China condemns new U.S.-Taiwan military cooperation The Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s National People’s Congress this week strongly condemned actions in the U.S. Congress that would strengthen Washington?s military cooperation with Taiwan.

In a statement issued May 13 in Beijing, the committee said the 2003 Defense Authorization Act, recently adopted by the House of Representatives, provides for ‘a comprehensive plan to conduct join operational training and exchanges of senior officers’ between the U.S. and Taiwan. The committee also cited the U.S. Senate’s passage of the 2003 State Department Authorization Act, which would increase arms sales, including four Kidd-class destroyers, to Taiwan.

The committee urged U.S. legislators to abide by the joint communiques of 1972, 1979 and 1982, in which the U.S., under both Republican and Democratic administrations, pledged to gradually reduce arms sales to Taiwan ‘to a final resolution.’

‘Strengthening military cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan and increasing weapon sales to Taiwan will certainly raise tensions across the Taiwan Straits and endanger the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,’ the statement said.

The present relations between the U.S. and China need to be mutually cherished and maintained by both countries, the committee said, because they conform to the basic interests of both countries.

Mexican hunger strikers demand amnesty law On April 20, 87 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Mexico began an indefinite hunger strike, demanding a Federal amnesty law for all political prisoners in Mexico, estimated to be about 300. A coalition of relatives and friends gathered outside the Parliament Building in Mexico city four days later to join the hunger strike.

Some of the striking prisoners are indigenous people from the Loxicha Region in Oaxaca, taken prisoner by the army in 1996, after the Mexican government considered the region a stronghold of the Popular Revolutionary Army. Most of the 200 Loxicha arrested then have been released, but the remainder face sentences of 30 to 40 years in prison. Others include Gloria Arenas and Jacobo Silva, whose lawyer, Digna Ochoa, was assassinated last fall.

The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions has called for the prisoners’ release, and Amnesty International has urged that charges of torture be investigated.

Peace advocate: U.S. develops laser arms in Australia The Australian Associated Press (AAP) this week quoted Dr. Helen Caldicott, pediatrician and legendary peace campaigner, as saying that the U.S. is using its Pine Gap defense station near Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory to develop dangerous laser beam weapons that could be launched from orbiting space stations.

Noting that the just completed U.S.-Russian nuclear arms pact does not address the U.S. Star Wars program, Caldicott said Pine Gap is part of the planning and designing of the Star Wars system and would be used for a nuclear war. ‘The Americans are moving in to take over most of our military facilities,’ she said.

Sri Lanka to rebuild economy in former war zone
Sri Lanka will set up five economic zones in the north and east of the country to revitalize the economy devastated by the long war between government forces and Tamil Tiger separatists there, the official newspaper Daily News said this week.

Labor Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said the zones will probably be established in Trincomalee, Jaffna, Batticaloa, Vavuniya and Mannar.
The war claimed over 64,000 lives and left widespread economic disruption. The reconstruction is expected to create many new job opportunities and revive industries such as cement, chemicals, glass, paper, sugar and others.

The government and the Tamil separatists are observing an indefinite truce signed in February, and are expected to hold peace talks in Thailand next month.

Canadian public workers win strike Some 45,000 public workers returned to work victorious last week after winning a nearly eight week long strike – Ontario’s longest strike by public sector workers. Members of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) are pleased with the new agreement, but deeply bitter that Ontario’s right wing Tory government tried to starve them out for 54 days in an effort to break their union.

The workers won an 8.45 percent increase across the boards with an additional 5 percent for correctional workers. The union blocked government efforts to increase the proportion of part time and contract workers, as well as pension concessions and a shift to two-tier wages, and retained its joint control with the government of the pension plan.