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Asian Countries Step Up Efforts to Prepare for Terrorism, Disaster and Disease

Asian nations have lost tens of thousands of lives in the past few years to disaster and disease, and now governments and local businesses are taking steps to defend against future threats. As part of this effort, officials urge nations to communicate better internally and with their neighbors.

As globalization creates opportunities for economic advancement, it also makes countries more vulnerable to terrorism, disease and disaster. As a result, officials at Monday's meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council in Hong Kong say international cooperation is critical in managing disaster.

The World Heath Organization's representative in China, Henk Bekedam, said it is particularly vital in preventing the avian flu from exploding into a pandemic. "In today's interconnected world, there is virtually nothing - nothing - that cannot be shared globally, diseases included. Early reporting, sharing of information and sharing of vial samples within countries and with international communities is key to a timely response," he said.

The flu, which has killed about 50 people in Southeast Asia during the past 18 months, mainly is transmitted from sick poultry. But experts fear the virus could change so that it spreads easily among humans, and then claim thousands of lives.

The WHO has recommended a joint mission with China's Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health and State Forestry Administration to better investigate the flu. Dr. Bekedam says he expects to know at the end of this week whether the mission will proceed.

Conference delegates say internal cooperation also is key in recovering from man-made disaster. Yanti Sukamdani, the chairwoman of the Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association, says the Indonesian government worked with the private sector to help Bali recover from the 2002 bombing that killed more than 200 people and devastated tourism.

Ms. Sukamdani is urging the government to continue stepping up security and communicate better with tourism industry leaders and the media in fighting terrorism. "We have learned that terrorism could happen anywhere in the world even in such a peaceful paradise. The government needs to act fast together with stakeholders to handle terrorism and natural disasters-regional as well as international," he said.

Since the attack in Bali the Indonesian government has been aggressive in its pursuit of suspected terrorists and dozens have been jailed.