- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2007

JAPAN

Embattled Abe defends policies

TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday defended his goal of developing a more assertive foreign policy as he battled dwindling support just weeks ahead of a key election.

The conservative leader only briefly mentioned his education reforms requiring schools to teach patriotism and his plans to rewrite the pacifist constitution — two of the issues at the heart of his electoral agenda.

Instead, he spent most of the 20-minute speech talking about pension reform, a sensitive issue for Japan’s graying population, particularly after a scandal over lost pension records that has weighed heavily on Mr. Abe’s popularity.

HONG KONG

Tsang stays mum on democratic reforms

Hong Kong Chief Executive Donald Tsang pledged yesterday to engage more with the public on heritage conservation as he began his second term in office.

But in a speech to Hong Kong lawmakers, he refused to offer details of his plan to introduce more democracy in the territory, where tens of thousands took to the streets Sunday to demand greater freedom on the 10th anniversary of Britain’s transfer of power to Beijing.

Mr. Tsang declined to discuss the details of his pledge to introduce a more democratic system, despite repeated questions from legislators.

SOUTH KOREA

First troops arrive for Lebanon mission

BEIRUT — An advance party of about 60 South Korean troops flew into Beirut yesterday to join the reinforced U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon charged with monitoring the volatile border region with Israel.

South Korea is joining the multinational peacekeeping operation, which has been reinforced since last summer’s devastating war between Israel and Lebanon’s Shiite group Hezbollah, at a time of heightened alert.

A spokesman for Seoul’s embassy in Beirut said the rest of the troops would follow by the end of the month, bringing the deployment to about 350 out of a total U.N. force of more than 13,000.

VIETNAM

Large monkey colony boosts survival hopes

HANOI — Scientists have found the world’s largest-known population of an endangered monkey species in central Vietnam, increasing its chances of survival, conservationists said this week.

Surveys since 2005 by the leading environmental monitoring groups recorded at least 116 of the tree-dwelling gray-shanked doucs, listed as one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates.

The species has been recorded in only five central Vietnamese provinces. Fewer than 1,000 are thought to exist, and until this week’s discovery, only one other population with more than 100 animals was known, officials said.

CHINA

Latest blast leaves dozens dead, injured

BEIJING — A blast ripped through a karaoke parlor and bath house in northeastern China, killing 25 persons and injuring 33 others, state news outlets reports yesterday.

Xinhua news agency said the cause of the Wednesday night blast in Tianshifu township in Liaoning province was being investigated. Several employees and the wife of the parlor owner were being questioned, it said, without saying whether they were suspects. The parlor owner was killed.

China has suffered a string of blasts, fires and accidents in shopping malls, movie theaters and other public places despite repeated government promises to improve safety.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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