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Japan's Prime Minister Resigns as Party Chief After Crushing Defeat


JAPAN ELECTION: Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso says he will step down as leader of the country's ruling party after a crushing defeat in Sunday's parliamentary election. At a news conference Monday, the Japanese leader apologized and took responsibility for the loss, which gave the Democratic Party of Japan - DPJ - a landslide victory over the party that had dominated Japanese politics for more than 50 years. DPJ leader Yukio Hatoyama, who will almost certainly become the next prime minister, began talks Monday to select Cabinet ministers and form a new government. The official vote count gives the DPJ 308 of the 480 seats in the House of Representatives - the more powerful of Japan's two legislative bodies. Mr. Aso's Liberal Democratic Party will hold 119 seats. Mr. Hatoyama's party already controls the upper House of Councilors. The victory giving the DPJ an absolute majority breaks a political deadlock that has crippled parliament during Japan's worst recession since World War II.

TAIWAN-DALAI LAMA: Tibet's exiled spiritual leader praised Taiwan's democracy Monday, despite a pledge to keep clear of politics during a five-day trip intended to bring comfort to the victims of Typhoon Morakot. On the first full day of his visit to the island, the Dalai Lama said that while Taiwan should have very close links with mainland China, it should also enjoy democracy.
The Dalai Lama told reporters Sunday he is not a political separatist and said Tibet is fully committed to staying a part of China.
China's official Xinhua news agency quoted a Taiwan affairs official Monday as criticizing the island's opposition Democratic Progressive Party for inviting the Tibetan spiritual leader.

KOREAS-RELATIONS: South Korean officials say North Korea will normalize the flow of traffic to a joint industrial park in the North this week.
A spokesman from the South Korean Unification Ministry (Chun Hae-sung) told reporters Monday that beginning Tuesday, the border will open 23 times a day to traffic to and from Kaesong, up from the current six times.
The spokesman added that the number of people and vehicles allowed to cross the border at one time will no longer be restricted. Pyongyang has recently showed signs of trying to improve relations with Seoul on the divided Korean peninsula.

BURMA-UNREST: Chinese authorities said Monday that refugees who fled across the border from armed clashes in northeast Burma have begun returning to their homeland, but many say they still fear the Burmese army.
Refugees interviewed by the media said they do not trust Burma's claims that the violence is under control and are afraid to go back. Burmese authorities say the situation has returned to normal along the northeastern border with China, after days of fighting between Burmese soldiers and ethnic-Chinese Kokang militiamen. Burma's military government said Sunday the fighting killed 26 soldiers and eight rebels and that a pro-Burmese administration has taken control of the area.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani officials are investigating an explosion at a border crossing with Afghanistan that set ablaze at least 16 supply trucks and fuel tankers bound for NATO troops. Police suspect a bomb planted under a fuel tanker exploded late Sunday at the Chaman crossing in Baluchistan province. The blaze then spread to the other trucks. Sources say at least one person was wounded in the incident. Witnesses report hearing gunfire before the explosion, and police say emergency crews were fighting the fire into Sunday night. Hundreds of trucks, many loaded with NATO supplies, have been stuck on Pakistan's side of the border. The Chaman crossing had been closed for two days because of a dispute between Pakistani and Afghan customs officials relating to the inspection of goods.

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