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Guinea-Bissau heads to polls to elect new leaders

Voters in Guinea-Bissau head for the polls Sunday in search of a president and parliament to return stability to a country plagued by drugs and upended by a military coup. The polls cap four decades of chaos caused by a series of mutinies since Guinea-Bissau won independence from Portugal, and commentators have called for the new regime to finally bring the military into line.

Japan, S. Korea to discuss 'comfort women' before Obama visit

Japan and South Korea will hold talks this week to try to improve frosty relations before President Barack Obama visits both the US allies during an Asian tour, it was announced Sunday. The two governments "have decided to engage in intensive discussions on various subjects at various levels" to improve conditions surrounding relations, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement. Junichi Ihara, head of its Asia and Oceania affairs bureau, will visit Seoul on Wednesday for a meeting with his Korean counterpart, the statement said.

USFK offers 1.7 pct pay hike for Korean employees

By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Forces Korea said Friday it will offer a 1.7 percent pay raise for its Korean employees starting May, after their union threatened to launch a strike over their long-frozen wages later this month when U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit. The USFK commander, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, said in a letter that the U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday approved a 1.7 percent pay raise for about 12,000 Korean employees, which is the maximum allowed for this year by U.S. law.

S. Korea, Israel to jointly develop UAVs in wake of N. Korean spy drones

SEJONG, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Israel will launch a joint program to develop new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this year, South Korea's commerce minister said Friday, in an announcement that came just hours after Seoul said North Korea was behind the spy drones discovered near the tensely guarded border. "South Korea and Israel have long cooperated in joint research and development projects," Yoon Sang-jick, minister of trade, industry and energy, said while meeting with reporters here.

S. Korea, U.S. carry out live-fire exercise

POCHEON, South Korea, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States on Friday carried out a live-fire exercise near the border with North Korea as part of their annual joint drill aimed at enhancing military readiness, the Eighth U.S. Army said. About 350 Korean and American soldiers participated in the drill held at Rodriguez Firing Range in Pocheon, north of Seoul, featuring a wide array of Army aviation, artillery, armor and infantry assets.

No breakthroughs on trade deal for Australia PM in China

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Friday that he hoped a free trade agreement with China would be signed before November, offering little progress on a deal at the center of his visit to his country's largest trade partner. Abbott, whose week-long trip to North Asia includes stops in Japan and South Korea, has put trade atop his agenda. In Japan on Monday, he clinched a basic trade deal to cut import tariffs during a visit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China premier: Free trade talks with S. Korea at 'critical' stage

BEIJING, April 11 (Yonhap) -- Negotiations between South Korea and China aimed at forging a bilateral free trade pact have entered a "critical" stage, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, calling for the two nations to speed up the process of talks to reach a "high-level" agreement. Li made the remarks during a meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a regional economic forum on China's southern island of Hainan, according to a statement released by China's foreign ministry on Friday.

China premier: Free trade talks with S. Korea at 'critical' stage

BEIJING, April 11 (Yonhap) -- Negotiations between South Korea and China aimed at forging a bilateral free trade pact have entered a "critical" stage, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said, calling for the two nations to speed up the process of talks to reach a "high-level" agreement. Li made the remarks during a meeting with South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won on Thursday evening on the sidelines of a regional economic forum on China's southern island of Hainan, according to a statement released by China's foreign ministry on Friday.

S.Korea, US launch largest-ever air drill

South Korea and the United States kicked off their largest-ever joint air drill on Friday at a time of elevated military tensions with North Korea. The so-called "Max Thunder" exercise, which is held twice a year, will last until April 25 and involve 103 aircraft and 1,400 service personnel, a South Korean air force spokesman said. "In numerical terms, it's the largest exercise of its kind that we've done," the spokesman told AFP. The last Max Thunder drill held in October-November last year involved 97 aircraft and some 1,000 troops.

Chinese envoy says U.S. is giving 'mission impossible' on N. Korea

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON, April 10 (Yonhap) -- The top Chinese envoy here accused the U.S. Thursday of blackmailing Beijing with regard to the North Korea issue. "We are very often told that China has such an influence over DPRK and we should force the DPRK to do this or that, otherwise the U.S. would have to do something that will hurt China's security interests," Cui Tiankai, Chinese ambassador to Washington, said at a conference on bilateral cooperation hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace. The U.S. is giving China a "mission impossible," he stressed.
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