- The Washington Times - Friday, April 12, 2002

Pyongyang reticent about talks with U.S.

SEOUL North Korea said yesterday it did not believe the right "environment" existed to start diplomatic talks with the United States, as a U.S. envoy arrived on the Korean peninsula.

But the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said such talks are "necessary" and "will be resumed anytime when conditions are created," the official Korean Central News Agency reported. The spokesman said Pyongyang would be willing to resume talks if Washington let North Korea "have the dialogue on an equal footing." KCNA is monitored in Seoul.

U.S. envoy Jack Pritchard arrived in South Korea yesterday to prepare for a visit to the North. He said he plans to contact North Korean officials in New York next week and hopes to visit the North as early as next month, South Korea's national Yonhap news agency reported.

Koizumi visits China to mend fences

BOAO, China Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said yesterday he did not regard China as an economic threat as he kicked off a three-day visit to his giant neighbor designed to thaw bilateral relations.

Mr. Koizumi said he would tread carefully over the sensitive issue of a suspected North Korean ship that sank in China's exclusive economic zone in December after exchanging fire with Japanese coast guard vessels.

His visit to a forum on China's southern island of Hainan comes as relations between Japan and fast-growing China have shown signs of warming after a year of disputes.

Timor ex-police chief praised at trial

JAKARTA, Indonesia The highest-ranking Indonesian officer implicated in a wave of violence that swept East Timor in 1999 defended its former police chief yesterday, telling a court the former chief saved the lives of thousands of U.N. personnel.

Maj. Gen. Adam Damiri also told the judges that East Timor's Nobel laureate Bishop Carlos Belo owed his life to the head of the police after groups of machete-wielding militia attacked his home.

Vietnam announces cash aid for Laos

HANOI Vietnam will provide its cash-strapped neighbor Laos with millions of dollars to develop a closed military zone in the northern mountains that has been a hotbed of anti-communist insurgency since the Vietnam War.

A total of $35.9 million will be disbursed over the next three years to finance a development master plan for the Xaysamboun special zone drawn up by a state-owned Vietnamese firm, official media said yesterday.

Even though Vietnam is the world's second-largest recipient of overseas development assistance after China, all of the Vietnamese aid will be provided on a preferential or nonrefundable basis.

Weekly notes

South Korea plans to provide 200,000 tons of fertilizer to North Korea this month in a humanitarian gesture to bring the communist state back to the negotiating table, the Unification Ministry in Seoul announced yesterday. The Philippine Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 10-3 decision that a U.S. counterterrorism training exercise for Filipino soldiers was legal, but it also reminded American troops that they could not engage in combat.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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