- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2008

NORTH KOREA

U.S. official holds talks on nukes

SINGAPORE | Top U.S. nuclear diplomat Christopher Hill said he had substantive talks with his North Korean counterpart Thursday, but wants to ensure that broader six-party talks next week zero in on the specifics of a deal.

North Korean nuclear envoy Kim Kye-gwan and Mr. Hill met in Singapore for the warm-up talks focused on how to verify the North’s earlier declaration of its nuclear activities.

“We have reviewed the major issues that we have all been working on - that is disablement, the fuel oil [issue] and the issue of verification of their declaration,” Mr. Hill told reporters. “We had a substantive discussion of all the issues that we expect to come up during the six-party talks next week.”



The two-day meeting in Singapore is expected to set the tone for six-party talks in Beijing next week, which will be one of the Bush administration’s last chances to score progress on the dispute before President-elect Barack Obama takes office.

AUSTRALIA

Prime minister picks security adviser

CANBERRA | Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appointed Australia’s first U.S.-style national security adviser Thursday as part of a major revamp of counterterrorism and national safety strategies.

But Mr. Rudd dropped previously announced plans to create a department of homeland security, saying that dragging several existing branches of government into one larger one would just add to red tape.

He appointed Duncan Lewis, a former commando and Vietnam War veteran who speaks Indonesian and commanded Australian peacekeeping troops in East Timor, as his first national security adviser.

In his first national security statement to Parliament, Mr. Rudd said terrorism, global warming and the global financial crisis were among a broad range of threats to Australia and outlined the government’s general strategy for dealing with them. He said the government would release a major paper describing its counterterrorism policy next year.

CHINA

Scientists to be sent into space

BEIJING | China’s military-backed space program will send scientists on future manned missions as its demand for technical expertise rises, state media reported Thursday.

Plans call for the program to begin setting up space laboratories after 2012, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

China’s space program is staffed mainly by military officers. The six astronauts that have traveled aboard China’s three manned missions have all been air force pilots.

Three more manned missions are planned before 2012 to prepare for the rendezvous and docking tasks required for constructing a space station.

China staged its first manned mission in 2003, becoming only the third country after Russia and the United States to launch a person into space.

PHILIPPINES

Manila sinking, experts say

MANILA | The Philippines capital and one of Asia’s most populous cities, Manila, is sinking and may go the way of Venice unless its people stop pumping groundwater for bathing and other needs, experts warned Thursday.

The phenomenon of subsidence, caused by the drying up of aquifers as a result of overextraction of water, threatens not only Manila but also nearby areas that have also seen rapid migration and development, said Fernando Siringan, a geologist from the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines.

In an article posted on the Environment and Natural Resources Department Web site, he said the metropolis of 12 million people faced potential water and marine product shortages, flash floods, and even infrastructure damage.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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