Hopes for nuclear talks grow
South Korea's unification minister said yesterday recent diplomatic efforts by China and others had made the possibility of nuclear talks with North Korea "more tangible than ever." Jeong Se-hyun said at a business lunch he had told North Korea's delegation chief in an unprecedented three-hour session at recent ministerial talks Pyongyang had a small window of opportunity to re-enter multilateral talks rather than bilateral talks it favours with the US alone. He said he told the delegation chief it could be the North's last chance. Jeong said China's diplomatic efforts were crucial. "As a result, the possibility of reopening the dialogue and holding multilateral talks as soon as possible has become more tangible than ever," he said.
Solomons force approved
The Australian government formally approved yesterday the deployment of more than 2,000 troops and police to the lawless Solomon Islands, the biggest military operation in the South Pacific since World War II. "This is not some kind of colonial hangover exercise by Australia. It is a response to the request of a friend," said Prime Minister John Howard, but he said the operation ran the risk of casualties. The Australian troops and police are due to arrive in the Solomons capital, Honiara, tomorrow. Howard said the operation was expected to cost Australia between US$130 million and US$195 million annually.
Anwar's lawyers offer pledge
Jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim will not attempt to flee Malaysia or threaten national security if he is released on bail, defense lawyers said yesterday. Anwar is serving prison terms totaling 15 years on corruption and sodomy charges. He completed the corruption sentence in April and has applied for bail pending an appeal of the sodomy conviction. Defense attorney Karpal Singh urged a three-judge panel to approve the bail application, saying this would enable Anwar to temporarily travel to a German clinic to undergo specialized surgery for a back injury, which Anwar claims was caused in part by a 1998 police beating.
Maid deaths cause concern
Fifteen Indonesian maids have fallen to their deaths from their employers' high-rise apartments in Singapore this year, the Indonesian Embassy said yesterday. Kartika Prawati, an embassy official, said most of the deaths were still under investigation, but were largely believed to be the result of inadequate training. Some of the deaths apparently occurred while maids were hanging laundry or washing windows. She could not say how many were suicides. "It's mostly [due to] lack of training," said Kartika. "We have to improve the training they receive before they come to Singapore."
Korean twins start surgery
A pair of infant Korean sisters fused at the lower back underwent separation surgery yesterday at Singapore's Raffles Hospital -- despite the hospital's recent failed attempt to separate a pair of conjoined Iranian twins. The 4-month-old Korean twins went into surgery at 1pm, a spokeswoman with Raffles Hospital said on condition of anonymity. She provided no more details about the surgery, but said the hospital would hold a press conference later in the day. Local News Radio 93.8 said the operation could last between eight and 10 hours.