Friday, August 30, 2002

China chides Japan for germ-war response

BEIJING China is demanding that Japan “take a responsible attitude” toward its use of germ weapons on Chinese civilians after a Tokyo court acknowledged their use more than half a century ago, state media report.

“The facts are undeniable,” newspapers quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan as saying of Tuesday’s ruling in a lawsuit by Chinese who said they were injured or lost family members to germ testing.

Japan acknowledged that a germ warfare group, Unit 731, operated in China during the latter country’s civil war in the 1930s and 1940s but refused to give details. Historians said its victims might have numbered as many as 250,000.

Mr. Kong’s reported comments didn’t say what China wanted Japan to do, but newspapers said the plaintiffs criticized the Tokyo court for refusing to award damages. They sought an apology and $84,000 each. The judges said Japan’s post-World War II government is legally immune to such lawsuits.

Vietnamese premier pans pace of reforms

HANOI Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has criticized the pace of administrative reforms in recent years, arguing that Vietnam’s development was being delayed, official reports said yesterday.

“We should admit that administrative reforms have been sluggish and lack coordination. They have yielded limited results and fail to meet society’s needs,” he said in a speech reported by the Communist Party newspaper.

Mr. Khai said the administrative apparatus “remains a stumbling block and is not clean.”

Indonesia now willing to meet Aceh rebels

JAKARTA The government says it is willing to join another round of talks with Aceh separatist rebels next month, despite insisting earlier that the rebels drop independence demands.

Top security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, quoted in the Jakarta Post and the official Antara news agency, said the government was determined to settle the decades-old conflict through further talks in September.

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has said it would attend the talks in Geneva organized by mediators from the Henry Dunant Center.

N. Korea devaluation expected to widen gap

PYONGYANG, North Korea The drab routine of daily life in this bastion of Stalinism appears so far unaffected by economic reforms, but observers say that relaxing the command economy will only widen the gap between the rich and poor.

The communist state earlier this month devalued its won to 150 per U.S. dollar from a theoretical rate of 2.15.

Foreign diplomats and analysts see the devaluation of the state currency and easing of rationing as part of landmark, market-based reforms.

Weekly notes

Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said yesterday she would ask one of her predecessors, Fidel Ramos, to fly to Kuala Lumpur to help mend ties damaged by Malaysia’s reported mistreatment of illegal Filipino immigrants. An appeals court has overturned the corruption conviction and three-year jail sentence imposed in March on Indonesia’s central bank governor, Syahril Sabirin, a lower court spokesman said yesterday. “The Jakarta appeals court declared that Syahril’s corrupt actions are not proven,” the spokesman said.

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