- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

SOUTH KOREA

Stealth jets arrive at American base

SEOUL — U.S. stealth fighters arrived in South Korea yesterday, the American military said, amid continuing speculation over a second North Korean nuclear test. A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said last week that activity had been detected at Punggye in northeast North Korea, near the site of the first test, but that there was no sign of preparations for a second detonation.

A squadron of radar-evading F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters and 300 airmen arrived at Kunsan Air Base, 167 miles southwest of Seoul, for a “routine” training deployment, said a U.S. Air Force statement in Seoul. Training deployments usually last four months.

The statement did not disclose the number of aircraft, all from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, but U.S. officials say a squadron usually has 15 to 24 fighter aircraft. About 29,000 American troops support South Korea’s armed forces of 680,000 against any attack from the North’s 1.1 million military.

AUSTRALIA

Protesters demand Guantanamo release

SYDNEY — Protesters demanded yesterday that the only Australian prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, be brought home immediately as human rights groups called on the fifth anniversary of its opening for the U.S. detention camp to be shut down.

A small group of protesters gathered outside government offices in Melbourne demanding the release of David Hicks, one of the camp’s first inmates, while human rights group Amnesty International planned vigils worldwide. “Bring David home, close Guantanamo now,” protesters chanted.

Mr. Hicks, 31, was arrested in Afghanistan in late 2001 and accused of fighting for the terror network al Qaeda. He is among 395 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects still being held at the U.S. naval base and is likely to be among the first to face trial. More than 770 suspects have been held there since 2001, of whom 10 have been charged with crimes.

CHINA

Beijing may give Tokyo wild ibises

TOKYO — Amid signs of a diplomatic thaw, China is considering giving several endangered wild crested ibises to Japan as a contemporary equivalent of doves of peace. Talks are under way for China to give its neighbor a few ibises as part of efforts to save the species from extinction, an official at Japan’s Environment Ministry said yesterday.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, are expected to announce the gift when they meet Sunday on the sidelines of an Asian summit in the Philippines. Japan and China have been cooperating in saving the species since 1985, when they started exchanging wild birds for breeding.

The Japanese crested ibis, called “toki,” was once widespread in East Asia, including China and the Korean Peninsula. Overhunting for its white plumes early in the last century radically reduced its population, and the species was listed for international protection in 1960. The last wild toki in Japan died in 2003.

Weekly notes

Communist Vietnam’s prime minister will become his country’s highest-ranking official to visit the Vatican when he meets Pope Benedict XVI this month. The Vatican said yesterday that Nguyen Tan Dung will have a private audience with the pontiff on Jan. 25. It could be the last stage before full diplomatic links between the Holy See and one of Asia’s biggest Roman Catholic countries after decades of tense relations, specialists said. … Angry mourners killed an Indonesian policeman in Palu yesterday when he passed through the funeral procession of a Muslim preacher shot during a police raid on Sulawesi island. Residents said the policeman was in uniform and riding a motorcycle when he encountered hundreds of people escorting the preacher’s body to the grave. He had not been involved in the early morning raid.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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