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ASIA AND THE PACIFICVietnam will accept any boat people forced to return from camps in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, the Hong Kong-based Asiaweek magazine quoted Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet as saying in an interview published yesterday.... Japan will send two chemical-weapons experts to join a United Nations mission to search for and destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the daily Tokyo Shimbun reported yesterday. It would be the first time that Japanese military personnel had participated in a UN mission, it said.... President Corazon Aquino signed a law yesterday loosening government control over the Philippines's 73 provinces, spread across more than 7,000 islands. She said the law is designed to establish "the vision of a Filipino nation of self-reliant communities." ... China plans to cut production and sale of cigarettes and ban smoking in offices, on public transportation, and in other public places.

ECONOMY AND BUSINESS In Seattle, the Boeing Company, moving cautiously after President Bush's announcement of cutbacks in several of its defense programs, said it started its yearly hiring freeze Oct. 2 instead of Nov. 1 and that it would run for an indefinite period.... The Group of Seven industrial nations have no clear view of how to help the Soviet Union cope with its foreign debt, US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady said yesterday in Tokyo.

EUROPE Finland and the Soviet Union start talks in Moscow Monday to revise a pact on military cooperation. The existing pact, signed in 1948 and running up to 2003, requires Finland to protect the Soviet northwest flank from attack by Germany or any German ally. Finnish Foreign Minister Paavo Vayrynen has said an updated treaty is expected to omit military cooperation commitments and be similar to general cooperation agreements Moscow recently signed with Germany, France, and its former East European allies.... An Austrian and a Kazakh cosmonaut returned to earth yesterday after an eight-day trip to the Soviet space station Mir. They touched down in Kazakhstan in a Soyuz spacecraft together with a Soviet cosmonaut returning from a five-month stint on Mir.

LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN For the first time since the "Re-contra" movement surfaced in April, the Sandinista army - under the orders of President Violeta Chamorro - sent troops after former contra guerrillas in central Nicaragua, officials in Managua said. A group of about 80 contras detained 24 army troops and took their weapons last Saturday.... Fausto Zapata, an Institutional Revolutionary Party governor in Mexico's state of San Luis Potosi, has resigned following widespread allegations of fraud in his disputed election on Au g. 18. Waves of protests have wracked the area since Zapata was declared the winner over Salvador Nava, a combative 77-year-old opposition leader.

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