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U.S. gov't offers condolences over S. Korean ferry sinking

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON, April 16 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. government expressed its condolences Wednesday to the families of those who were killed in the sinking of a South Korean ferry. "We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives on board the South Korea ferry, the Sewol," Marie Harf, the State Department's deputy spokeswoman said at the start of a daily press briefing. She described the incident as a "terrible tragedy."

Six dead, 290 missing in S. Korean ferry sinking

SEOUL/JINDO, South Korea, April 17 (Yonhap) -- At least six people are dead and nearly 300 others are still missing early Thursday, after a ferry sank off South Korea's southwestern coast less than a day earlier, officials said. Rescuers, mainly military divers, continued a desperate search for survivors. The 6,825-ton Sewol, heading to Jeju Island with 475 people on board, capsized Wednesday morning after a distress call. They include 375 students and 14 teachers from Ansan Danwon High School on a four-day field trip to the island. Among them, 179 have been rescued.

Six dead, 290 missing in S. Korean ferry sinking

JINDO/SEOUL/WASHINGTON, April 17 (Yonhap) -- At least six people were killed, with the fate of 290 others unknown, in the sinking of a South Korean ferry off the country's southwestern coast, officials said early Thursday. As military divers and other rescuers resumed a desperate search for survivors shortly after noon, two more bodies were recovered, the Coast Guard announced. The death toll is feared to soar, as search-and-rescue efforts have been hampered by swift currents, low visibility and low temperature.

S. Korean parliament ratifies defense cost-sharing pact with U.S.

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's parliament ratified a defense-cost sharing pact with the United States Wednesday after months of wrangling between rival parties over the transparency of its execution. The Special Measure Agreement (SMA) calls for Seoul to share the cost of stationing 28,500 American troops in South Korea. In January, Seoul and Washington renewed the agreement, with the South agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$886 million) this year for the upkeep of the U.S. troops, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier.

S. Korea, U.S. discuss N. Korea, alliance issues in Pentagon talks

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON, April 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States opened a high-level military meeting Tuesday at the Pentagon to discuss North Korea and pending alliance issues on the agenda. The two-day Korea-U.S. Integrated Defense Dialogue (KIDD) comes just ahead of trilateral security talks, also involving Japan, to be held at the Pentagon later this week. "At KIDD, which began this morning, the two sides are discussing issues of mutual security concerns," a Pentagon official told reporters.

N. Korea denounces Seoul's refusal of joint probe into drones

By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea on Wednesday denounced Seoul's refusal of its demand for a joint investigation into three drones found in South Korea, saying a preliminary result that pointed at Pyongyang's involvement is a "malicious slander." South Korea's defense ministry last week said the drones recently discovered in inter-Korean border areas were produced and sent by North Korea for spying purposes, though the conclusive evidence has yet to be found.

Russia's deputy PM to visit N. Korea soon: report

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev plans to visit North Korea soon, a U.S. radio report said Wednesday. The trip by Trutnev, who is also President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Russia's Far East, is the latest in a series of exchange visits of high-level officials between the two countries, the Washington-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, citing Russian media. Russian media reported Trutnev's planned trip to Pyongyang on Tuesday, citing Kim Yong-jae, North Korea's top envoy to Russia, according to the RFA.

Davies, Wu in 'productive' talks on N. Korea, U.S. says

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON/ NEW YORK, April 15 (Yonhap) -- Top U.S. and Chinese nuclear envoys had "productive" discussions on North Korea in New York, the State Department said Tuesday. "The United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea," the department's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a readout about a meeting between Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, and his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei a day earlier.

Davies, Wu in 'productive' talks on N. Korea, U.S. says

By Lee Chi-dong WASHINGTON/ NEW YORK, April 15 (Yonhap) -- Top U.S. and Chinese nuclear envoys had "productive" discussions on North Korea in New York, the State Department said Tuesday. "The United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea," the department's spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a readout about a meeting between Glyn Davies, special representative for North Korea policy, and his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei a day earlier.

Parliamentary committee OKs defense cost-share pact with U.S.

SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's parliamentary committee for foreign affairs on Tuesday passed a bill ratifying a defense-cost sharing pact with the United States following months of wrangling between rival parties over its terms. In January, Seoul and Washington renewed the Special Measure Agreement (SMA) on sharing the cost of stationing 28,500 American troops in South Korea, with the South agreeing to pay 920 billion won (US$867 million) this year for the upkeep of the U.S. troops, a 5.8 percent increase from a year earlier.
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