Night Watch

North Korea: North Korea fired rockets into the Sea of Japan today. South Korea's Yonhap reported the North fired 16 FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) rockets to a range of 70kms.

Comment: Today's firings were the second set in two days. Thirty rockets were fired on Saturday. The Soviet Union made several variants of large artillery rockets, but the FROG-7 was the most successful; the most exported to Soviet client states and is the variant North Korea possesses. FROG-7 artillery rockets are 30ft long and 1.8ft in diameter. They can carry a warhead weighing more than a half ton to a range of 70km.

They were produced in the Soviet Union between 1960 and 1964. Fifty years ago, FROG-7 rockets were considered the North's primary strategic weapons system. While obsolescent, the North maintains them in operational condition, as the firings just showed, at a base from which they can reach Seoul.

Russia-NATO: NATO officials have issued warnings about the buildup of Russian forces along the eastern border of Ukraine. One general warned that Russian forces could drive across southern Ukraine to liberate Transnistria, which is northwest of Crimea.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Antonov today denied and rebutted the allegations.

Antonov said, "Russian Armed Forces are not undertaking any undeclared military activity that would threaten the security of neighboring countries." He said Ukrainian military authorities have inspected the Russian forces along the border twice. Seven of eight Western European inspections missions have inspected forces along the Ukraine border.

Comment: Facts about the Russian force presence along the Ukrainian border are few. President Putin announced a second exercise was in progress during the 16 March Crimean referendum. He does not seem to have announced an end to that exercise. That also was the last time, Ukrainian and Russian bloggers posted to the web images of Russian forces arriving by train in the border region.

The Russians have sufficient forces based in the western military district for operations anywhere in eastern Ukraine, if ordered, without having to engage in "massing", as the weekend headlines proclaimed.

Russian forces would not need to drive across southern Ukraine to reach Transnistria, because they are already there. About 1,000 Russian forces already are stationed in Transnistria, guarding former Soviet ordnance storage facilities. A search of open sources could find no recent information on the Russian arrangements to support its forces in Transnistria

Night Watch

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