- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

NORTH KOREA

Masses threaten nuclear retaliation

SEOUL | Punching their fists into the air and shouting “Let’s crush them!” about 100,000 North Koreans packed Pyongyang’s main square Thursday for an anti-U.S. rally as the communist regime promised a “fire shower of nuclear retaliation” for any U.S.-led attack.

Several demonstrators held up a placard depicting a pair of hands smashing a missile with “U.S.” written on it, according to footage taken by AP Television News in Pyongyang on the anniversary of the day North Korean troops charged southward, sparking the three-year Korean War in 1950.

A new U.N. Security Council resolution passed recently to punish North Korea for conducting an underground nuclear test in May requires U.N. member states to request inspections of ships suspected of carrying arms or nuclear weapons-related material.

KYRGYZSTAN

Parliament OKs U.S. base deal

BISHKEK | Kyrgyzstan’s parliament unanimously approved a deal Thursday allowing the U.S. to continue using an air base crucial to military operations in Afghanistan, sharply shifting course months after ordering American forces out by August.

Lawmakers voted 75-0 to ratify the agreement, providing a much-needed boost to the U.S.-led coalition as it ramps up military operations against Taliban and al Qaeda militants and struggles to maintain other supply routes into Afghanistan. Five deputies abstained.

Approval was expected after Kyrgyz authorities announced a deal Tuesday to let the U.S. use the Manas air base as a transit center at more than triple the previous rent. Despite changes to the wording, the deal apparently will continue to allow the U.S. to transport weaponry, ammunition and troops as well as nonlethal military supplies.

The decision effectively reverses an eviction order under which U.S. forces were to leave by Aug. 18.

KAZAKHSTAN

NATO meeting first for region

ASTANA | NATO held its first meeting in Central Asia on Thursday to discuss issues ranging from Afghanistan to Caspian Sea cooperation.

Central Asia has gained significance for Washington as it boosts its Afghan force to fight the resurgent Taliban.

Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are, together with Russia, parts of a corridor along which the United States plans to supply its Afghan troops following attacks on convoys in Pakistan.

Earlier this week, Kyrgyzstan said its security service officers fought and killed five Islamist militants from a group long linked to Afghanistan’s Taliban.

EAST TIMOR

Park established for whales, dolphins

DILI | The government of East Timor says it plans to establish a national park to protect a bounty of dolphins and whales - some of them endangered species - recently discovered mingling and feeding off the coast of Asia’s youngest country.

But officials say they will need foreign assistance to preserve the area and develop ecotourism in one of the few places in the world with such numbers and variety of large sea mammals, thanks to its unusual geography and, possibly, to years of relative isolation.

Aerial surveys of the hot spot by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science recorded “an exceptional diversity and abundance” of dolphins and whales, according to findings recently handed to officials in Dili.

Funding is being sought from the Asian Development Bank, the newly established six-nation Coral Triangle Initiative and other foreign donors.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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