Cuba's National Assembly has named Defense Minister Raul Castro as president, ending nearly 50 years of rule by his brother Fidel Castro, but leaving the island nation on a communist path. Shortly after 76-year-old Raul Castro's election in Havana Sunday, the new president pledged to consult with his older brother on all major state decisions. Raul Castro has been running Cuba on a day-to-day basis since July 2006, when his brother's failing health was disclosed.
South Korean conservative Lee Myung-bak has become the nation's 17th president, and the country's first former businessman to hold that office. Mr. Lee took the oath of office today (Monday), promising to reinvigorate South Korea's economy. About 45-thousand guests, including nearly foreign dignitaries, attended the inauguration ceremony in Seoul. Among the guests were U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and several other Asian heads of state.
NOKOR-US: The New York Philharmonic has arrived in isolated North Korea, becoming the most prominent American cultural institution to visit the Stalinist state. The Philharmonic will present a concert Tuesday that will be broadcast live on North Korea's state-run TV and radio, where events are usually carefully produced to enhance the image of leader Kim Jong Il. The orchestra's arrival in Pyongyang came as the North criticized the United States and South Korea for planning to hold joint military exercises, saying the move could jeopardize talks on Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament.
PHILIPPINES-UNREST: The Philippine government has mounted a massive security operation in the capital of Manila today (Monday), ahead of planned protests against President Gloria Arroyo. On the 22nd anniversary of the ousting of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos, riot police and the military were on alert to discourage violence during rallies calling for Mrs. Arroyo's resignation. She has been defending her administration against allegations that her husband, along with the country's former election chief, accepted bribes and kickbacks connected to a 330 million-dollar telecommunications deal with a Chinese firm.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Indonesia today (Monday), for talks on improving military ties between the two countries. Gates told reporters before leaving Australia Sunday that strengthening relations with the democratic and secular Islamic country is very important. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world. The U.S. official will meet with Indonesia's president and defense minister to assess the country's military needs and possible purchases of U.S. weaponry.
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