South Korea joins exercises
The South Korean and Australian defense ministers signed an agreement yesterday to deepen military cooperation between the two countries through increased joint exercises. The move comes after the US announced last month that it would increase its military presence in Australia and conduct more joint exercises across the northern Australian Outback as it counters a growing China, as well as the threat posed by North Korea to security in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korean Defense Minister General Kim Kwan-jin and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, agreed during yesterday’s inaugural bilateral meeting to stage a regular new naval exercise starting next year.
Old cutter to protect waters
The Philippines has relaunched an old US Coast Guard cutter as its biggest and most modern warship to guard potentially oil-rich waters that are at the center of a dispute with China. President Benigno Aquino III witnessed the commissioning of the 3,390 tonne Philippine navy frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar in an austere ceremony yesterday that he said symbolized his country’s struggle to modernize its underfunded military despite many obstacles. The newly repainted warship can carry a surveillance helicopter and is mounted with anti-aircraft guns.
No ‘Brother No. 2’
The former deputy leader of the Khmer Rouge told Cambodia’s UN-backed war crimes court yesterday that he was never called “Brother No. 2,” a nickname he said was “too big” for him. Giving evidence at his landmark atrocities trial, alongside two other senior members of the brutal 1970s regime, Nuon Chea said there “was no such thing” as a hierarchy numbering system within the Khmer Rouge. “I am not ‘Brother No. 2,’” the 85-year-old said, though he admitted he was the deputy secretary of the party and “one step below” leader Pol Pot — who died in 1998 and was widely known as “Brother No. 1.” “I have never used ‘Brother No. 2’ and in the party no one called me ‘Brother No. 2’ at all,” the elderly defendant said.
Traders protest baskets
Thousands of produce traders at Sri Lanka’s main market are protesting in the streets demanding that the government withdraw a new rule requiring all vegetables and fruits to be transported in plastic baskets instead of sacks. Business came to a standstill yesterday at the central market in Colombo, the capital, when the traders started a sit-in on a main road. They were protesting a rule that makes the use of plastic baskets in transporting vegetables and fruits compulsory. The government says the move was to stop colossal wastage through damage while transporting produce in sacks. The traders say the rule is not practical because the plastic baskets hold smaller quantities of vegetables and take up too much space in their shops.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Temblor rattles windows
A strong earthquake struck the South Pacific island nation yesterday. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries and no tsunami alert has been issued. The US Geological Survey says the magnitude 7.3 quake struck yesterday 87km southwest of Lae, on the country’s northern coast. People inside the country’s parliament building in the capital, Port Moresby, saw windows rattling during the quake, but there was no apparent damage.