- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

CHINA

Giant neighbors announce new projects

BEIJING — China and Russia tightened their strategic embrace this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced several energy agreements here, but Moscow remains wary of drawing too near to its rising neighbor, analysts said.

“It’s a booming relationship, but starting from a very low point,” said Bobo Lo, a specialist on Russian foreign policy at Chatham House in London. “Putin’s visit shows a much more businesslike approach to relations, but there’s the paradox that the better the relationship becomes, the more Russians worry about China.”

JAPAN

U.S. base changes involve burden sharing

TOKYO — Japan and the United States opened another round of talks yesterday on relocating U.S. military bases, aiming to reach an accord before next month, despite opposition in Japan to the cost.

The two-day meeting in Tokyo is the latest exchange of views on the planned realignment, designed in part to ease the burden on communities hosting U.S. forces, especially in Okinawa.

The plan, supposed to be finalized by next Friday, is opposed by residents, who wanted a bigger withdrawal and accuse U.S. troops of spreading noise and crime.

AUSTRALIA

Navy fighters sink Pyongyang drug ship

CANBERRA — Two Australian fighter jets bombed and sank an impounded North Korean cargo ship yesterday in what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said was a strong message to Pyongyang about its involvement in drug running.

The 4,000-ton Pong Su was impounded in 2003 after it led the Australian navy on a 680-mile chase off the southeastern coast after being spotted unloading part of a 330-pound shipment of heroin on a secluded beach.

Weekly notes …

Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar arrived in Rangoon yesterday on an Association of Southeast Asian Nations mission to assess political reform in Burma. During a visit until tomorrow, he is to meet with Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Soe Win, Foreign Minister Nyan Win, Chief Justice Aung Toe and Maj. Gen. Htay Oo, secretary of the state-sponsored social organization the Union Solidarity and Development Association, official sources said. The official itinerary, however, does not include meetings with the junta’s top leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe, or pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest…. The trial of four U.S. Marines charged with raping a woman in the Philippines last year was postponed yesterday after the judge said he was voluntarily withdrawing from the case. The trial will be delayed until a new judge is chosen. The four sailors, who are in the custody of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, deny the charges.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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