- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

SOUTH KOREA

Abductee in China after fleeing North

SEOUL — A South Korean abductee has escaped from North Korea after more than 30 years in the communist state and is now in China, an activist said yesterday.

Choi Wook-il, 67, fled the North last month and is in a “safe place” in the northeastern Chinese city of Yanji, said Choi Sung-yong, the head of a group of relatives of South Koreans reported to have been kidnapped by the North.

Choi Sung-yong said he orchestrated the escape and has asked the South Korean government for help in bringing the abductee home. He said the government has promised to cooperate but has taken no action.

THAILAND

Rumors of coup sweep Bangkok

BANGKOK — Rumors of a new coup d’etat swept Bangkok last night but were denied by the interim government and military officials in the capital, where tensions remained high after a string of New Year’s bombings that killed three persons.

Army commander Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, who heads the military council that seized power in a bloodless coup in September, called the reports of a coup “impossible” in an interview on Thai television.

On Sept. 19, the military staged its first coup since 1991, ousting elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Since the coup, the military has suggested that Thaksin supporters have been trying to destabilize the country in a bid to regain power. After the bombings, the military implied that Mr. Thaksin’s supporters were responsible, but he denied the charge.

TAIWAN

High-speed rail set to debut

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s long-delayed high-speed rail system geared up yesterday to welcome its first paying passengers amid lingering safety concerns and embarrassing ticketing glitches.

The $15 billion system, which begins limited service today, will cut rail travel time between Taipei and the southern city of Kaohsiung from four hours to 90 minutes.

First conceived of more than 20 years ago, it represents a colossal effort to improve transportation for Taiwan’s 23 million people, while saving energy and preserving the environment.

PHILIPPINES

Left-wing groups plan protests at Asia summit

MANILA — Philippine left-wing groups will stage demonstrations against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during a summit of 16 Asian nations being held on the resort island of Cebu next week, an activist said yesterday.

The summit, to be attended by leaders from China, Japan, India, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and 10 Southeast Asian nations, will be held from Jan. 13 to 15. Foreign ministers and senior officials will meet at the venue from Jan. 10 to 12.

A spokesman for the umbrella left-wing group Bayan said the protesters will focus on political killings and perceived insult to Philippine sovereignty after the government transferred custody of a U.S. Marine facing a rape charge to the U.S. Embassy.

Local rights groups say more than 700 left-wing activists have been killed since Mrs. Arroyo took power in 2001. Police say the real figure is 136 and accuse the groups of exaggeration.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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