- The Washington Times - Friday, January 10, 2003

Japan woos Putin for clout with Pyongyang
MOSCOW Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Russia could play a "vital role" in resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis as he arrived yesterday for talks with President Vladimir Putin that will also touch on the Russo-Japanese territorial dispute over islands near Sakhalin and Hokkaido.
Mr. Koizumi will hold his fourth formal meeting with Mr. Putin at the Kremlin today as the two neighbors drawn closer by tensions over North Korea's nuclear aspirations cautiously maneuver toward normalizing relations.
"Russia traditionally has had close relations with North Korea, and we hope that it can play a vital role in helping regulate the situation," Mr. Koizumi said in a front-page interview with the Russian daily Izvestia.
But a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman said Pyongyang's security fears regarding the large U.S. military presence in South Korea had to be respected.
"One should understand North Korean concern," said Alexander Losyukov in comments on a government Internet site, adding that "putting pressure on North Korea is the wrong approach."

Jihad threat to persist if al Qaeda is dismantled
SINGAPORE The city-state's government warned yesterday that even if the United States succeeds in dismantling al Qaeda, radical Muslim groups in Asia would continue to pursue its agenda of global jihad, posing a serious security threat.
In a 54-page report on the threat of terrorism and the regional Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah, the Ministry of Home Affairs said that while that group's plans have been thwarted in Singapore, the island nation could face retaliation attacks for detaining more than a score of its members last year.
Jemaah Islamiyah's objective is to create an Islamic state centered in Indonesia that would include Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Singapore and Brunei.
The deadly October bombings in Bali are believed to have been carried out by the group.

Weekly notes
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri yesterday ordered a fact-finding team to investigate a pulp plant that human-rights activists say is behind attacks on residents who have demanded its closure. The company is PT Toba Lestari, previously known as Pt Inti Indorayon Indonesia, ordered shut in 1999, which is planning to soon reopen operations in Porsea, North Sumatra. More than 1,000 firefighters battled 40 bush fires raging across the alpine region of Victoria in southeastern Australia yesterday as blazes also burned in three other states. Lightning sparked most of the fires in Victoria, the capital territory around Canberra, and New South Wales state.

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