North Korea Keeps Tensions High

Posted: May 08, 2013 12:01 AM

North Korea: Threats. On 7 May, North Korean media published the first new threat of the month. The North threatened retaliation by missile forces if ongoing Allied anti-submarine warfare and island artillery exercises near the Offshore Islands violate its territorial sovereignty.

The Korean Central News Agency reported on 7 May the orders given by the Korean People's Army (KPA) Command for southwestern North Korea.

"The Command issued the following order to those units under it in view of the prevailing situation:

1. KPA units in the southwestern sector of the front will take immediate counteractions in case even a single shell drops over the territorial waters of our side due to the enemies' provocative shelling in the southwestern waters.

2. In case the enemies recklessly counter our counterstrikes, all striking forces will turn the five islands in the West Sea of Korea into a sea in flames with prompt actions of units of the rocket forces deployed in the southwestern sector of the front.

3. All the units and sub-units under the KPA Command in the southwestern sector of the front will simultaneously start military actions, in line with the operation plan finally ratified by the KPA Supreme Command, by a future order."

In a separate article, the North repeated that its nuclear armed forces are not negotiable.

Military status. According to South Korean media, North Korea terminated its high level combat alert for the entire armed forces, apparently on 30 April when US-ROK ground force exercises terminated. However, units in the southwest remain on high alert. The danger of a firing incident continues.

Missiles. Unidentified US officials said North Korea has taken two Musudan/BM-25 intermediate-range ballistic missiles off launch-ready status and probably returned them to storage from their position on the country's east coast.

Comment: Japan and South Korea announced they will maintain high vigilance against a surprise provocation. North Korea is capable of launching a missile from an operational missile base with little to no warning.

The show of force has ended with no test or demonstration and no apparent accomplishments yet. North Korean media have not published any boasts about defeating the US or the Republic of Korea.

Kaesong. According to a source available to the Daily NK news service, officials have dispersed the 53,000 men and women who worked at the Kaesong Industrial Complex among factories, enterprises and cooperative forms throughout the surrounding province. Placement is without regard to skill or experience and all must attend thought reform study sessions for at least two hours daily to remove "capitalist ideas."

The source said, "They are part of an ideological battle to pluck out capitalist ideas by the roots. The Party cadres running the self-criticism sessions want to know every detail of the conversations they had with the managers of the South Korean companies they worked for."

Comment: Re-education is standard practice in North Korea, along with execution. North Korean authorities recalled all North Korean students studying in China in the 1980's when it adopted capitalist economic practices and put the students in re-education and self-criticism camps. North Korea did the same with all students in the Soviet Union when it collapsed in the early 1990's.

According to the source, only small numbers of Kaesong workers are sent to any one placement as part of a strategy for minimizing interactions and isolating counter-revolutionary tendencies.

China-India: Indian press reported that India and China withdrew troops Monday from a disputed area of eastern Kashmir, defusing tension at 16,300 feet above sea level.

Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said, "The governments of India and China have agreed to restore the status quo along Line of Actual Control (LAC)" and that talks between military officials were held to work out the logistics.

An Indian army source said some 50 Chinese soldiers had withdrawn from the Siachen Glacier in the remote Ladakh region and dismantled their tents close to an Indian military forward airstrip.

The face-off site was just 40 km south of the strategic Karakoram Pass, which is at the tri-junction of China-Pakistan-India borders. A highway through the Pass is the only direct road link between China and Pakistan.

Comment: Some Indian press reporting implied the Chinese pull back was a diplomatic success for India. India supposedly threatened to cancel a trip to China on 9 May by Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in preparation for a 20 May trip to India by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Other Indian news services provided a fuller explanation. During Prime Minister Singh's administration since 2004, Indian forces have been improving border outposts and re-activating forward landing strips in disputed areas as part of a long-term general plan for strengthening Indian military infrastructure along the Chinese border.

The Chinese have tolerated several Indian infrastructure projects in the Ladakh region of eastern Kashmir. However, they objected to a particular outpost that overlooks the Karakoram Pass and which would enable Indian forces to threaten the route to Pakistan. China used this route to send military supply convoys to Pakistan during the India-Pakistan War of 1971. China made dismantling of that post a condition for de-escalation and withdrawal of its 40 to 50 soldiers.

The Indians reportedly agreed to dismantle the outpost and also agreed to pull back the 30-40 Indo-Tibetan Border Police -- a paramilitary police unit - that they had deployed near the Chinese camp.

The significance of this incident is that it refutes press speculation that the Chinese movement was made by a local commander on his own authority. The fuller account suggests that the prelude to the Chinese deployment probably included multiple complaints at military meetings that India was quietly trying to steal a march on the Chinese. The Chinese deployment was calibrated and controlled from Beijing, judging by the speed with which it ended.

Pakistan: Election update. Several prominent Pakistani new services report that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which is the party of former prime minister and opposition party leader Nawaz Sharif, is ahead in the polls for Saturday's election.

The newspaper Dawn describes Nawaz Sharif as a religious conservative who is hoping to become prime minister for a third time. He was the prime minister whom then General Musharraf overthrew in 1999.

One of Nawaz Sharif's major concerns is to revive the economy, which has been almost wrecked under the coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party of the late Benazir Bhutto. A second theme has been to end, or at least reduce, Pakistan's support for the US campaign against the Pakistani Taliban.

"I think guns and bullets are always not the answer to such problems," he said in an interview on Saturday. "I think other options need to be explored at the same time and see what is workable. And I think we're going to pursue all these other options."

Sharif reportedly wants a review of the backing provided for the US war on militancy under the previous government's approach.

Comment: Nawaz Sharif said this week that he has no bitterness against the Pakistan Army for his ouster in 1999 and subsequent exile, only against Musharraf. However, he is a wealthy and proud politician who is determined to burnish his political legacy.

He is a longstanding critique of the US and does not support the prior government's cooperation with the US on some security issues, including use of drones. If he becomes the next prime minister, US relations will be strained, but military ties probably will not be affected.

His comments about pursuing other options in dealing with the Pakistani Taliban are pretty much empty rhetoric for the benefit of the voting public. The Pakistani Taliban are dedicated to the overthrow of democracy as "un-Islamic", according to a spokesman who commented on the election campaign. Moreover, Pakistan lacks the money and other resources to weaken tribal support for the Pakistani Taliban in the northwest.

Afghanistan: A compilation of open source reports on all types of security incidents in Afghanistan in April 2013 indicates a more than 70 percent increase in incidents compared to March. In March 667 incidents were reported, compared to 1145 in April, which marks the start of the 2013 fighting period.

Security conditions remain the most dangerous in the Pashtun provinces of eastern, southeastern and southern Afghanistan.

Comment: The spike confirms the start of a new Taliban offensive, as announced last month. The level of attacks is just over half the number of incidents reported in June 2012, which was the peak of the fighting during US military surge. IEDs remain the most commonly used weapon, accounting for more than 30 percent of all incidents.

Iran-Syria-Israel: Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said Iran will not allow Israel to harm the security of the region, and that a response will be made to the Israeli aggression in Syria, Ynet news reported 5 May.

Comment: Jazayeri provided no clues about the nature of the Iranian response, but his language in translation conveys specific intent to retaliate in some fashion. That is stronger than Syria's response.

End of NightWatch


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