Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

World News Quick Take

AGENCIES

■ North Korea

Reactor to unload fuel rods

Pyongyang is planning to unload fuel rods at its Yongbyon reactor within the next three months in what would be a significant boost to its nuclear weapons capability, US academic Selig Harrison said yesterday in Beijing. He said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan told him during a meeting last week in Pyongyang that the North would unload the rods "beginning this fall, and no later than the end of the year." Removing the fuel rods is "a significant new development because it underlines that North Korea is enhancing its weapons capability," said Harrison, director of the Asia program at the Washington-based Center for International Policy. He has been an occasional visitor to North Korea, whose government has often used him to convey messages to the outside world. Officials would neither confirm nor deny the that a nuclear test was being planned, he said.

■ Malaysia

Mahathir chastises Lee

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused Singapore's elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) of hypocrisy for claiming that Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority was being marginalized, news reports said yesterday. ``You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever,'' Mahathir said, referring to Lee late on Friday in a speech to supporters in Terengganu state. "But when [Lee] goes to China, the Chinese there don't want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don't think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalized by Chinese in the world," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the national news agency, Bernama. Lee was reported to have said recently that Singapore's neighbors "have problems with their Chinese.

■ South Korea

US could pull jets

The US has threatened to move its jet fighters out of the Korean peninsula unless Seoul offers a new, exclusive firing range for US airmen within a month, reports said yesterday. The warning from Lieutenant General Garry Trexler, deputy head of US troops in South Korea, was construed as an ultimatum to South Korea ahead of high-level security talks in Washington next month. "I think we are very close in coming to closure on this issue, but if it's not done within the next 30 days, we'll be forced to send aircraft which are critical to the deterrence of this peninsula off this peninsula," Trexler said.

■ Philippines

Kidnap victim released

Government negotiators have won the release of the kidnapped daughter of a southern Philippine university president nearly two months after she was seized by suspected Muslim militants. Grace Gonzales, a 19-year-old deaf-mute, had been seized on Aug. 2 near her home in southern Zamboanga city. The al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group was suspected for the abduction. She was handed over late on Friday on nearby Basilan island to Akhmad Bayam, a former Muslim rebel commander. After being reunited with her family, the girl was flown by an air force helicopter to a military hospital for a medical examinations.

■ Japan

Looking at the sun

Japan yesterday put into orbit Solar-B, a satellite which will measure the Sun's magnetic field. The satellite's three telescopes -- one optical, one X-ray and one ultraviolet -- will get the closest look yet at the Sun's magnetic fields and help scientists get a better understanding of the violent solar activities that affect the Earth. It will orbit the Earth for three years and spend three-quarters of the time in direct sunlight. The satellite was launched from the Uchinoura Space Center in southern Japan in cooperation with the US and European space programs, which will assess the data to complement their own research. Solar-B is scheduled to start its solar observation in two months.

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