AFCEA Global Intelligence Update: 9/16/09

About this post: The post below is my edited summary of John McCreary’s informative, unclassified/open source NightWatch Global Intelligence Update.

afcea_logo_smNightWatch is published by AFCEA, the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Assn. of which I am a member. Past editions of NightWatch are archived here in their entirety on AFCEA’s site.


Yukio Hatoyama
Yukio Hatoyama

Japan: Yukio Hatoyama, the longtime leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), was elected prime minister, The Associated Press reported 16 September. Parliament convened in a special session formally to select Hatoyama, who won 327 of the 480 votes in the lower house. Hatoyama said he is excited by the prospect of changing history, adding that the battle starts now.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama named six key cabinet members, including,

Katsuya Okada as Foreign Minister; Toshimi Kitazawa as Defense Minister; Naoto Kan as National Strategic Bureau Minister; Hirohisa Fujii as Finance Minister; Masayuki Naoshima as Economy, Trade and Industry Minister; and Hirofumi Hirano as Chief Cabinet secretary.

The Associated Press reported the new Cabinet adopted a set of basic policies at its first meeting Wednesday night under which it aims to establish more equal Japan-U.S. relations, recover more power for politicians from the professional civil service; reform the national civil service system, and delegate more power to local governments.

A document on the basic policies released by the Cabinet states that the new government will create Japan-U.S. ties that allow Japan to “propose proactively ” what the two countries can do to achieve world peace and what roles they can play to do so. The intent is for Japan to not be seen as following the US lead, but to act as an equal partner in a more mature relationship.

The DPJ government will ”engage in an autonomous foreign policy…to create and act out long-term plans” instead of extreme bilateralism or a simple stance prioritizing U.N. operations, the document said.

In order to reduce bureaucratic control in the crafting of financial policies, the Cabinet decided to launch a National Strategy Office under the guidance of the prime minister and to have the office lay out the backbone of tax and fiscal policies.

Former Acting DPJ President Naoto Kan is the minister in charge of the office, which will be later upgraded to the National Strategy Bureau after necessary legal revisions.

USS Essex (LHD 2) in refueling drill at sea
USS Essex (LHD 2) in refueling drill at sea

The most immediate assertion of a more independent set of policies is the announcement that Japan will not extend the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. In a news conference in the early hours of 17 September, Defense Minister Kitazawa said the government will let the mission expire in January 2010.

Japanese defense ships operating from Mumbai, India, have assisted in refueling operations for the US Navy since December 2001. The DPJ resolutely has opposed this mission because DPJ leaders said it supported offensive operations in Afghanistan, not just US Naval operations against terrorists.

Nevertheless, the Liberal Democratic Party government extended [this] repeatedly through various parliamentary maneuvers that incensed the DPJ. As a result, this mission was on the chopping block from the outset of a DPJ government. It is the beginning of a rockier relationship in day to day interactions, but no readers should doubt that the DPJ appreciates that US defense ties remain the bedrock of Japanese national security.

North Korea-China: Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, acting as President Hu Jintao’s envoy, met North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Sok Chu and other officials in Pyongyang on 16 September for talks on bilateral relations and regional and international issues, Xinhua reported.

In watching the North Korean nuclear issue evolve in the coming months, Readers might find  a couple of points useful that might not be obvious in the reporting. as a guide for how things are going. All nations in northeast Asia except North Korea agree that North Korea should not be a nuclear armed state.

Among many reasons, one is that a unified Korean federation would be one of the most militarily powerful nations in the world under some circumstances. Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarized Zone are proud of Korean science. A unified federation would inherit the best science of North and South, over time.

What is less clear is that Chinese behavior has changed a bit. Chinese policy has never opposed nuclear programs in developing states provided they are under IAEA supervision. As to nuclear weapons, since May the Chinese have become more energetic in trying to engage North Korea to dismantle its weapons program. Visits have occurred more frequently and China did not protect North Korea from UN sanctions in reaction to the nuclear test. This is new and implies that China intends to be the only nuclear armed state in northeast Asia.

North Korea - missiles on parade in Pyongyang
Military Parade in North Korean Capital, Pyongyang

Further, North Korean behavior carries the risk that it will encourage other states to revive or start their nuclear weapons research. Consequently, the frequency of visits by Chinese delegations to North Korea is steadily increasing. Similarly, the Chinese are less frequently denying that they have access or influence. Thus, Chinese behavior and relations with North Korea are good indicators of progress or its lack in the North Korean nuclear arms controversy.

Somalia: A commander of Somali militant group al Shabaab today invited foreign Islamist militants to join the fight in Somalia, following the death of suspected al Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, Reuters reported. Sheikh Mahad Abdikarim, al Shabaab commander in Somalia’s Bakol and Bay regions, said his militant group calls “for all Muslim fighters in the world to come to Somalia.

This is the second such invitation reported in the public media this year. For those wondering where next al Qaida operatives might appear, Somalia is near the top of a short list.

France: For the record. President Nicolas Sarkozy said French intelligence agencies are certain that Iran is hiding a nuclear weapons program, Ynet News reported today. Sarkozy stated that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons because they make Iran a threat to Israel. Sarkozy also said that he will not shake the hand of someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map, for example, at the UN.

Having worked with French intelligence,  this analyst recommends readers pay attention and give great weight to French intelligence assessments.

Venezuela–China: Leaders from the two nations have signed a $16 billion investment deal meant to increase oil output by several hundred thousand barrels per day (bpd) in Venezuela’s Orinoco belt, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Venezuelan President Chavez. The deal appears to stipulate new investment over a three-year period, separate from a similar amount Beijing offered Caracas in exchange for future fuel oil shipments.

Venezuela's  Chávez (L) with Wu Bangguo (R), leader of China's Parliament, in Beijing (File photo credit: NYT)
Venezuela’s Chávez (L) with Wu Bangguo (R), leader of China’s Parliament, in Beijing (File photo credit: NYT)

Chavez said that a recently agreed-upon Russian project, together with the Chinese deal, will increase oil output by 900,000 bpd. Venezuela is the Latin American partner the Russians wish Cuba had been, i.e., able to pay as it goes instead of being a leech. For China, this is another example of economic imperialism. They appear to be leveraging Chavez’ fears of American influence and military power and his worry about becoming too vulnerable because of his reliance on the Russians.

Raw material wealth provides options for creating diplomacy that balances multiples parties. Many weak countries with bright arrogant leaders thought they could maneuver along this path during the Cold War. Almost none succeeded for long. Chavez seems determined to learn everything the hard way for the first time himself.

Mexico: CNN Online reported the number of drug-related killings in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, so far this year has reached 1,647, surpassing the death toll for all of 2008, a city spokesman told CNN. A spate of killings since the weekend, including 12 on Tuesday, pushed this year’s death toll higher than the 1,607 recorded murders for last year, spokesman Sergio Belmonte said.

Killings in Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, began to spike in early 2008, when the Sinaloa drug cartel began a turf war with the Juarez cartel. In response, President Felipe Calderon sent federal troops to patrol the city.

mex_map_juarezAbout 7,500 troops will remain in Juarez at least for another six months at the mayor’s request, officials said. The army presence has helped curb the violent daylight shootouts that damaged the city’s image and threatened its economy, but killings and reprisals among street-level dealers continue to mount, Belmonte said.

On Monday, 635 new police officers graduated from the police academy and joined the ranks of a force that had been thinned by about 700 in the city’s effort to root out corrupt cops. The police department is now up to more than 2,600 officers.

Note: The Mexican Army is the security force of last resort against the cartels. Its mixed success in Juarez provides little grounds for expecting the security situation to improve there.

Authorities in Texas report a substantial decline this year in the value of drug and cash smuggling, consistent with the great recession. The decline in the regional economies is proving to be the most powerful ally for governments struggling against drug smuggling and illegal immigration. That is tonight’s good news, sort of.

Too good to omit: The McAllen (TX) Monitor reported customs officers arrested a woman after finding marijuana hidden in her truck’s tires during a routine inspection at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection statement.

“Axel,” a drug detection dog, smelled narcotics inside the truck’s four tires. An X-ray scan revealed anomalies. The officers who removed the tires found 16 packages of marijuana weighing 162 pounds and worth an estimated street value of about $130,000.

In another incident, U.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested a Corpus Christi man who tried to drive across an international bridge with more than $262,000 in cocaine, some of it hidden in a bag of potato chips, officials told the Brownsville Herald. Just another day for US CBP.

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