SOUTH Korea ended Cabinet-level talks with Japan yesterday and said both sides made a breakthrough in resolving the human rights and economic issues dividing the two wary neighbors. Seoul officials said Tokyo agreed to improve the legal status of the 650,000 Koreans living in Japan, a legacy of Japan's 45-year colonial rule of Korea. Both sides also agreed to increase economic ties.
``The meeting can be seen as a breakthrough in finalizing all pending issues between South Korea and Japan, which will further cement the two nations' friendly relations and cooperation,'' South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Ho-joong said.
At a news conference in Tokyo, Japan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Taizo Watanabe said South Korea agreed with its strategy for talks with North Korea on forging diplomatic relations. He added that Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu would visit Seoul in early January.
Singapore names prime minister
Goh Chok Tong was formally named as Singapore's new prime minister yesterday. President Wee Kim Wee asked him to form a government following the resignation of Lee Kuan Yew after 31 years in office.
Mr. Lee, who masterminded Singapore's transformation from a colonial outpost to a thriving metropolis, will formally end his term as the world's longest-serving prime minister today when Mr. Goh is sworn in. In a brief ceremony Wee told Goh that ``you are the person who is able to command the confidence of the majority of members of parliament. I hereby appoint you as prime minister and invite you to form the new government of Singapore.''
Papua New Guinea inquiry
Citing reports of torture and extrajudicial executions, Amnesty International appealed Monday for an independent inquiry into human rights abuses on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Island.
``There must be immediate and impartial investigations into all reports of torture, ill-treatment, and unlawful killings and their results made public,'' the London-based international human rights group said. It said most abuses occurred during fighting between the government and the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army from June 1989 to March 1990.
Government forces pulled out of Bougainville in March and the rebel army declared independence. It seeks $11.8 billion compensation for environmental damage caused by Australian-controlled copper mines on the island. Amnesty claimed soldiers and riot police had killed and tortured scores of people.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu invited international lawyers yesterday to examine the Amnesty International allegations. ``The national government has made it abundantly clear that human rights abuses by any party in Papua New Guinea are intolerable,'' said Mr. Namaliu.
Vietnam pushes anticorruption campaign
Communist Party newspaper Nhan Dan said that more than 18,000 officials - from bank directors to policemen - had been fired, tried, or disciplined since the anticorruption campaign began in July.
Vietnam's leaders are hoping to chart a new path for one of Asia's most economically backward states. Party members said most of the present leadership would step down next year.
But they said abandoning one-party socialism was not an option. Instead, the party would overhaul its ranks and purge them of corrupt or incompetent officials.
The party newspaper said people were still reluctant to denounce their superiors and many corrupt officials had yet to be uncovered. ``People are still hesitant. They aren't quite convinced of the results of this campaign,'' the paper said.