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

South Korea: The government in Seoul announced it is expanding its air defense identification zone, which will partially overlap that which China declared last month. The two zones will now cover a submerged rock claimed by both countries, but on which sits a South Korean research platform.


The South Korean National Defense Ministry said it would co-ordinate with "related countries." South Korea said its zone would take effect on 15 December, and that neighboring countries had already been notified of the change.

Comment: Oil and gas are the underlying issues in the competing air space claims. The Chinese have raised sovereignty to the level of idolatry, but that idol rests on the bedrock of oil and gas. The Japanese and South Koreans seem less prone to glorify natural resources than the Chinese. The disputes are not fundamentally political; they are economic. That means they will not be easily solved by negotiations.

The Chinese would be well advised to not revive militarism in South Korea and, especially, in Japan.

North Korea: Authorities in Pyongyang deported the octogenarian US veteran who had returned to North Korea as a tourist. He arrived in San Francisco on 6 December.

Comment: By his own account, Mr. Newman was treated comfortably during his weeks in captivity. He was a dupe and a pawn in North Korea's need for attention and its leaders' adolescent conceit to reinforce their self-image at the expense of others. A by-product is that Newman was not mistreated, though he could have been under different circumstances.

During work on the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs in 1992, it was learned that many US military veterans want to return to their old battlefields before they die. Veterans of every war exhibited this inclination, including veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, for different reasons. '


The Korean War veterans, often successful businessmen, wanted to help North Korea as well as to visit old battlefields. The Vietnam vets mostly wanted to see what the country looked like without war. Both wanted closure.

The greatness of the American spirit often has proven to have been misdirected in both countries because local survivors of both wars still hate Americans and American soldiers. In Hanoi, an American veteran could expect to be spat upon by toothless old women whose sons and husbands never returned from war. In North Korea, Newman's experience is not atypical, depending on the political calculations of the Kim family.

The demons of war may not be exorcised by revisiting Korean or Vietnamese battlefields in the way they are for the veterans who revisit European battlefields. Memories are still fresh and too long in Asia.

Military update. South Korean news outlets have reported that North Korean forces are building up attack assets in southwestern North Korea, opposite the South Korean offshore islands, one of which was attacked in 2010.

Comment: This is the first week of the North Korean army's winter training cycle, which will last until the end of March 2014. This is the time primarily for class room training. Force movements occur much later in the cycle. Thus any shift in helicopter and artillery towards the southwest at this time should raise vigilance and supports a general warning of an attack on the offshore islands.


Political. During this Watch, the Korean Central News Agency(KCNA) confirmed that Kim Jong Un's uncle Chang Sung-taek had been removed from his posts because of criminal acts.

KCNA said the decision had come after a meeting of the politburo of the ruling communist Korean Workers' Party.

"The Chang Song-thaek group... committed such anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts as gnawing at the unity and cohesion of the party….Chang pretended to uphold the party and leader but was engrossed in such factional acts as dreaming different dreams and involving himself in double-dealing behind the scenes."

Chang has been stripped of all his positions and titles and expelled from the Party.

Comment: Chang's ties by marriage to the Kim family probably saved his life. His eclipse means that North Korea will not change much. It also signifies that Kim Jong Un no longer feels constrained by the decisions of his father, Kim Chong-il, which included naming Chang as Kim Jong Un's top advisor. On the other hand, Kim Jong Un also shows himself too weak to resist the dead hands of the old Party and military elites. He is their pawn in a praetorian failedstate.

Thailand: The anti-government protest leaders have declared 9 December as "D-Day" for protests against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

Comment: For protests to have lasted this long, elements of the Thai royal family must oppose the Yingluck government as they opposed that of her brother, Thaksin, which led to his ouster.


Pakistan: Fourteen men held in captivity, whom security forces insisted could not be found, appeared in court this weekend. Six of the 14 were identified by their relatives, who said they disappeared after being handed over to the military from a detention center.

Some of the men who appeared in court were unable to walk without physical support. It is alleged that four others who were held at the same time died after being tortured by intelligence agents.

"We presented these people to obey the court orders and will present more people before the court on Monday or Tuesday," Arif Nazir, a senior official of Ministry of Defense, said.

Comment: The long term, arbitrary detention without charge of a wide variety of dissidents by Pakistan security agencies in defiance of court orders has been a political and social stress point since the start of the Musharraf era. Musharraf overthrew an elected government in a coup d'état to come to power in 1999, so he also ignored the Constitution or changed the laws throughout his tenure whenever it suited him, especially as to his critics.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who retires on 12 December, pursued these illegal detention cases tenaciously in trying to institute respect for the rule of law in Pakistan Army and intelligence agencies.

Only since Nawaz Sharif became prime minister has there been any significant progress. Pakistani security and intelligence agencies have little to no respect for the Constitution in pursuing their national security mission. However, the attitudes and actions of the Chief of the Army Staff have great respect.


Outgoing army chief General Kayani was responsible for finding those who had disappeared. Even he waited until his last days in office to order their presentation in response to orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Pakistan: For the record. The US military has stopped all supply vehicles travelling from Afghanistan through Pakistan after protest blockades in Pakistan have threatened drivers. Protestors are against US drone attacks in Pakistan.

Comment: The Pakistan government apparently is cracking down on the protesters, but not the drone shooters. Such a distorted official reaction always points towards the money trail.

The protestors in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province are an inconvenience to all the well-connected enterprises which make money off the US supply operations. If something expensive moves on the roads or rails in Pakistan, there is always money and political corruption involved.

Syria: For the record. The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons reported this weekend that all declared Syrian chemical weapons at declared sites have been destroyed.

Comment: The declaration coincided with a rebel accusation that the Syrians had fired chemical weapons last Thursday at a target in western Syrian. The rebels are losing, are lying about it and do not understand they have lost on this issue. Interested Readers are recommended to read an essay on this issue by Seymour Hersh that was published this weekend by the London Review of Books


Fratricide. Syrian rebels from the Islamic Front, an alliance of six major rebel groups formed a month ago, occupied bases and warehouses belonging to the Western-backed Free Syrian Army at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border, opposition sources said 7 December.

Central African Republic-France: Central African authorities ordered all forces except foreign peacekeepers and the presidential guard off the streets of Bangui on 7 December, a day after France obtained UN support for a military intervention to quell religious and ethnic clashes that have killed at least 300 people in the country.

Comment: The French are shifting combat forces from Mali to the Central African Republic. Some 1,600 French forces will be deployed. Peacemaking forces from African countries also are being organized.

Most sub-Saharan African countries obtained independence from the British or French in the early 1960s. During the past half century, few have achieved stability or established institutional procedures for changing governments without violence, despite $ trillions in aid and advice. None are immune from coups d'état or violent upheavals, after a half century.

End of NightWatch


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