An Australian decision to send an extra 450 troops to Iraq to protect Japanese engineers there was not taken in exchange for a free trade deal with Tokyo, Prime Minister John Howard said yesterday after critics questioned his motives. \nHoward's decision this week went against a two-year-old promise not to increase Australian military strength in Iraq. The prime minister said he made it after personal approaches from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and British leader Tony Blair. \nThe 450 troops will replace withdrawing Dutch soldiers in safeguarding Japanese military engineers who are carrying out humanitarian work in southern Iraq. Australia has about 900 troops in the Middle East, but only 300 in Iraq. \nThe opposition Australian Greens Party claimed Howard offered the extra troops ahead of a planned visit to Japan in April as part of a strategy to convince Tokyo to agree to a free trade deal. \nBut Howard said that neither a free trade pact nor any other economic trade-offs were discussed with Koizumi. \n"Australia will continue, separate and apart from this decision, to negotiate with Japan on things of that kind," Howard told Japanese public broadcaster NHK in a television interview. "But in no way did I say to the Japanese government that if we do this, will you do something else -- it's not like that." \nJapan, Australia's biggest export market, would not be asked to contribute to the A$300 million (US$236 million) a year cost of keeping the additional troops in Iraq, Howard said. \n"There is only one source of remuneration for Australian troops and that is from the Australian government acting on behalf of the Australian people," Howard said in the interview. \nThe Howard government has always insisted that its foreign policy is separate from trade considerations. \nHowever, many see a free trade pact between Australia and the US as Washington's reward to Canberra for sending 2,000 troops to Iraq.
LOST AT SEA: Survivors of a sunken Cambodian ship said they floated for two days in open waters, while a UN official said that traffickers might continue undeterred Chinese survivors from a boat that sank near a Cambodian island, killing three people and leaving eight missing, said they embarked on what they believed would be a short-term fishing job and ended up without food and water aboard the vessel, and their belongings were taken away. Cambodian authorities said on Friday they rescued 21 people one day after the boat small wooden fishing vessel sank near Koh Tang, a Cambodian island close to the maritime border with Vietnam. Nine more people were rescued by the Vietnamese and three bodies were recovered by Cambodia, leaving eight people still missing, Preah Sihanouk provincial
SOUTH CHINA SEA: Despite differences on some matters, Marcos has pledged to foster closer ties with China, calling the relationship ‘advantageous’ to both nations The Philippines is interested in renewing talks with China on joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea to expand and diversify its sources of energy, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said in an interview. The Southeast Asian country seeks a compromise with China, which is claiming parts of the South China Sea that are within Philippine territory, Marcos said, stressing that any agreement must not contravene his nation’s laws. While the Philippines and China could not agree on which nation’s law would apply, “we continue to explore, perhaps there can be other ways that we can do it,” Marcos
Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin (胡錫進) on Sunday said that as China ponders its COVID-19 policies, epidemic experts need to speak out and China ought to conduct comprehensive research and make any studies transparent to the public. Hu’s unusual call on Chinese social media for candor and transparency earned him 34,000 likes on the popular Sina Weibo microblogging platform, as well as frank responses from commentators in a normally tightly policed Internet quick to censor voices deemed a risk to social stability. China’s top leaders warned in May amid the COVID-19 lockdown of Shanghai and widespread restrictions in the Chinese capital, Beijing,
Standing in line to try to buy food, Rekha Begum is distraught. Like many others in Bangladesh, she is struggling to find affordable daily essentials such as rice, lentils and onions. “I went to two other places, but they told me they don’t have supplies. Then I came here and stood at the end of the queue,” said Begum, 60, as she waited for nearly two hours to buy what she needed from a truck selling food at subsidized prices in the capital, Dhaka. Bangladesh’s economic miracle is under severe strain, as fuel price hikes amplify public frustrations over rising costs for