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Asia-Pacific Hatches Cyber Attack Plan

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - Asia's top security forum on Friday announced sweeping plans to prevent cyber attacks on critical infrastructure and the abuse of online resources by terrorists. The Associations of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, which includes the United States, Russia and China and is known as ARF, moved to boost counter-terrorism measures at its annual meeting in Malaysia. The group adopted a statement saying that the misuse of computer resources by terrorists was a "destructive and devastating form and manifestation of global terrorism." It said the problem was made worse by increased connectivity betwen countries in the region, and that the 26 member nations would establish an ARF-wide alert network on cyber-related crimes. The network would "facilitate the real-time exchange of threat and vulnerability assessment and issuance of required warnings and patches," it said. Countries also pledged to share intelligence, expertise and skills on fighting cyber-crime, and look at laws to prevent terrorist attacks being planned or encouraged through computer networks. Member nations would also make efforts to draw up cyber-crime and cyber-security laws and implement national frameworks to address criminal and terrorist uses of online networks. Security experts say Southeast Asia is vulnerable to Internet-based attacks and that the region is not properly prepared for a high-tech assault. Analysts also say regional terrorist outfits are not yet capable of mounting such an assault, but that they are increasingly using the Internet to recruit members, raise funds and coordinate attacks. ey/sls/mc

Service: World News (ASI)


Asia, US Hold Talks Without Defiant North Korea

by Jun Kwanwoo

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged North Korea to rejoin negotiations on its nuclear programme Friday as 10 world powers held Asian security talks without the communist regime. Rice told the meeting in Kuala Lumpur that the United States was ready "at any time, at any place and without any conditions" to meet North Korea under a six-nation framework that began three years ago. But North Korea, which left the six-way talks in November and caused further outrage this month when it test fired seven missiles, said it would not return until US financial sanctions against it were dropped. Friday's 10-way dialogue involved North Korea's previous nuclear negotiating partners -- South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and Russia -- along with Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. The apparent compromise talks followed failed diplomatic efforts to sway North Korea at the ASEAN Regional Forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "We do need to deal with the security problems that are currently bedeviling the region, especially concerns about the nuclear program of the DPRK," Rice said, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "The launching of seven ballistic missiles on July 4-5 here in Asia that violated the self imposed nuclear moratorium was indeed a dangerous action," she said. North Korea -- which this week branded Rice an "imbecile" -- rejected a UN Security Council condemnation of the missile tests and said they were part of its legitimate right to self-defence. "It is sheer robbery to have unduly taken this issue to the UN Security Council and made it public," North Korean delegation spokesman Chung Sung-Il said. "Unless the United States lifts its sanctions on us, we will never, ever attend the six-party talks or other types of talks involving the six nations," he said. North Korea said it was also considering withdrawing from the ASEAN Regional Forum, one of the few diplomatic gatherings it attends. Asian nations tried to salvage something from the negotiations, saying that the 10-way talks were a one-off and that the six-party discussions should continue. China, which was angered when close ally Pyongyang's ignored its appeals to halt the missile tests, called for all sides to "increase contact" to breathe life back into the process. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Xiaoxing met his North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-Sun on Friday and later told reporters that the North was "willing to go back to the six-party talks but had conditions." "We met for over an hour. We had discussions on a wide range of topics. The content was rich," he said, adding that Paek had agreed on a need to continue the talks. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said: "China told us he (Li) tried to bring Paek to the meeting of 10 nations to the last minute." South Korea, which cut food aid to the North after the missile tests, urged Pyongyang to "come out of this self-imposed isolation," foreign ministry official Cho Tai-Yong said. However Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the wider 10-way talks, saying they were an "opportunity ... to broaden the focus region-wide." North Korea walked out of the talks in November after Washington accused a Macau-based bank of helping Pyongyang launder earnings from fake US currency, and told US financial institutions to stop dealing with the bank. The US says the clampdown on the bank is a criminal matter and should not be linked to the nuclear issue. Top US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said the counterfeiting was "dirty illicit activity." bur-dk/mtp

Service: World News (ASI)

Asia To Strengthen Civilian-Military Disaster Cooperation

by Martin Abbugao

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - Asia's top security forum, which includes the United States, China and Russia, plans to develop guidelines for civilian and military cooperation to ensure swift responses to natural disasters, officials said. The plan includes taking an inventory of the transport capabilities of the region's armed forces that can be used for humanitarian operations in the aftermath of a calamity, they said. Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum (ARF) adopted a statement on "disaster management and emergency response" at the end of their annual meeting here Friday. The statement said the ministers would "consider, as appropriate, the development of ARF general guidelines ... for the use of both civilian and military personnel within the ARF participating countries." Such guidelines however must be consistent with existing United Nations and ASEAN mechanisms on disaster management and emergency response, the document said. ARF groups the 10 ASEAN countries as well as the United States, Russia, Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, India and the European Union, among others. "The decision to develop standard operating procedures on civilian military cooperation for humanitarian operations, I think, is among the most important portions of the statement," said M.C. Abad, head of ASEAN's ARF unit. "It will allow for the use of military assets of ARF members for disaster relief... We will develop a database of these assets of the member ARF states," he told AFP. Officials said the move to work on guidelines was timely following a spate of major natural disasters that have struck the region. The latest was an earthquake-triggered tsunami on Indonesia's Java island this month that killed more than 680 people. On December 26, 2004, a massive earthquake off Indonesia's Aceh province sent giant waves crashing onto coastal communities bordering the Indian Ocean, killing 220,000 people. A landslide in February left more than 1,000 people dead in the central Philippines island of Leyte and a major quake in Pakistan last October claimed 73,000 lives. During the 2004 tsunami, military transport aircraft and ships from such countries as the United States, Singapore and Australia provided a crucial lifeline to the devastated areas in terms of search and rescue as well as relief operations. According to the document, ARF countries would promote coordination among donors, relief agencies and the global community in carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work, and coordinating with national disaster warning centres. They would also take measures to identify regional disaster risks and the capacities to manage these dangers and share information on them. On ASEAN's part, the bloc is discussing the establishment of a "standby force" comprised of military, police and civil defence personnel that can be deployed swiftly after a disaster, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said. "It is crucial in the sense that we should understand that our region is a disaster-prone region," he told AFP. ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong said disaster preparedness measures had been on the group's agenda especially since the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. "Most of the activities, working plans have all been tested out. It is something that we want to finish. (It's) good for our region because we have so many natural disasters," he said. mba/sls/mtp

ASEAN-ARF-DISASTER - 07/28/2006 19:37 - AFP
Service: World News (ASI)


Missiles and Toilet Diplomacy Draw Japan Closer To Neighbours

by Harumi Ozawa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28, 2006 (AFP) - Efforts to coax North Korea to nuclear talks may fail but officials say Japan scored a bonus from Asia's top security forum -- an improvement in its fraught relations with China and South Korea. Tokyo's ties with its East Asian neigbours have been at a low ebb during the past two years, largely because of rows over their World War II history and territorial disputes. China, invaded by Japan in the last century, has refused meetings wth Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi due to his visits to a shrine which honors 2.5 million Japanese dead including 14 top war criminals. And despite six decades of division, North and South Korea are united in their lingering bitterness toward Japan over its brutal 1910-1945 occupation of the Korean peninsula. However, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso was pleased after meeting Thursday with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts, Li Zhaoxing and Ban Ki-Moon, at Asia's regional security forum in Kuala Lumpur. "China's Li and South Korea's Ban both opened up more to me this time," Aso said after the one-on-one meetings. "It's much better than May in Qatar," when Aso met them last time, he said. Ironically the feuding countries appear to have been brought together by pariah state North Korea -- often a source of deep divisions -- and its test-firing of seven missiles earlier this month. The UN Security Council condemned the tests in a Tokyo-sponsored move and imposed weapons-related sanctions, even winning the support of North Korea's long-time ally China. "Foreign Minister Li said during the bilateral meeting that even if China and Japan had different opinions over the UN resolution (against the North) it was good as we adopted it after all," said a Japanese delegation official. Seoul, another key sympathiser of Pyongyang, mildly complained to Japan this week that Japan did not consult it over an initial tougher draft. Nevertheless, South Korea moved to suspend aid to impoverished North Korea. Japan left its neighbours to lead attempts to bring the North to six-nation talks on its nuclear programme on the sidelines of this week's Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional forum. North Korea walked out of the talks in November in protest at US financial sanctions. The talks group the two Koreas, China, Japan, the United States and Russia. "This is not the main battlefield," a top Japanese diplomat said, adding that Japan would pursue the North Korean problem in other ways. The Japanese official in charge of Chinese affairs admitted that Li brought up Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine with Aso, saying "honoring Class-A war criminals is a political obstacle that has not been solved." Publicly, however, China refrained from making an issue of it. Akira Kato, a professor of political science at Tokyo's Obirin University, said China and South Korea were keen to cool Japan after its harsh stance on the missile tests surprised observers. "China and South Korea don't want to push Japan to harden its attitude," Kato said. Domestic politics have also played a factor, Kato said. Aso is in the running to replace Koizumi when he leaves office in September and is keen to look good on the international stage Meanwhile, in a symbol of the new detente, there was also a new venue for one of the meetings between the Chinese and Japanese ministers -- a washroom at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. When China's Li Zhaoxing popped into the toilet during talks on Wednesday and discovered that Japan's Taro Aso happened to be inside, the two took the chance for a 20-minute chat, mystifying waiting journalists. "I just met Li in the toilet and we had a good discussion," Aso reportedly told other Asian ministers when he returned. A more formal meeting was held later in a nearby five-star hotel. oh/dk/sls/ag

ASEAN-JAPAN-EASIA - 07/28/2006 13:42 - AFP
Service: World News (ASI)



Rice at Asian Forum Amid NKorea Standoff

by Danny Kemp

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27, 2006 (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived for a regional security forum in Malaysia Thursday holding out little hope that North Korea would return to stalled talks on its nuclear weapons. Rice said en route to Kuala Lumpur from a failed Middle East peace conference in Rome that she did not anticipate any resumption here of the six-nation talks that have been on ice since November. Her North Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Paek Nam-Sun, was due here later Thursday, with no indication that he would respond to diplomatic efforts to get the communist country to the negotiating table. "I don't anticipate any six-party talks," she told reporters aboard her plane. Top US nuclear negotiator Christopher Hill said the other five countries involved -- South Korea, Japan, China, the United States and Russia -- were willing to take part but the North was "lost on the way." "We tried to invite the DPRK to come to a six-party meeting and they showed no interest and I think we therefore are unfortunately not going to be able to have any kind of six-party meeting here," Hill told reporters, referring to the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. However, China remained optimistic that its high-profile campaign to bring North Korea back to the meeting table still had a chance of success. "We very much hope that North Korea will participate," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu. North Korea, which has already dominated an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers meeting this week, walked out of the three-year-old talks last year in protest over US financial sanctions. Pyongyang provoked further outrage as well as condemnation by the UN Security Council when it test-fired seven missiles on July 5 that splashed into the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Rice has said that while in Malaysia she would follow up on the North Korea issue with the other participants in the six-way talks. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is also due in Kuala Lumpur along with the European Union's foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Police said snipers, sniffer dogs and hundreds of police were in place around the conference venue next to Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petronas towers. The South Korean, Japanese and Chinese foreign ministers joined forces Wednesday and Thursday to breathe life into the nuclear talks, despite underlying bilateral tensions. "The two most important things for us are that North Korea should not take extra measures to worsen the situation and also that the six-way nuclear talks should resume as soon as possible," officials quoted South Korean foreign minister and potential future UN chief Ban Ki-Moon as saying. The Asian powers and the United States have been considering other ways to tackle the issue, although they have disagreed about going ahead without North Korea, with both China and South Korea opposing such a move. US envoy Hill suggested that the talks could be broadened to include other countries, following a South Korean suggestion for multilateral talks also including Malaysia, Australia and Canada. "We are hoping to have a broader discussion on security in Northeast Asia," he said. China, North Korea's major ally, warned late Wednesday it was "seriously concerned" about the situation on the Korean peninsula. Earlier it had said that Friday was pencilled in as a potential date for the talks. Pyongyang dramatically upped the stakes this week, branding Rice a "political imbecile" in retaliation for her description of the missile launches as "completely irresponsible" and "dangerous." Meanwhile the US Secretary of State will face renewed pressure on the Middle East in Asia even as she canvasses support for US positions on North Korea, Myanmar and Iran's nuclear ambitions. Asian ministers have condemned Tuesday's Israeli air strike on a United Nations post in southern Lebanon, which killed four UN observers, and said they would raise the issue with Rice. bur-dk/sls/mc

ASEAN-NKOREA - 07/27/2006 15:32 - AFP
Service: World News (ASI)





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