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Rumsfeld Discusses Regional Security with Thai Officials


The U.S. defense chief and Thai officials have wrapped talks on a variety of regional issues, including piracy and sectarian violence in Thailand's troubled south.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Monday visited Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra for what government spokesman Chalermdej Jombunud called a wide-ranging meeting. "[Mr. Rumsfeld] discussed about the situation in this region. Just like he is asking about the situation in Burma, the situation in Vietnam, the situation in China," he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld subsequently met with Thai Defense Minister Thammarak Isarangura Na Ayutthaya to discuss the violence in Thailand's predominantly Muslim south.

Mr. Thammarak says he told the defense secretary that the violence, in which more than eight hundred people have died in the past 18 months, is not related to global terrorism, but is rather an internal Thai dispute.

Mr. Rumsfeld reportedly urged greater regional cooperation against sea piracy, particularly in the Malacca Strait, an important shipping route lying between Malaysia and Indonesia.

The defense chief also said that the U.S. government has made no decision on if or when to ask the United Nations to impose sanctions on North Korea because it refuses to re-join the talks on ending its nuclear program.

His comments contradict a recent off-the-record statement by a senior official traveling with Mr. Rumsfeld that a decision would be made very soon.

The United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan are trying to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons programs. However, China and South Korea in particular have been reluctant to seek U.N. sanctions.

Speaking at a defense ministers meeting Saturday in Singapore, Mr. Rumsfeld also expressed concern over Beijing's rising military budget while lamenting that political liberties have not accompanied China's economic boom.

After Thailand, Mr. Rumsfeld travels to Europe for talks with leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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