TAIWAN - CHINA: Taiwan and China have reached an agreement to establish permanent offices in each other's territory. A spokeswoman for Taiwan's semi-official cross-Straits agency says the agreement was reached in Beijing today, as the two sides opened their first formal talks since 1999. China's official Xinhua news agency says the country's main envoy on cross-Strait affairs (Chen Yunlin) has accepted an invitation from his Taiwanese counterpart to visit the island this year. The negotiators are expected to sign an agreement during the talks to allow more Chinese tourists to visit Taiwan, and to begin regular Saturday and Sunday charter flights.
SOKOR - US BEEF: South Korea's trade minister will travel to the United States on Friday to discuss the controversy over U.S. beef imports that has led to massive street protests. Kim Jong-hoon told reporters in Seoul today that he and his American counterpart, Susan Schwab, will discuss revising an agreement reached in April that resumed imports of all U.S.-produced beef. South Korea stopped U.S. beef imports in 2003 after a single case of mad cow disease was detected in the United States. Imports of beef from U.S. cattle 30 months old or younger began last year.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A South Korean diplomat says North Korea is threatening to withdraw from nuclear disarmament talks unless the five other nations involved guarantee delivery of promised energy aid. Under a deal reached last year, Pyongyang agreed to disable its nuclear program and fully account for all of its activities, in exchange for energy and other humanitarian aid. But Hwang Joon-kook, Seoul's chief negotiator in the six-nation talks, says the isolated regime has complained it has completed nearly all of the work to disable its nuclear facilities, but has received only 40 percent of the promised aid.
JAPAN POLITICS: Japan's lower house of parliament has approved a resolution backing Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, one day after the upper house passed an unprecedented motion to censure him. The confidence motion was passed overwhelmingly today (Thursday) in the lower house, which is dominated by Mr. Fukuda's ruling coalition. Lawmakers with three opposition parties, including the main Democratic Party of Japan, boycotted the session. Wednesday's censure vote against Mr. Fukuda was the first against a Japanese prime minister in the country's postwar history.
AFGHAN CONFERENCE: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appealed to international donors for 50 billion dollars in aid to help rebuild his country over the next five years. Mr. Karzai launched the appeal in an address to a conference of more than 80 donor countries and organizations in Paris today. He urged donors to provide long-term support for security and infrastructure-building in Afghanistan. U.S. first lady Laura Bush told participants at the conference that the United States would contribute more than 10 billion dollars in aid. She said donor countries must not turn their backs on Afghanistan, saying the country has reached a "decisive moment" for its future.
ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's main opposition party says police have arrested the party's secretary-general, Tendai Biti. The Movement for Democratic Change says Biti was arrested today as he stepped off a plane in the capital, Harare. Biti had predicted his arrest shortly before boarding his flight in Johannesburg, South Africa. Political tensions are running high in Zimbabwe as the June 27th run-off between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai draws near. The state-run "Herald" newspaper today quoted Vice President Joseph Msika as saying that voting for Mr. Tsvanigirai would be like voting for war.
BUSH - EUROPE: U.S. President George Bush is meeting in Rome today with Italian Prime Minister Sivlio Berlusconi for talks expected to focus on Iran's nuclear program and Italy's military role in Afghanistan. Mr. Bush, on his final tour of Europe, is due to receive a warm welcome from the Italian leader. However, about a thousand anti-war activists and demonstrators protested in central Rome as Mr. Bush arrived on Wednesday and more protests are planned for today. President Bush meets with Pope Benedict on Friday.
BANGLADESH - POLITICS: Bangladesh's former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has left the country to seek medical treatment in the United States, a day after her release from jail on parole. Airport officials in the capital, Dhaka, say Ms. Hasina boarded a commercial flight bound for the United States today. The former prime minister is to undergo treatment for hearing damage she suffered during a 2004 assassination attempt. Bangladesh's caretaker government ordered Ms. Hasina's release from prison for eight weeks Wednesday after nearly a year in detention on corruption charges. Prosecutors say she will still be tried in absentia.
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