CLINTON - ASIA: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on her way to South Korea, after wrapping up her two-day visit to Indonesia Thursday.
Clinton briefly held talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at
the presidential palace in Jakarta, then visited a poor neighborhood
that is being revitalized with U.S. assistance funds, greeted by
hundreds of residents.
Clinton, who is on a four nation tour of Asia, told reporters after her
talks with Mr. Yudhoyono that the United States is determined to be
fully engaged in world affairs.
During an interview on a popular youth music show, Clinton pledged that
she and President Barack Obama will increase U.S. efforts to resolve
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: North Korea is stepping up its bellicose rhetoric against South Korea,
ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Seoul.
In a statement released Thursday by the official Korean Central News
Agency, a spokesman for the military's general staff says Pyongyang is
prepared for "an all-out confrontation" with its bitter democratic
South Korea's defense minister said Wednesday that North Korea will
conduct a test of its long-range Taepondong-2 missile within two or
three weeks. The missile is believed capable of reaching the
northwestern U.S. state of Alaska.
US - NATO: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says NATO members must join the United States and make a larger non-military contribution to Afghanistan, to bolster police training and drug enforcement efforts. Gates flew to the Polish city of Krakow for a two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers Thursday, during which the alliance's peacekeeping efforts in Afghanistan will be a major topic. Speaking to reporters before his arrival in Poland, Gates said he will ask NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan this year. However, he added that he expects the allies are more likely to limit their contributions to non-military assistance, to help the Kabul government create stronger civilian institutions.
US - KYRGYZSTAN: The Kyrgyz parliament has voted to evict U.S. forces from Manas Air
Base, a key supply point for Western forces fighting in Afghanistan.
The parliament overwhelmingly supported Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek
Bakiyev's decision to end U.S. access to the base Thursday, with a vote
of 78 to one. Mr. Bakiyev's Ak Zhol party dominates the assembly.
If Bakiyev signs the bill and the government issues an eviction notice,
the United States will have to leave the base within 180 days.
The Manas Air Base is the only base in the region open to U.S. forces.
US - ECONOMY: In his latest move to shore up the faltering U.S. economy, U.S.
President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced a $75 billion plan to
help millions of homeowners facing possible foreclosure.
The plan is meant to help people restructure or refinance their
mortgage loans so monthly payments are more affordable. The government
will subsidize modified loans to help avoid foreclosure in some cases
where homes have lost value.
The U.S. Commerce Department announced Wednesday that the number of new
homes under construction fell to a record low last month.
US - CANADA: U.S. President Barack Obama takes his first foreign trip Thursday since
becoming president, meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper
to discuss economics, the environment, energy, and Afghanistan.
Mr. Obama will meet with Mr. Harper in the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
There will be little time during his seven-hour visit to address any
subject in depth, but economic matters are expected to top the agenda.
Canada is the United States' largest trading partner and the largest
exporter of oil and natural gas to the United States.
IRAQ: A judge in Iraq has adjourned the trial of an Iraqi journalist who threw shoes at former U.S. President George W. Bush.
The judge said the trial of Muntazer al-Zaidi will resume on March
12th. He said the court needs the time to determine if Mr. Bush was on
an official visit to Iraq when the shoe-throwing incident occurred in
The postponement came soon after al-Zaidi's trial began Thursday in
Baghdad. He faces up to 15 years in jail on charges of assaulting a
Al-Zaidi's lawyers say they will argue the charges should be dismissed.
JAPAN - POLITICS: Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has apologized for appointing former
Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa, who resigned after coming under fire
for appearing intoxicated at a recent international conference.
Mr. Aso made the apology Thursday during an appearance before the budget committee of the lower house of parliament.
Nakagawa appeared drowsy and slurred his speech during a news
conference last week in Rome, where ministers from seven of the world's
biggest industrialized nations were meeting.
ASEAN - HUMAN RIGHTS: Rights groups are urging the Association for Southeast Asian Nations to
do more to protect human rights, especially in military-ruled Burma.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday in Bangkok, human rights
activists called on members to use ASEAN's newly established human
rights body to improve conditions in the region.
Activists applauded ASEAN for creating the human rights body, which was
officially established late last year, but say that so far it appears
unwilling to take on human rights violators like Burma's military
ASEAN leaders will hold their annual summit in Thailand's resort town
of Hua Hin next week.
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