China: Yi Xianliang, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Boundary and Ocean Affairs Departments, told reporters that China had every right to build on its islands as a way of improving basic living conditions there. "What China will do, or won't do, is determined by the Chinese government. No other people can change the stance of the Chinese government….The Spratly Islands are China's intrinsic territory….China has the right to build facilities on Chinese territory."
Yi made the remarks at a forum held by the All-China Journalists Association. They were China's response to a US and Philippine proposal for a freeze of all provocative activities, including construction, in the islands and reefs of the South China Sea. Yi questioned by what authority the US called on China to halt its development of the islands because the US has no claim to any of them.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to hold a meeting this week in Myanmar, where this topic is expected to be raised. Asean foreign ministers and foreign ministers from their main regional trading partners, including China, Japan and South Korea, will participate. A regional security dialogue also will be held in which the United States will participate.
Comment: Since at least 2005, the Chinese have not in any way compromised their claim to sovereignty of the East and South China Seas. They are willing to consider development and exploitation schemes, but cooperation with China always is within the context of Chinese sovereignty.
The US and ASEAN are trying to postpone, if not avoid, a confrontation with China. There is room for diplomacy to avoid clashes at sea, but not for a settlement. Diplomacy gives China more time to develop its military capabilities to defend its territorial sea claims without significant challenges.
Iraq: Iraq's military spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi said Monday that Prime Minister al-Maliki commanded the air forceand army aviation to provide air support to the Kurds in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the Peshmerga Ministry, announced today that Kurdish fighters recaptured one of the three towns captured by ISIL fighters over the weekend.
"The Peshmerga forces (Kurdish militia) achieved a remarkable success and seized the town of Wanna near Mosul Dam," according to Yawar's post to the official website of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Yawar also said that the Peshmerga are preparing a major attack to recapture the other two towns, Zumar and Sinjar.
Comment: Al-Maliki's order to the air forces is the first cooperation between the Iraqi armed forces and the Kurdish militias since ISIL took Mosul in June. The air force has helped stabilize a few areas important to Shiites, notably Samarra, north of Baghdad, but it has not been decisive anywhere, even at Tikrit. The air forces are too weak .
Al-Maliki's motives in helping the Kurds are not entirely comradely. He wants to maintain the territorial integrity of Iraq. He might judge that Iraqi military support in the fight against ISIL would reinforce the Kurdish sense of being part of Iraq and blunt sentiment in favor of Kurdish independence.
One thing that the Iraqi air force has shown, even with its limited operations, is that Iraq and the Kurds have needed effective air capabilities. ISIL has not yet displayed an effective defense against competent air attacks.
Israel: Al Jazeera reported that Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Fatah all agreed to the Egyptian proposal for a three day ceasefire in Gaza. The Israeli cabinet also agreed, but has sent no delegation to Cairo. Israeli press reported observing tanks on heavy equipment transporters departing Gaza and heading back into Israel.
The Palestinians fired 63 rockets and mortars on Monday. The Israeli air force attacked 60 targets. Palestinians have sustained 1,865 killed. Israel has lost 64 soldiers.
Comment: Despite strong language by Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israel's commitment to continuing large scale ground operations started to weaken after the reports that an Israeli soldier had been kidnapped. The soldier is now said to have died in combat, but the threat of kidnapping appears far more demoralizing than the 3,000 rockets the Palestinians have fired.
An Israeli news source said Israel has destroyed 31 tunnels, but officials suspect there were about 100 at the start of operations.
Ukraine: The parliament in Kyiv voted to refuse to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk.
Comment: Yatsenyuk announced his resignation on 24 July because parliament was accomplishing nothing on economic and tax reform or on an austerity budget. It still is accomplishing nothing, but Kyiv needs Yatsenyuk because of his connections to western governments.
End of NightWatch
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