- The Washington Times - Friday, March 29, 2002

Japan's lawmakers target waste in government

TOKYO Japan's parliament has approved a trimmed-down national budget, giving a lift to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's efforts to rescue the nation's finances from years of wasteful spending.

Parliament's upper house made the $610.7 billion budget law, marking the second straight year of belt-tightening for the developed world's most heavily indebted nation.

The prime minister said the new budget opened the way for the economic revolution he had promised.

"This year is the year reforms really kick in," Mr. Koizumi told at a news conference at his official residence on Wednesday. "The opposition says we haven't achieved anything, but we're moving forward steadily."

Referendum set in Papau New Guinea

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea Lawmakers in Papua New Guinea unanimously approved legislation that paves the way to an independence vote for the nation's troubled island province of Bougainville.

The legislation granting Bougainville autonomy and the right to an East Timor-style referendum on independence in 10 to 15 years must now be approved by U.N. inspectors.

The inspectors have been patrolling the island in eastern Papua New Guinea as part of a peace-monitoring mission set up after nine years of civil war, which left 20,000 dead, ended in 1997.

American sentenced in Chinese court

BEIJING An American woman has been jailed for life on charges of swindling $24 million from Chinese state banks, a newspaper said.

Li Xiaoyuan was convicted by the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court of defrauding two banks in 1997 and 1998 using forged letters of credit, the Beijing Times said. It reported that an accomplice, You Weijian, was sentenced to 12 years.

The report didn't say when the two were arrested or when the trial took place. It said Li was an American of Chinese descent, but didn't say where she was born or where she lived.

Japan court rejects Allied POW lawsuit

TOKYO A Tokyo court has rejected a demand for compensation by a group of Allied soldiers and civilians held captive by the Japanese during World War II.

The lawsuit was filed in January 1995 by seven plaintiffs on behalf of about 20,000 former prisoners from veterans and civilian groups in Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

In its ruling, the Tokyo High Court said all compensation claims had been resolved in 1951 with the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, according to court spokesman Kazunori Ubukata.

Japan forced POWs to work in mines, shipyards and jungles inviolation of international law. Many POWs were beaten; some were executed. Thousands of women across Asia were also forced to be sex slaves for Japanese troops.

Weekly notes

Rolf Eckrodt, the DaimlerChrysler AG executive sent in to lead a turnaround at scandal-tarnished Mitsubishi Motors Corp., was named Wednesday as president and chief executive of Japan's fourth-largest automaker. … The youngest son of former Indonesian dictator Suharto smiled and joked with his attorney on Wednesday as prosecutors in his murder trial showed weapons that they said belonged to him. Hutomo Mandala Putra, known as Tommy Suharto, is accused of masterminding the assassination of a Supreme Court judge who had convicted him of graft.

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