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The U.S. wants North Korea to adhere to a broken 2005 agreement requiring verifiable denuclearization in exchange for better relations with its Asian neighbors, particularly South Korea and Japan.

The talks also could touch upon long-standing issues such as food aid to the chronically impoverished North, reuniting separated families on the Korean Peninsula, and recovering the remains of troops missing in action.

INDONESIA

Panetta lauds China on Taiwan arms sale

NUSA DUA — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Sunday praised China for what he said was a restrained response to an arms sale to Taiwan, saying he hoped for improved military cooperation with Beijing.

“I guess I would commend them for the way that they’ve handled the news of that sale to Taiwan,” Mr. Panetta told reporters in Indonesia, on the first stop of an Asian tour.

“I think we’d given the Chinese a heads-up as to what was going to take place, and in the end I think they handled it in a professional and diplomatic way and we appreciate that,” Mr. Panetta said in rare praise for Beijing.

China repeatedly had condemned a $5.85 billion U.S. deal to upgrade Taiwan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets. After the deal in September Beijing warned it would damage military ties with Washington and impact military exchanges.

“My hope is to improve our military to military relationship with the Chinese,” Mr. Panetta said.

In his first trip to the region since taking the helm in July at the Pentagon, Mr. Panetta, the former CIA director, began his tour in Indonesia before heading to Japan on Monday and South Korea on Wednesday.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan ‘beside’ Pakistan if U.S. ever attacks

KABUL — Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said if the United States and Pakistan ever went to war, his country would back Islamabad, drawing a sharp rebuke Sunday from Afghan lawmakers who claimed the country’s top officials were adopting hypocritical positions.

The scenario is exceedingly unlikely and appears to be less a serious statement of policy than an Afghan overture to Pakistan, just days after Mr. Karzai and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Islamabad must do more to crack down on militants using its territory as a staging ground for attacks on Afghanistan.

“If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan,” Mr. Karzai said is an interview with private Pakistani television station GEO that aired Saturday. “If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”

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