This year's amendments include the declaration of a new maritime identification zone for regulating all fishing in the area bounded in red -- from the coast of Hainan southwards along the Philippine Islands down to the coast of Borneo and northwards skirting Vietnam. The boundaries encompass 772,204 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of sea.
According to the regulation, "All foreign persons and foreign fishing boats that enter waters administered by Hainan Province to conduct fishing or fisheries surveys must have pre-approval from the appropriate PRC (People's Republic of China) State Council office." The new regulation is effective 1 January 2014.
Comment: The new maritime zone was declared six days after China announced the new air defense identification zone that covers the Senkakus. The fishing industry has not protested the new regulation, probably because it is not yet in effect and, thus, has not been tested. The effect of the regulation is to treat the sea and island areas as China's territorial waters, rather than international waters.
Last year on the same date, Hainan announced more sweeping regulations for effectively administering the sea areas under its jurisdiction. Those regulations empowered Hainan's public security border defense units to board or interfere with all foreign ships - not just fishing ships -- under six conditions that range from "trying to pick a quarrel" in the 12 nautical mile territorial sea; to illegal landing on islands; violations of national sovereignty or propaganda activities that threaten national security; to other actions that threaten the management of public order in coast and border areas. These are models of subjectivity.
Authorities on Hainan clarified last year that they would only enforce the regulations within the 12 nautical mile zone, including the 12 nautical mile zone around all the islands that China claims. That led to the standoff with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal.
The new developments this year - the zone declaration and the targeting of foreign fishing ships - suggest an incremental expansion of enforcement should be expected in 2014. One expert concluded last year that, on balance, the new regulations asserted a legal basis for boarding or seizing foreign ships, but did not portend a major change in Chinese law enforcement practices. That was last year.
NightWatch judges that this year the treatment of fishing boats will be more aggressive. If so, it will change the fundamental economics of fishing and mineral exploration in the South China Sea. In addition, it will increase the inevitability of confrontations over sovereignty with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Inasmuch as this declaration supports long term Chinese development plans, another expansion of jurisdictional claims may be expected in 2015 and every year thereafter until all foreign ships should expect to be monitored and China's neighbors get used to it.
North Korea: New threat. The secretariat of the National Defense Commission sent a fax in which it threatened to attack South Korea "mercilessly without notice" in response to rallies held in downtown Seoul by conservative groups this week.
The message warned that North Korea would strike if "the provocation against our highest dignity is to be repeated in the downtown of Seoul."
A South Korean government official announced today that, "A threat was delivered yesterday that the North will attack the South with no forewarning. This message was addressed to the Blue House national security office."
Using the West Sea military communication line, "The reply was sent through wired message and in the fax message (sic), we warned that if North Korea is to carry out provocation (sic), we will firmly retaliate," said Kim Min-seok, the spokesman for South Korea's Ministry of National Defense.
Comment: This most recent threat is a response to the burning in effigy of Kim Il-sung, Kim Chong-il and Kim Jong Un in front of the Korea Telecom building in Gwanghwamun on Tuesday. The South Korean protestors said, "Kim Jong Un, who has ascended the throne as the devil of the world, has mercilessly executed the husband of his aunt, and is now an explicit danger to the South."
The North always reacts to insults by protestors in the South. This is the first such instance since the execution of Chang Sung-taek. The threat to attack mercilessly is normal. The threat to attack without warning is elevated because it implies the use of missiles. Forward forces north of the Demilitarized Zone are under constant close surveillance. Their military status is normal, according to South Korean defense officials.
Post Execution Cleanup. Defector sources have reported that following the execution of Chang Sung-taek a roundup of his extended blood relatives has begun. They are being sent to political prison camps.
According to one source, "At around 10pm on the night of the 13th, the day after Jang was executed, armed men from the Ministry of State Security arrived unannounced in the Pyongchon area of Pyongyang where a lot of Chang's relatives lived. They took away a few hundred people. As far as I know they were taken off to political prison camps."
"It wasn't just his close relatives who were taken away, but distant relatives too like the relatives of his father," the source added. "In these circumstances even his relatives outside Pyongyang aren't safe."
Comment: The Pyongyang government continues to insist that conditions are normal. In one sense, the roundup of relatives of an executed traitor is normal. If they are not executed themselves, they will remain in prison work camps until they die or the regime changes.
Turkey: A high profile corruption and bribery investigation is unsettling Turkish politics. More than 88 people have been arrested including at least 30 senior police chiefs. The charges are bribery, abuse of office and manipulation of tenders. At least some of the charges stem from the confrontation over Gezi Park last summer.
Prime Minister Erdogan has called the investigation a dirty political operation against his administration sponsored by unidentified foreigners - presumably the government of Israel.
Comment: Conservative, secular Kemalists have attempted to bring down or at least obstruct the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for years, most sensationally in the Ergenekon plot involving senior military officers.
Turkish political commentators and outside experts say that the latest political attack is the result of a split between Erdogan and one of his strongest backers, a moderately Islamist Turkish Muslim leader who has set up some 900 Islamic schools in multiple countries. Erdogan wants to close all private schools, according to some accounts.
The issues are essentially internal politics in Turkey, but they affect the economic outlook and the political stability of the country. A large scale purge of police and security officials is being conducted by the financial crimes authorities. This is the most serious challenge to Erdogan to date and it arises from within his own coalition.
Central African Republic: Update. After a brief lull following the arrival of French forces, clashes recurred in Bangui, resulting in 19 dead and more than 50 wounded. The French have reinforced Bangui with troops from the Marine Infantry.
Comment: The unrest is fundamentally between Christian and Muslim militias and the security situation is much worse thatn the French anticipated. They planned a six month stabilizing operation in cooperation with Chadian and Burundian troops. The operation will take longer than six months. The blood lust has not spent itself.
End of NightWatch ###