- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

Pressing Japan

Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato is still resisting congressional pressure to get his government to lift its 16-month-old ban on U.S. beef, imposed after the mad cow disease scare in December 2003.

Mr. Kato this week met for the third time with members of the House Agriculture Committee, who want Japan to at least set a deadline for reopening its market to U.S. beef imports.

The ambassador, however, repeated his government’s position that it is waiting for a report from an independent Japanese food safety commission before lifting the ban. Japan was the largest importer of U.S. beef before the ban.

Mr. Kato told reporters that he ?understood the growing frustration in Congress.?

?The Japanese and U.S. governments share the need to resume imports as soon as possible,? he told Japan’s Kyodo News agency.

Committee Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, said, ?We have indicated that the matter is a very serious one. The level of frustration is very, very high.?

Rep. Jim Costa, California Democrat, hinted that Congress might attempt to retaliate against Japan.

?If this matter continues into the spring and into the summer, I told the ambassador, I’m very concerned about what type of action might take place.?

Wanted in Colombia

William Wood, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, is defending Washington’s decision to conduct its own investigation into a suspected drug-smuggling ring involving American soldiers at the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Bogota.

Mr. Wood said this week that five soldiers arrested last month had diplomatic immunity and will not be extradited to the South American nation, despite demands from Colombian legislators.

Mr. Wood called the arrest of the soldiers ?lamentable? and said the embassy ?will not tolerate corruption.?

He said the U.S. Army is conducting a ?serious investigation? in cooperation with Colombian authorities. Charges were dismissed against one of the soldiers because ?we are convinced he had nothing to do with the crime,? Mr. Wood said.

The ambassador cited a 1974 bilateral agreement in which the government of Colombia agreed to extend diplomatic immunity to U.S. military troops assigned to the embassy.

?The government of Colombia recognized this official status in writing several weeks ago,? Mr. Wood said.

Nevertheless, some members of the Colombian Congress are demanding that the soldiers be returned to face trial in Bogota.

?In practical terms, these military personnel committed the alleged crime in Colombia, and, according to our extradition treaty, which is bilateral, they should be tried here,? Congressman Gustavo Petro told reporters.

The five soldiers were arrested March 29 and charged with attempting to smuggle 35 pounds of cocaine aboard a U.S. military airplane.

Linked to Libya

North Korean nuclear material was discovered in Libya, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea said yesterday, citing U.S. intelligence reports.

Ambassador Christopher Hill told the Associated Press that the material originated in North Korea but that officials do not know whether Libya paid for it directly.

?There is physical evidence that the material that arrived in Libya had started its journey? in North Korea, he said, without identifying the nuclear material.

Mr. Hill, who served as the top U.S. envoy to international talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, referred to the difficulty of dealing with the isolated Stalinist nation.

?This is not a regime that gives you a lot of confidence that they know where to draw the line,? he said.

North Korea declared in February that it no longer will attend the talks, which include the representatives of the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea.

Mr. Hill is returning to Washington to assume his new duties as assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected].

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