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North Korea Blusters About War

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

North Korea: A day after leader Kim Jong-un delivered his New Year's address urging reunification and conciliation, the National Defense Commission (NDC) published a very different message. On 2 January a spokesman for the most powerful organ of state in North Korea said,

"We should raise our awareness of the confrontation commotions against fellow countrymen happening at the beginning the new year. Nothing but war will be incurred by confrontation against fellow countrymen. This is an historical lesson that the past North-South relations clearly show us."

The statement contained three resolutions by the commission which reprise long standing warnings.

Comment: The most interesting feature of the NDC statement is that it communicates a threatening tone that is precisely opposite that conveyed by Kim a day later. The obvious message is that Kim does not speak for the NDC.

The second prominent feature is that it excoriates former President Lee, but does not mention newly elected President Pak. The obvious inference is that the NDC statement was canned before the elections in the Republic of Korea.

The NDC statement was not updated by the results of the South Korean presidential elections before release. The North's media coordination is awry. The fact that the National Defense Commission issued a statement of defense policy in its own right and independent of Kim is ominous because it means that the Kim family, the Chang family and the Party bureaucrats do not have the final say on matters of defense policy. This apparent bifurcation justifies increased vigilance by the allies.

Pakistan: Pakistani news outlets have denounced the death of Maulvi/Mullah Nazir by a US drone attack last week. A prominent national security commentator, Mahmood Jan Bar, said that "it is a loss for Pakistan."

Babar said Mullah Nazir and his supporters believed that "Pakistan is an Islamic country and no aggression is being carried out against the country," and therefore "it is not justified under any circumstances to attack forces in Pakistan."

Babar said Mullah Nazir's old friends who belonged to the Mehsud tribe were not happy with him. "The people who are being led by Hakimullah Mehsud were not happy with Mullah Nazir … because of people like Mullah Nazir that peace was restored in South Waziristan," adding he was clear that Taliban "will have to go to Afghanistan if they want to fight a war."

Comment: The US has not confirmed the death of Mullah Nazir, but Pakistani new services accept that he was killed by a US drone attack.

Nazir's death puts in sharp focus the incongruity between US and Pakistani national security interests. All so-called terrorists are not the same in south Asia. Nazir cooperated with Pakistani authorities to establish security in South Waziristan. His counterpart in North Waziristan, Hakimullah Mehsud, did not. Both men led sub-clans of the Mehsud tribe in ancient Waziristan. Both fought against the US in Afghanistan.

In practical terms their differences meant that the followers of Nazir would fight against US forces in Afghanistan but not against Pakistan. Hakimullah Mehsud's followers fight in both countries. That explains Pakistan Army Chief of Army Staff General Kayani's attitude that bin Laden and many others never posed a threat to Pakistan.

The drone strike that apparently killed Nazir, however, directly affects the security of Pakistan. If the Mehsuds in South Waziristan join the Mehsuds in North Waziristan in attacking Pakistani forces, security conditions west of the Indus River will deteriorate and draw down resources, primarily as the result of a US drone attack whose larger ripple effects evidently were never considered.

Mali: The Islamist group in northern Mali, Ansar al Dine, said it is suspending its pledge to halt hostilities. The group said negotiations with the Malian government are ultimately aimed at a military intervention to oust the Islamists, and are not true peace talks.

Central African Republic: A 400-man Chadian battalion with reinforcements from Gabon and the Republic of the Congo has been stationed in Damarra to prevent the Seleka (rebel) Coalition from advancing on the capita. Bangui.

Comment: The situation in Mali is a classic example of a centrifugal, or fragmentation, scenario in an internal instability crisis. Ansar al Dine, an al Qaida affiliate, has established a new center of power in the north, beyond the control of authorities in Bamako.

The situation in the Central African Republic is a classic example of a centripetal scenario in which the renegade soldiers in the Seleka Coalition seek the center of power, Bangui.

No countries have hastened to restore Mali's integrity, mainly because the fracture was a ripple effect of a military coup by a renegade army captain and his friends.

In contrast, three countries have rallied to the defense of the Central African Republic's government, without waiting for a UN or other resolution. The allies of the government in Bangui apparently want to avoid a Mali-situation in which renegade soldiers seize power from a duly elected government.

End of NightWatch ###

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