North Korea-US: Yesterday the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the North Korean chief of the Guard Force at Panmunjom told the press on Monday that US military personnel at Panmunjom are creating provocations.
They include waving flags of various members of the UN Command - which the North no longer recognizes; using a watch tower for watching North Koreans at Panmunjom and a bit beyond; waving letters of invitation to the Military Armistice Committee conference room and using loudspeakers to make announcements directed at North Korean soldiers.
The North demanded the US stop the activities because they are rattling the nerves of the soldiers.
Comment: This is the first complaint about US actions at Panmunjom in a long time. The North's complaint contained no threat, but Panmunjom is a pressure point where misunderstandings are routine. Shooting can occur without warning, if the North decides to stage a provocation.
China: Today, Chinese police sentenced 55 people for crimes that included terrorism, murder, separatism, harboring criminals, extremism and rape. The Chinese chose to make a public spectacle and example of the criminals by holding the proceedings in a stadium filled with 7,000 people in Ili Prefecture in Xinjiang.
Chinese newspapers reported that on 26 May subway authorities began enforcing passenger and luggage checks for riders at three heavily used stations in Beijing. The security checks have doubled commute times. Three Uighur terrorist attacks against train stations are responsible for the increased security and inconvenience, according to the press.
Comment: What relate the two stories, aside from their connection to Uighur terrorism, are the measures the Chinese are prepared to take to try to stop the terrorists and maintain public confidence in the government. The last time China used mass public trials was during the social upheavals in the late 1980's and the early 1990's that accompanied economic reform.
The attacks are dangerous, but even worse are the dangers of public panic and of a breakdown in public confidence in the authorities in a population the size of China's.
Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban movement - the TTP -- fragmented today. The Mehsud tribal faction - which formed the original core of the movement - announced it has left the larger organization to form its own group, known as the Pakistani Taliban of South Waziristan.
A spokesman said the break is over TTP tactics that the Mehsuds consider un-Islamic, including bombings in public places, extortion and kidnappings.
Comment: Infighting has increased since the death by drone attack of Hakimullah Mehsud last year. There are numerous reasons for the infighting. Only a few of them are known in the open source domain.
Some Pakistani analysts say tactics are not a primary reason for the split, but rather a cover story to make the Mehsuds look motivated by Islamic purity. That is nonsense because Mehsud tribal fighters have committed all the crimes they now say they abjure.
Another reason is a disagreement over whether to engage in peace talks with the government. For the first time since its founding in 2007, the TTP has engaged in peace talks with the Nawaz Sharif government in Islamabad. The talks have gone nowhere, but the Mehsuds opposed the decision to hold them. Money-making opportunities were as important as principle in this dispute. The TTP kept most of the Pakistani government's incentive money and peace interferes with fund-raising.
The decision to hold peace talks correlates to the election of the first non-Mehsud tribesman, Fazlullah, as the TTP leader. This has injected a tribal undercurrent into the infighting. The Mehsuds won't follow Fazlullah who is from the Swat Valley.
Another important factor is the competition between the Afghan and Pakistani intelligence services. Fazlullah bases his operations in Afghanistan and is known to receive protection and support from Afghan intelligence. Pakistani intelligence supports the Afghan Taliban whom the Mehsuds protect and support. Control of cross border smuggling routes is a key component in this arrangement.
The fact that the Mehsuds receive support from Pakistani intelligence does not dissuade them from attacking targets in Pakistan.
The web of linkages, temporary alliances and payoffs is vastly more complex than this summary suggests. Tribal leadership issues, access to wealth, land disputes and control of smuggling are always important considerations influencing tribal alliances.
Some analysts suggest that the fragmentation of the Pakistani Taliban might offer opportunities to neutralize one or other faction. With so many outside influences and sources of funds and resources, that is an unrealistic judgment.
The one constant in the past year of infighting has been the attacks. The splits within the Pakistani Taliban movement have had no positive impact on the security situation. Now that there are two movements, their competition will produce more attacks.
Ukraine: Ukrainian forces continued their military operations against pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region. President-elect Poroshenko said the 'anti-terrorist operation' against the rebels 'has finally really begun.'"
Meanwhile, in the Luhansk region, Ukrainian soldiers repelled an attempt by separatist fighters to overrun their base today. The Kyiv authorities said the unit sustained no losses, though an earlier statement said both sides suffered casualties.
Comment: Separatists in Donetsk are preparing for a Ukrainian attack inside the city next. In Luhansk, the separatists might have been trying to rescue comrades under arrest. The unit they attacked transports sentenced criminals to prison.
Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry said that, in a phone call today, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Secretary of State John Kerry that the Kyiv government must cease its offensive operations in southeast Ukraine.
Comment: Russian officials have made no excited statements about the attacks in southeastern Ukraine, despite the casualties among ethnic Russians. The muted response to the latest fighting contrasts sharply with official comments and implied threats when the secession began.
Russian official behavior is suspicious and warrants extra vigilance for signs of unusual Russian military activity.
Central African Republic: Muslim rebels attacked a Christian church and refugee compound in Bangui on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people. This was the worst attack by the Muslim rebels in months. They have been on the defensive from attacks by Christian militias. There will be Christian reprisals.
End of NightWatch
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