- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

JAPAN

Space agency eyes first Mercury probe

TOKYO — Japan is set to give its final approval next month to a joint project with the European Space Agency to land mankind’s first probe on Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, officials said yesterday.

Only one U.S. probe has approached Mercury, which has high temperatures and strong radiation. The dense planet could hold the key to understanding how the solar system was formed.

The Space Activities Commission “is expected to give formal approval in mid- or late July,” said an official at the ministry’s space policy planning division. ”

The Japanese and European space agencies plan to use Russian Soyuz rockets to send three probes between late 2010 and early 2011. The probes are expected to reach Mercury in 2014.

AUSTRALIA

Solomons intervention will top 2,000 troops

SYDNEY — An Australian-led intervention planned for next month to prevent the collapse of the Solomon Islands government will involve more than 2,000 police and soldiers, officials said yesterday, making it one of the biggest military deployments in the South Pacific since World War II ended in 1945.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the intervention force would involve about 200 police, 200 combat troops and some 1,800 military support personnel. He said it would include a contingent from New Zealand and, he hoped, other Pacific states.

Senior Australian and New Zealand security officials met in Canberra yesterday to iron out intervention details before a meeting here Monday of regional foreign ministers, including that of the Solomons.

SOUTH CHINA SEA

Vietnam, Indonesia agree on sea boundary

HANOI — Vietnam and Indonesia signed an agreement here yesterday on their maritime boundary in a potentially oil-rich area of the South China Sea after 25 years of negotiations.

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien and his Indonesian counterpart, Wassan Wirajuda, signed the accord in the presence of Tran Duc Luong and Megawati Sukarnoputri, the heads of state of these two members of the Association of South East Asian Nations.

Mr. Luong and Mrs. Megawati also agreed on a framework to boost bilateral political and economic cooperation and signed bilateral trade and visa-exemption pacts.

The sea boundary is in the southern part of the South China Sea, east of the Malaysian Peninsula and north of the island of Borneo.

Weekly notes …

Politicians in Cambodia hit the campaign trail yesterday for July 27 national elections closely watched by the international community amid fears of a recurrence of political violence. Prime Minister Hun Sen hinted he would ditch as junior coalition partner the royalist party of longtime foe Prince Norodom Ranariddh, whom he had accused of dishonesty. … Malaysia has moved to curb software piracy by controlling the prices of compact discs and digital video discs, as well as computer software, reports said yesterday. Domestic Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted by the Star as saying the Cabinet has decided to put the items under the Price Control Act so they can be sold at reasonable prices, thereby discouraging the public from buying pirated versions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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