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China Readies Naval Forces throughout South China Sea

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

China: For the record. The aircraft carrier Liaoning returned to port on Wednesday after a 37-day voyage in the South China Sea, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Citing an unnamed naval source, Xinhua said, "The aircraft carrier tested its combat systems and conducted formation exercises and 'attained the anticipated objectives.'"

"During the mission, the Liaoning conducted more than 100 drills and training exercises. The drills tested the structure's stress resistance, sailing speeds in deep water, navigational capabilities and weapons and equipment reliability," the statement said.

"The Liaoning left Qingdao in northern China on 26 November for the naval base at Sanya, Hainan Province in the south China sea, arriving three days later. On 5 December, it began its training mission."

Comment: This was the carrier's first long-distance training voyage since it was commissioned in the People's Liberation Army navy last year. China eventually will base an aircraft carrier task group at Sanya to protect Chinese territorial waters and island claims in the South China Sea. Liaoning's mission was a training mission for the benefit of the task group and a demonstration for the benefit of Southeast Asian states.

Thailand: Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has asked the military to help maintain law and order, following a call by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on 2 January for a mass rally later this month to shut down Bangkok, a defense ministry official said.

Meanwhile, supporters of the Yingluck government said Thursday that they are prepared to counter a threat by anti-government protesters to shut down Bangkok later this month. Leaders of the so-called Red Shirt movement stopped short Thursday of calling for their members to take to the streets of the capital to defend the caretaker government from opponents who insist she step down.

Comment: The request for military support for law and order authorities is a prudent move to control protestors on both sides. Military patrols probably will incite anti-government elements to greater exertions and provocations. More violence appears unavoidable.

Pakistan: Pakistani news services reported that former President Musharraf developed chest pains en route tohis court appearance today and was admitted to the Armed Forces Hospital in Rawalpindi. The judge postponed the hearing until next Monday.

Comment: Musharraf seems to have taken a page from Hosni Mubarak's political play-book. He genuinely does not want to be the first former army chief to go to prison or be executed.

One of the ironies of the situation is that the judge who heads the three-judge panel was one who refused to take an oath of loyalty to Musharraf in November 2007. Naturally, Musharraf's defense team wants the judge to recuse himself. That motion has been denied.

Central African Republic: For the record. Doctors Without Borders reported today that the security situation in Bangui, the capital, is out of control.

Comment: The French have 1,600 soldiers in Central African Republic, most of whom are in Bangui. There are a few thousand African Union soldiers as well. Thus far, this is a failed peacemaking or peacekeeping mission.

End of NightWatch


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