Envoy on mission to ease Korean tensions

Doplang News, SEOUL - The United States' point man on North Korea arrived in Seoul Tuesday, calling for "serious negotiations" to ease tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme and deadly attack on a South Korean island.

Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, the US special representative for North Korea policy, said he would closely coordinate with South Korea and China on how to deal with North Korea. "We believe that serious negotiations must be at the heart of any strategy for dealing with North Korea and we look forward to being able to launch those at a reasonably early time," he told reporters at the airport.

But Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have been lukewarm, saying Pyongyang first needs to show it is sincere about denuclearisation and mending ties with Seoul.

"I will let the Chinese speak for themselves on that. That's an important relationship for both countries," Bosworth said. It insisted the plant is designed solely to fuel a light-water reactor being built to produce energy. But US officials and experts say this could easily be converted to produce weapons-grade uranium.

The North shut down its elderly plutonium-producing reactor in 2007 under a six-nation deal.

Bosworth's Asia tour, which also includes Tokyo, comes after Seoul reached out to Pyongyang with a signal to open talks after months of high tensions.

North Korea, in a joint New Year editorial by state media on Saturday, said tensions "should be defused as early as possible," stressing dialogue, and that cooperation "should be promoted proactively."

In an apparent response to the North's conciliatory gesture, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said Monday that Seoul was open to talks if Pyongyang showed its sincerity towards mending ties.


No-confidence vote

Doplang News, ISLAMABAD (AP) - Pakistan's most powerful opposition group hinted Tuesday that it would not back a no-confidence vote against the prime minister - a stance that could save the government of this nuclear-armed nation from toppling.

The possibility of government collapse is the latest crisis facing Pakistan as it grapples with a foundering economy, relentless militant attacks and U.S. demands to help turn around the war in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, senior members of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, the leading opposition group, wouldn't say where they stood on a no-confidence vote before they convened in Islamabad to decide.

"Our aim is not to overthrow this government, but if it collapses, it will collapse because of its own incompetence and bad governance," said PML-N spokesman Sadiqul Farooq.

Gilani could rule with a minority coalition but would have to step down if he lost a no-confidence vote. Parliament could then vote on an alternative candidate or possibly move toward early elections.

The prime minister met with the PML-N and other opposition groups Monday in an apparent attempt to head off a no-confidence motion.

A no-confidence measure would require a majority of the 342-seat parliament to pass.

The PML-N has also expressed reservations about forming a coalition government with other opposition parties, with which it has troubled relations.

"We do not want to form a weak government with help from the small political groups," said Farooq, the PML-N spokesman. "If we do it, the coalition partners would start blackmailing us."

But Farooq cautioned that his party would do nothing to help prop up the PPP-led government.

"If they can complete their five-year term, they are most welcome to do it," said Farooq. "But if they cannot run the government after losing a majority, then they should decide whether fresh elections are required."