- - Monday, October 25, 2010

KOREA

Pentagon delays carrier exercise

SEOUL | The U.S. and South Korean militaries have postponed exercises in the Yellow Sea opposed by China, the Pentagon said Monday, blaming the delay on scheduling snags and not protests from Beijing.

China said the Pentagon’s plans to send the nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington to the joint exercise  set to take place between China and the Korean Peninsula threatened long-term damage to Sino-U.S. relations.

South Korean government and military sources told South Korean media that the decision to cancel the drill, which was loosely scheduled to take place late this month, was made to avoid creating problems with China and North Korea ahead of the Group of 20 summit, being held in Seoul on Nov. 11 and 12.

The allies made the decision “in a bid not to unnecessarily antagonize neighboring countries” before the summit, Yonhap news agency quoted a government source as saying.

But the Pentagon rejected that assertion, saying the decision was because of scheduling problems.

IRAN

Fuel set to be loaded in first atomic plant

TEHRAN | Iran will load fuel into the core of its first nuclear power plant on Tuesday, a senior member of Parliament said, and celebrations will be held to mark what is one of several important steps in the Islamic state’s nuclear program.

“The fuel of Bushehr power plant will be loaded to its core tomorrow,” the head of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency Monday.

Iran began fueling the plant in August, and officials have said the reactor will begin producing energy early next year, a delay of several months following the spread of a global computer virus believed to have affected mainly Iran.

Iran says the plant eventually will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity, about 2.5 percent of its power needs.

ISRAEL

Palestinians renew threat of action

BETHLEHEM, West Bank | The Palestinian president says Israel’s prime minister should not warn him against taking unilateral steps when Israel has been building West Bank settlements on its own for decades.

Mahmoud Abbas was referring to a statement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said the Palestinians have no options for peace except direct negotiations. Palestinians have been indicating they might ask for U.N. recognition of a state of their own if they give up on peace talks.

Mr. Abbas said Israel has been taking one-sided measures for decades in the West Bank.

INDONESIA

Major earthquake spurs tsunami warning

JAKARTA | A powerful earthquake hit off western Indonesia late Monday, briefly triggering a tsunami warning that sent thousands of panicked residents fleeing to high ground. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

The 7.7-magnitude temblor struck at a depth of 13 miles off Sumatra island, said the U.S. Geological Survey.

At least five towns in the provinces of Bengkulu and West Sumatra were badly jolted, officials and witnesses said, as were the nearby Mentawai Islands.

Areas closest to the epicenter of the quake were sparsely populated, and there were no reports of damage or casualties, said Ade Edward, a disaster-management agency official.

A 5.0-magnitude aftershock hit less than an hour after the original quake, and the region remained on alert for more jolts. A 6.1-magnitude aftershock followed, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

POLAND

Politicians get guards after activist killed

WARSAW | Polish officials say bodyguards have been assigned to protect some politicians after officials found that the man who killed an opposition party activist last week had a hit list.

The attacker fatally shot a low-ranking member of the Law and Justice Party Oct. 19 and shouted during the attack that he wanted to kill party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, brother of the president killed in a plane crash earlier this year. The plane crash revealed bitter political divisions in Poland.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Monday that security has been stepped up for some politicians but wouldn’t say for whom.

Left-leaning former Prime Minister Leszek Miller and two lawmakers said they had been assigned bodyguards.

JAPAN

Ties to India closer as China threat grows

TOKYO | Japan and India pledged closer strategic ties between Asia’s second- and third-biggest economies in talks Monday as Tokyo struggles to offset the risk of its growing dependence on giant rival China.

Trade and investment flows with India have been unspectacular as Japanese firms focus on business with China and Southeast Asia, but recent Sino-Japanese tensions have underscored the risk of overreliance on China’s dynamism to help Japan’s stalled economy.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan endorsed a bilateral economic partnership deal and urged speedy agreement on a civil nuclear pact that would give Japanese firms access to India’s fast-growing market.

They also decided to seek cooperation in developing, recycling and finding substitutes for rare-earth minerals and rare metals, used in goods such as electronics and auto parts. Japan’s government has expressed concern that China is holding back shipments of rare earth after a recent territorial row.

“India is the world’s biggest democracy, and it currently has the world’s second-biggest population. Its growth potential matches that of China,” Mr. Kan told reporters after meeting Mr. Singh. “Japan-India ties have great possibilities.”

Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated sharply last month after Japan detained a Chinese trawler captain whose boat had collided with Japanese patrol ships near a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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