actually tried to execute that strategy after the assassination of President Park Chung-hee in October 1979 through the Gwangju Massacre of May 1980. However, the North Korean army failed to deploy before South Korea stabilized the political situation and the Allies steadied the defense.

 

Much of what the North has done in the past month seems colored by Kim Il-sung's old war plan, a variation of which was posted to the Internet last month. If the North's leaders have expected South Korea, the US or any other US Asian ally to be intimidated by its threat of "thermonuclear war", they are out of touch with how the world has changed since 1980.

 

The Allies are taking prudent precautions, but no one is taking the North Korean nuclear threats seriously, especially in the absence of a demonstrated capability. No embassies are evacuating Pyongyang because the signals are confusing, inconsistent and mixed.

 

An important exception is the missile threat. Every nation, especially the Japanese, are taking this seriously and that is not good for North Korea. The North Koreans once test launched a NoDong missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese vowed to never let that happen again without a challenge.

 

A media lapse. The North Korean media made no mention of the US announcement earlier this week that it was delaying an ICBM missile test so as not to worsen tension. That is the first time in a month that the North has not registered a US military announcement. The failure to acknowledge the announcement means the North Korean leaders have no interest in easing tension; no desire to de-escalate. They are closed to crisis avoidance messages.

 

Conditions, then, are conducive to dangerous misperceptions that feed poor decisions, especially if the North Korean strategists expected their hyperbolic threats would have some effect in unhinging the Allies. That expectation leads inexorably to further escalation because they are not seeing the cowering effects they think they should be seeing.

 

In London, British media published images of moving vans loading boxes at the North Korean embassy. The North Koreans denied they were evacuating their embassy.

 

Comment: Evacuation of the embassy and removal of files are war indicators. Some news outlets predict a North Korean missile launch on 10 April. That is possible, but the North Korean embassy will not have completed its departure. North Koreans also would be vulnerable. All news services with people in Pyongyang and other towns report normal, seasonal activity on the 9th.

 

North Korea has embassies in other European countries, but no other evacuations have been reported.

 

Pakistan: The panel of Supreme Court judges adjourned Musharraf's hearing on charges of treason until 15 April.

 

"The cases are very simple in nature and the matter that needs to be looked at is straightforward enough," Judge Jawad Khawaja said in his ruling on Tuesday. "We therefore consider it will be sufficient to meet the ends of justice if the cases are adjourned to April 15."

 

Comment: It is not clear what the Judge meant, but Musharraf's lawyers are concerned about the date because no matter how the Court rules the ruling will undermine Musharraf's bid for election to parliament.

 

Iraq-Syria: Multiple news outlets carried the statement by the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq claiming that the al-Nusra Front, one of the most effective groups fighting against the Asad government in Syria, is an offshoot.

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State in Iraq, said that al Qaida in Iraq has been funding and supporting the al Nusra Front from the start. Today he announced the two groups would merge and take on a new name.

 

He said: "We announce the abolition of the Islamic state of Iraq's name and Jabhat Al-Nusra's name and their amalgamation in one state under one name: The Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant."

 

Comment: In one sense this is confirmation of old information. The US already has identified the al Nusra Front (Jabhat al-Nusra) as a terrorist organization because of its links to al Qaida. Nevertheless, the announcement adds support to President Asad's consistent charge that the groups that oppose his government are terrorists. The al Nusra Front is a terrorist group and it is one of the government's most effective opponents.

 

The linkages are noteworthy. The West is supporting the same cause as the Sunni terrorists in the al Nusra Front which is a branch of the Sunni terrorists whom the West is helping the al Maliki government fight in Iraq. The announcement makes it appear that the West is supporting and opposing the goals of the same group, depending on which side of the Syria-Iraqi border its members operate.

 

As far as the Sunni militants are concerned, the movement to overthrow the Alawites in Damascus is part of the movement to overthrow the Shiites in Baghdad. That seems to be al-Baghdadi's main point in announcing the merger. 

 

Mali-France: A defense statement said that about 100 of the 4,000 sent to the West African nation in January have been withdrawn to Cyprus.

 

In contrast, the French command in Mali also announced the start of offensive operations against militants in Gao in northeastern Mali. One news report said 1,000 soldiers were involved.

 

Comment: The two announcements support and highlight both French policies: withdrawing forces in April and supporting the Mali government for the long haul.

 

End of NightWatch for 9 April.

 

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