Night Watch

North Korea: The academic research group 38 North has published a useful update on recent activity at the North Korean nuclear test site, Punggye-ri, based on commercial satellite imagery. The report says that activity has increased, but concludes after several paragraphs that it remains low. It is spring time and activity should increase and be more visible to imagery.

The report attributes to media outlets the speculation that the increased activity could portend a nuclear detonation during President Obama's visit to Asia this week. The report eventually debunks that speculation and judges that a test does not appear imminent.

Comment: The South Korean defense ministry also reported increased activity and has taken steps to increase vigilance against a new form of nuclear test, which the North said on 30 March it would not rule out. Most analyses judge the preparations do not indicate a nuclear test will occur this week.

China's reaction. In response to a question about the 38 North report, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman gave the following reply.

"Under the current circumstances, we call on all relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint, remain committed to advancing the goal of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and resolving relevant issues through consultations and negotiations, and steadfastly safeguard peace and stability on the peninsula."

Comment: The spokesman's reply is as bland and pro forma as the Chinese get when they are conveying the message that nothing significant is happening in North Korea. The Chinese are aware of the activity and are not concerned.

Russia: In a report to the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) on 22 April, which was broadcast live by state news, Prime Minister Medvedev retaliated against US comments that suggested that Russian behavior is inconsistent with the 21st century.

"Colleagues, as we all understand, any imposed restrictions constitute a primitive path. That path leads nowhere. However, if some of our Western partners do nevertheless go down that path we will not have a choice. We will then manage, relying on our own resources. And we will win in the end."


Night Watch

NightWatch is an internationally acclaimed nightly newsletter that tracks and assesses threats to US national security. It has an edgy, executive style unlike any other summary of its kind.