North Korea: A South Korean news service reported over the weekend that their sources said that all relatives of Chang Sung-taek, the executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, have also been executed.
"Extensive executions have been carried out for relatives of Jang Song-thaek," one source said. "All relatives of Jang have been put to death, even children."
The executed relatives include Jang's sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Ambassador to Cuba Jon Yong-jin, and Ambassador to Malaysia Jang Yong-chol, who is a nephew of Jang, as well as his two sons, the sources said.
All of them were recalled to Pyongyang in early December and executed. The sons, daughters and even grandchildren of Jang's two brothers were all executed, they said. "Some relatives were shot to death by pistol in front of other people if they resisted while being dragged out of their apartment homes," another source said.
Some relatives by marriage, including the wife of the Ambassador to Malaysia, reportedly were spared execution and sent to remote villages along with their maiden families, according to the sources.
"The executions of Jang's relatives mean that no traces of him should be left," a source said. "The purge of the Jang Song-thaek people is under way on an extensive scale from relatives and low-level officials."
Comment: While there is no separate confirmation of these accounts, extermination of the entire family line of an enemy is practiced by oriental despots. (See Wittfogel,Oriental Despotism) The executions apparently began after 12 December, the date Chang was executed. The number of those executed is not known.
These reports contrast with the unctuous reconciliation policy the North has implemented. One effect of the reconciliation policy is to divert international attention from the continuing purge in the North.
China: On 26 January, three Chinese ships patrolled the James Shoal in the South China Sea, an area also claimed by Malaysia. The Chinese task group comprised the amphibious landing craft, Changbaishan, and two destroyers, state news agency Xinhua reported.
."During the ceremony held in the Zengmu Reef area, soldiers and officers aboard swore an oath of determination to safeguard the country's sovereignty and maritime interests,"Xinhua said. Zengmu Reef is the Chinese name for James Shoal.
Xinhua said South Sea Fleet commander Vice Admiral Jiang Weilie "urged soldiers and officers to always be prepared to fight, improve combat capabilities and lead the forces to help build the country into a maritime power".
According to news reports, last March, Malaysia protested the incursion of four Chinese ships in James Shoal, about 80 km (50 miles) off the Malaysian state of Sarawak on western Borneo Island. Chinese sailors fired guns in the air during the visit to the shoal. In April 2013, a Chinese maritime surveillance ship returned to James Shoal and left behind markers of China's claim.
Comment: This is the same task group that left the Paracel Islands on 22 January to begin a long range patrol of Chinese claimed waters and islands. James Shoal is just off Borneo at the southern end of the South China Sea.
The missions of this task group are demonstration and intimidation, not just patrol. Changbaishan is a large, modern landing ship with two destroyers as escorts. The Chinese navy is showing the flag and gratuitously inviting a fight.
Correction to 14 January Night Watch edition: The Republic of China maintains forces on the largest island in the Spratly chain, which is named Itu Aba, but which the communist Chinese call Taiping Dao. Vietnamese forces garrison the smaller and more southerly Spratly Island.
Special thanks to a Brilliant and very well-informed Reader for the correction.
Egypt: On 27 January the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) empowered army chief and defense minister, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, to run for president.
Al-Sisi is expected to announce his decision soon.
The SCAF statement, broadcasted on Egypt's state-run TV as a voice recording, said that based on al-Sisi's efforts during these "historic times," SCAF considers the army chief's run for presidency "a mandate and an obligation."
SCAF said that if al-Sisi is chosen as Egypt's next president, it will be based on the free will of the Egyptian people. The statement reads that al-Sisi, at the end of the emergency meeting where his presidential bid was discussed, thanked the military council for giving him the "right to respond to the call of duty."
Media outlets have reported that if al-Sisi resigns from his post to run for president, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Sedky Sobhy would replace him as defence minister.
Comment: Al-Sisi said earlier that he would only campaign for the presidency if he received a mandate from the armed forces and one from the populace. Today he received the mandate of the armed forces.
Efforts to generate a civil mandate are probably already underway. He seems to want to be elected by popular acclamation.
Earlier on Monday, interim President Adly Mansour issued a presidential decree promoting al-Sisi from the rank of general to field marshal. The official promotion ceremony will take place on 1 February.
Election update. On 26 January, interim President Mansour announced that presidential elections will be held before parliamentary elections. This changes the transitional roadmap which was announced after 3 July 2013.
According to Mansour's decree, the Supreme Presidential Electoral Commission (SPEC) should begin procedures to hold the polls in no less than 30 days and no more than 90 days following the successful passage of the country's newly-amended constitution.
The constitution was put into effect on 18 January -- after a two-day referendum on 14 and 15 January which yielded an overwhelming 98.1 percent approval of the charter. Accordingly, presidential elections are slated to occur between 17 February and 18 April.
On 27 January, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) broadcast a statement that it looks forward to the "masses' " desire to have General Abd-al-Fattah al-Sisi running for president and considers this a mandate and obligation."
"The SCAF reviewed the achievements and accomplishments, done by al-Sisi since he has taken over his post, to develop the army, enhance its combat capability and improve its personnel's capability... and that the SCAF is respectfully and honorably looks forward to the desire of the large masses of the great Egyptian people to have al-Sis running for president and it considers it a mandate and an obligation," the statement said.
Comment: The message is that the "masses" will call for al-Sisi to run for the presidency, on cue. A mass appeal will be engineered. Al-Sisi probably already has the grass roots organization to ensure his election. He probably will not even be challenged seriously.
Egypt is marching back to the future in some ways. Egyptian history since World War II suggests the political culture of Egypt requires a strong-man, authoritarian government.
Al-Sisi will not be a copy of Mubarak. He is from a younger generation that is more tech-savvy and better educated. An al-Sisi administration might be slightly more progressive than Mubarak and vastly more tolerant than Mursi. However, it will be nothing like the liberal, modern democracy that the supporters of the Arab Spring in Egypt thought they were midwifing.
Tunisia: For the record.On 27 January, the Tunisian National Assembly approved a new constitution. Prime Minister-designate Mehdi Jomaa also announced his Cabinet.
Comment: This is a significant breakthrough which was unachievable for more than three years. The document is described as groundbreaking and as one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world - and for the fact that it got written at all. Depending on the next steps and their outcome, Tunisia could revive the pro-democracy impulses that led to the Arab Spring.
However, nothing is final in Tunisia. The new structure could collapse in political violence as easily as did the Ennahda-led government. Ennahda showed that outside the cities, Tunisians are only slightly more progressive than the Muslim Brotherhood's followers.
What that means is that the new constitution and a more progressive concept of democracy riskrejection by less modern interests.
End of NightWatch
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