Japan-China-Vietnam: A Japanese Cabinet official on 8 May said that the government is deeply worried by China's behavior toward Vietnam in the South China Sea confrontation. He said that Beijing should rein in its provocative actions.
China-Philippines: Update. China demanded the Philippines release the fishing boat and crew it detained on Tuesday off Palawan Island. The spokesman for the Chinese embassy, Zhang Hua, said China asked the Philippines for a rational explanation and for the immediate release of the Chinese boat and crew.
"This provocative action is premeditated in an attempt to create tensions, and severely violates China's sovereignty and maritime rights. The Chinese side strongly urges the Philippine side to release the boat and its crew immediately, and guarantee the crew's safety and their property. The Chinese side warns the Philippine side not to take provocative actions, so as to avoid further damage to bilateral relations. The Chinese side will keep following closely the development of this provocative act."
Philippine statement. The Philippines announced that the crew would be tried for poaching endangered species.
Speaking to reporters, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma yesterday said police are justified in arresting the Chinese, who had violated laws on the protection of wildlife.
"It was in accordance with their duty to enforce environment protection and wildlife conservation laws while upholding Philippine sovereign rights over our exclusive economic zone," he said. Authorities in Palawan will deal with the case, Coloma said.
China-Vietnam: Update. On 8 May, the deputy director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs and the CEO of China Oilfield Services Limited held a joint press briefing on the Chinese drilling operations in the waters south of Zhongjian (Triton Island) in the Xisha (Paracel) Islands.
The officials said since 2 May Vietnam has strongly interfered with normal drilling activities performed by China Oilfield Services Limited in the waters of China's Xisha Islands, and the Chinese side is very surprised and shocked.
They said the Xisha Islands are China's inherent territory, and there is no dispute over this. Chinese businesses operating within the waters of China's Aisha Islands are completely within the mandate of China's sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction. Interference by the Vietnamese in the normal activities of Chinese businesses seriously infringes on China's sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction; seriously impacts the normal order of production operations and the safety of the Chinese operations platform; and brings completely unnecessary problems to China-Vietnam relations.
They also side said that, faced with the Vietnamese interference, the Chinese had no choice but to strengthen the security force at the site and prevent acts of interference by the Vietnamese in order to safeguard the order of maritime production operations and ensure safe navigation. The Chinese demand that the Vietnamese truly respect China's legal and legitimate rights and interests, be reasonable, immediately stop all forms of interference, and immediately withdraw all vessels and personnel from the site.
Comment: The Chinese Foreign Ministry would prefer these issues be settled through talks, but might find itself having to defend cases in courts all over Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, China will not compromise on its claim of sovereignty.
A Chinese naval officer has recommended that fishing fleets upgrade their defensive awareness; operate in fleets with escort forces; and that the escort forces should maintain constant patrols.
Thailand: Update. Today, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) unanimously voted to indict Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra on corruption charges.
"The committee has investigated and there is enough evidence to make a case….We will now forward it to the Senate," commission chief Panthep Klanarong said. The NACC voted 7 to 0 to recommend the Senate impeach Yingluck.
The next step is for the Senate to vote on the case. If the Senate votes to impeach Yingluck, she will be barred from politics for five years.
She could also be subject to criminal prosecution because the NACC is also considering whether to file criminal charges against her. The NACC will vote on the criminal case next week.
Comment: The criminal charges relate to her failure to oversee properly a rice subsidy program that cost Thailand some $21billion, according to official Thai estimates. The Thai system has tolerance for what Westerners call graft, but the amounts involved in this scheme are excessive by any measure. They also mostly benefitted the constituents of Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party.
If the NACC finds grounds for a criminal prosecution, the entire cabinet, including the interim prime minister announced yesterday, could be implicated.
The government has scheduled new general elections for 20 July because the Constitutional Court declared the February elections unconstitutional.
The Court had to close early on Thursday because of unexplained gunshots. The demonstrations are expected to begin on Friday.
Afghanistan: For the record. The Taliban announced that it will begin its spring offensive. The Islamist extremists said that the offensive, beginning on Monday, would cleanse "the filth of the infidels" from the country.
The offensive is named "Khaibar", after an ancient battle between Muslims and Jews. "If the invaders or their internal stooges believe that reducing the number of foreign forces will dampen our Jihadi fervor then they are sadly mistaken."
It added that attacks during the coming "fighting season" would target US military bases, foreign embassies and vehicle convoys, as well as the Afghan government.
"The days of ... the barbaric invaders (on) the pure soil of our country have come (to a) close, Allah willing, due to your 13-year Jihad and sacrifices," it told its fighters. "The main target of the current year's blessed Jihadi operation shall be the foreign invaders and their backers under various names like spies, military and civilian contractors and everyone working for them like translators," it said.
The offensive will consist of suicide bombings, "insider attacks" by Afghan soldiers and complex assaults on military facilities. "Such war techniques which shall inflict maximum losses on the invaders while preventing corporeal and financial losses on the ordinary civilians."
Comment: A more prudent strategy would be to begin this offensive after Western forces have departed. That is not the Taliban way, however.
The Taliban offensive will be the true test of the capabilities of Afghan government forces to stand up to the Taliban during a fighting season.For the Taliban, the offensive at this time could backfire in the form of a signed Bilateral Security Agreement between the US and the new government of Afghanistan that prolongs Western military presence and support.
Ukraine: Pro-Russian activists in eastern Ukraine decided to proceed with their self-determination referendum on Sunday as scheduled. Referenda will be held in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The decision was announced by separatist leaders after consulting supporters.
Security. In the south-eastern port city of Mariupol, the city hall changed hands twice. Ukrainian forces had control most of today, but withdrew in the early evening.
Comment: With today's decision by the activists, all Ukrainian factions have rejected Russia's conciliatory gestures. The Russian tactic seems to have worked. The eastern Ukrainian leaders have talked mostly about independence, not about joining the Russian Federation.
France- Sahelian Africa: Defense Minister Le Drian announced that France will deploy 3,000 troops to fight militant Islamists in the African Sahelian region. He said, "The region was a 'danger zone', with militants regrouping in northern Mali"
France is therefore reorganizing its forces to "pursue counter-terrorism" across several states. "There will be 1,000 soldiers that remain in Mali and 3,000 in the Sahel-Sahara zone, the danger zone, the zone of all types of smuggling," Mr. Le Drian said, in a television interview.
"We will stay as long as necessary. There is no fixed date."
French forces will be based also will be set up. Ivory Coast will service as the mission's logistical hub.
Comment: This strategy and deployment pattern are reminiscent of the disposition of French forces in West Africa a half century ago, at the end of the colonial era. The numbers and the dispersion of forces were higher then and the forces had the primary purpose of protecting French citizens and business interests. They made and deposed governments.
President Hollande is putting a new twist in the more pragmatic policy approach instituted by President Sarkozy in 2007. Times have changed, meaning that in the past three years the terrorist threat has increased as the number of stable governments has declined.
Hollande judges that France itself is threatened and must augment and disperse French Forces in West Africa, whereas Sarkozy hoped to consolidate them and reduce their numbers. Hollande and his strategists see prudence in fighting the terrorists while they are still in Africa
Mali: A French soldier has been killed in the north of Mali after an explosive device went off under his vehicle, Defense Minister Le Drian said on Thursday.
He is the eighth French to be killed since France deployed combat forces to Mali in January 2013.
End of NightWatch
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