- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 1, 2010

CHINA

Officials welcome visit by Pentagon chief

BEIJING | China said Thursday that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is welcome to visit at an appropriate time, just weeks after it rejected a proposed trip by him.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted the deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army as saying Mr. Gates was welcome.

“We still welcome him to visit China at a time which is workable for both sides,” Gen. Ma Xiaotian was quoted as saying when asked whether a visit by Mr. Gates was possible in the “coming months.”

Xinhua did not give a reason for the change.

Relations between the world’s most powerful military and the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s biggest army, have been strained recently, with Chinese leaders especially angry over the Obama administration’s decision in January to go ahead with arms sales to Taiwan worth $6.4 billion.

In Singapore in early June, Mr. Gates said China’s military was a roadblock to better overall relations between the United States and China.

SOUTH KOREA

N. Koreans sentenced in assassination plot

SEOUL | Two North Korean army majors were sentenced to prison Thursday in South Korea for plotting to assassinate a high-profile defector who once mentored North Korea’s leader.

The Seoul Central District Court handed down 10-year sentences to each of the men after convicting them of violating South Korea’s National Security Law.

The defendants - Kim Myong-ho and Dong Myong-kwan - entered the packed courtroom under heavy security, handcuffed and wearing beige prison clothes. They have seven days to appeal the verdict.

They were arrested in Seoul in April in connection with a plot to kill Hwang Jang-yop, 87, a former senior member of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party who defected to South Korea in 1997.

North Korea has denied the assassination plot, accusing South Korea of staging it to intensify anti-Pyongyang sentiment.

NEPAL

Maoists stake claim to new government

KATMANDU | Nepal’s Maoists staked their claim on Thursday to lead the troubled country’s next government, a day after the prime minister resigned under intense pressure from the former rebels.

The Maoists, who waged a bloody 10-year insurgency against the state before entering mainstream politics and winning 2008 elections, say that as the largest party in parliament, they should be at the helm of a new government.

“We have decided we will try to garner support from the other parties for a government of national unity led by us,” party spokesman Dinanath Sharma told Agence France-Presse after a meeting of senior Maoist leaders early Thursday.

Outgoing Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal tendered his resignation to the president late Wednesday after a live television address in which he said he wanted to end a long political stalemate.

CHINA

Google says China blocks search service

BEIJING | Google Inc. said one of its Web-search features was blocked in China on Thursday as the company awaited Beijing’s verdict on whether to renew its operating license amid tensions over censorship.

Mainland users were unable to use the search giant’s “suggest” feature, which offers suggestions for possible results as they start to type a word, the company said.

“It appears that search queries produced by Google Suggest are being blocked for mainland users in China,” said Google spokeswoman Jessica Powell in an e-mail. “Normal searches that do not use query suggestions are unaffected. As always, we will keep our China status page updated with the latest information.”

Google’s relations with Beijing have been tense since the U.S.-based search giant said in January it no longer wanted to cooperate with Chinese Web filtering.

Google closed its China-based search engine March 22 and began routing users to its unfiltered Hong Kong site. But the company said this week it will stop the automatic switching because the government objected and threatened to revoke its operating license.

The company has received no word from Chinese regulators on the status of its application to renew the license, Ms. Powell said.