- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

SOUTH KOREA

U.S. forces, hosts prepare war games

SEOUL — American and South Korean forces will conduct annual joint military exercises for two weeks starting Aug. 23, the U.S. military said.

The exercises, dubbed Ulchi Focus Lens, will draw units from the South Korean armed forces, U.S. troops based in South Korea and additional American forces sent to the Korean Peninsula from outside, the military said.

The computer simulation-driven exercises, which will be held till Sept. 3, are part of a year-round training program to “evaluate and improve combined and joint coordination” between the two forces, it added.

About 37,000 U.S. troops are deployed alongside 700,000 South Koreans under a Combined Forces Command to deter communist North Korea’s 1.1-million-strong army.

JAPAN

Tokyo to seek return of Russian-held isles

TOKYO — The Japanese government will negotiate with Russia the return of the Russian-held islands claimed by Japan before considering a trip by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the islands, top government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda said.

“We will negotiate for the return to begin at diplomatic levels. This is a reasonable step to be taken,” he said.

THAILAND

Mosque attackers may escape punishment

BANGKOK — Army commanders who ordered an assault on a mosque that left 32 Muslim militants dead were under extreme pressure and should not be punished, Thailand’s interior minister said.

Bhokin Bhalakula said the nation’s armed forces needed a morale lift after the widely condemned April 28 massacre, even though officials accepted that excessive force was used to crush therebellion.

“I want all parties concerned not to seriously press for punishment of the commanders who ordered the attack on that day since they were under heavy pressure, and also it will cause further unhappiness,” the minister said.

CHINA

Guangzhou airport to rival Hong Kong’s

BEIJING — The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou opened a huge new international airport this week capable of handling 25 million passengers a year in a direct challenge to neighboring [R]Hong Kong’s role as an [R]Asian hub.

The first flight took off from the $2.4 billion state-of-the-art Baiyun International Airport yesterday, making China’s third-largest city a major player in Asia’s aviation market.

Guangzhou, capital of the booming southern Chinese province of Guangdong, has been waiting for years to replace its existing airport, watching while rival cities such as Beijing and Shanghai received major upgrades.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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