sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Update

As we count down the days to Thanksgiving, there's a lot to be thankful for in the USA. Despite the problems we have at home, there are machinations elsewhere that rarely if ever are reported in the news. Here's a brief wrap.

North Korea

On 15 November, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) published a “Revolutionary Activity Report” entitled, “Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un Supervises Newly Developed Tactical Weapon Test.”
“Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea, chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, visited the test ground of the Academy of Defence Science and supervised a newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon test.” 
“After seeing the power of the tactical weapon, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un was so excited to say that another great work was done by the defence scientists and munitions industrial workers to increase the defence capability of the country and the weapon system whose development Chairman Kim Jong Il had chosen personally and directed step by step with his special attention paid to it was born at last.” 
“He added that the weapon is just like a posthumous weapon and he missed Kim Jong Il very much while seeing the great success of its test.” 
“Kim Jong Un highly praised the officials, scientists, technicians and munitions industrial workers for successfully conducting the test of an ultramodern tactical weapon, to which the Party has attached importance in ardent expectation.” 
“He expressed great satisfaction, saying the great success serves as another striking demonstration of the validity of the Party policy of prioritizing defence science and technology and the rapidly developing defence capability of the country and as a decisive turn in bolstering the fighting capacity of the Korean People's Army.”
This is the first time Kim has visited a weapons test site since the ballistic missile test a year ago this month, on 28 November 2017. The timing is a reminder that North Korean weapons development continues as usual. North Korea has made no commitment to reduce its conventional weapons research, testing or production.

No open sources reported the nature of the ‘ultramodern weapon.” The KCNA report states that the weapon was first developed under the direction and guidance of the late Kim Chong-il, to whom Kim Jong Un pays filial tribute. 

One of the major conventional weapons developments during Kim Chong-il’s tenure was the expansion of long-range artillery and multiple rocket launchers.

The list of officials accompanying Kim includes rocket expert Ri Pyong Chol and the commander of the Artillery Command, Colonel General Pak Jong Chon. Their inclusion suggests the weapons involves both technologies. North Korea has rocket -assisted artillery shells but is not known to have precision artillery weapons.

Following two threats to resume the byungjin policy of parallel development of nuclear weapons and socialist economic construction, Kim’s guidance visit is a deliberate provocation to get American attention. It sends the message that the warnings are serious. 

North Korea is waiting for the US to respond to its feel-good overtures by relaxing sanctions. Kim’s best American-handlers know that the use of a weapons test to get US attention is likely to backfire. Kim apparently wants to convey the tough guy image.

Kim’s patience has run out. He just signaled that he can walk away from the dialogue with the US. 

The KCNA article mentioned that the “ultramodern weapon” is a tactical weapon. It did not state who is the enemy in this new era of peace and reconciliation. The adjective “tactical” means the weapon is to be used for warfighting on the Korean Peninsula. That makes South Korea and US forces in South Korea the intended targets.

One strong inference is that the mission of the Korean People’s Army is unchanged. It clearly continues to receive resources to improve its capabilities to accomplish its mission, which is to unite Korea by force. 

South China Sea

On 15 November, the South China Morning Post reported that two US aircraft carrier strike groups with 12,600 personnel are conducting “complex”,” high-end” warfare drills in the Philippine Sea in a show of force and commitment to the region at a time when China is increasing its military maneuvers, the US Navy said on Thursday. 
The Commander of the US 7th Fleet said, “The increased presence of two carrier strike groups in the region highlights the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. As it has for decades, the U.S. Navy will continue to provide security in ways that promote regional stability and prosperity."
Philippine President Duterte said that China already is in possession of the South China Sea and wondered why the US was stirring up trouble.

This is the ultimate form of communication about freedom of navigation. The Chinese acknowledge the capabilities of the US Navy but are not deterred by them in defending Chinese claims to sovereignty.

Afghanistan

On 14 November, Taliban forces attacked police outposts in three districts of Farah Province. Members of the Farah provincial council said that up to 40 security force members have been killed and 60 others surrendered to the Taliban during the fighting in three districts in the province.

The Afghan security forces in Farah said more than 40 Taliban fighters were killed in the province in this time. 

In Charsadah District of Ghor Province, situation reports state that the district was under Taliban control for a month. On the 11th, relief forces reached Charsadah and recovered control of the district, killing nine Taliban fighters.

Tolo News reported on the 15th, “Security forces are facing equipment and food shortages in the district. Yesterday there was a fierce battle. Although there is no war now, the situation is still not back to normal,” said Abdul Hamid Natiqi, a member of Ghor provincial council.

Even in remote districts, Taliban groups are defeating local government garrisons. In Farah Province, the Taliban appear to have coordinated the timing of their attacks in order to complicated government relief decisions. 

Normally, the security situation in Ghor Province is dominated by tribal feuds among local warlords. The Taliban increased attacks in October to disrupt the elections. Apparently, they sustained the effort so as to take control of Charsadah District.

Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition has ordered a halt in its offensive to liberate Hodeidah. Fighting and air attacks have almost stopped.

A Houthi spokesman said Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are attempting to deflect international pressure. The Houthi official denied a ceasefire was in effect.

The Houthi accusation is accurate. The lull is in response to recent US and European pressure to end the civil war. 

Until the coalition forces capture Hodeidah, peace talks have no chance of success. The US pressure at this point won't help much of anything and it won't normalize the situation into a post-war type environment. The humanitarian crisis will continue.

Syria

Islamist fighters continue operations from the Idlib demilitarized zone. On 14 November, the head of the Russian center for reconciliation, Lieutenant General Savchenko, told reporters that militants have shelled the outskirts of Aleppo four times in the prior 24 hours from the Idlib de-escalation zone.

He said the shelling killed two Syrian soldiers and wounded one civilian.

Libya

On 14 November, fighting flared in Tripoli. Barricades and armed militias from Tarhuna appeared near Tripoli international airport after the arrival of delegations from the Palermo conference on Libya. 

One of the combatants was the Seventh Brigade - the rebel militia that lead fighting in September that caused nearly 120 deaths and over 400 wounded. The other primary combatant was the Abu Salim Central Security Forces brigade. This group supports Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj.

On 15 November, mediators restored the ceasefire.

The 7th Brigade apparently was protesting the failure of the Palermo conference to replace militia units in Tripoli with regular military units, of which the 7th claims to be one.

The Palermo conference was supposed to make progress in disarming militias and in Libyan reconstruction. The major agreement was to consolidate oil revenue in a single central bank to prevent militias from siphoning off the wealth. The crisis in Libya won't end anytime soon. It's part of the damage caused by the "Arab Spring" that Barack and Hillary were so proud of.