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US Asian Allies Step Up Security in Response to Terrorist Threats - 2004-04-22

Several Asian allies of the United States are stepping up security at foreign embassies and other facilities in response to threats to attack countries supporting the U.S. -led war on terror. U.S. officials also are warning about possible terror attacks in sea lanes and financial centers.

The threats came in a letter received Wednesday by the South Korean embassy in Thailand, and the Pakistan embassy received a similar note.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, says the Thai government is taking the threats seriously.

"We are taking this of course seriously because under the present circumstances we have to be careful and our police have already provided added security protection for the [South] Korean Embassy here," he said.

The letter to the South Korean embassy said that from April 20 to April 30, the group would attack embassies, aircraft, and important sites in Australia, Japan, Kuwait, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand.

A South Korean diplomat says the threats came from the previously unknown Yellow-Red Overseas Organization.

All the countries named in the letter except Kuwait and Pakistan have sent troops to Iraq. American-led forces used Kuwait as a staging ground to invade Iraq, and Pakistan is the main ally in the United States' war on al-Qaida militants in Afghanistan.

Thailand is stepping up security around embassies and is investigating who sent the letter, which had a local postmark. U.S. State Department officials are warning the region to be on guard against terror attacks in financial centers, such as Hong Kong, and along sea lanes, such as the Malacca and Singapore Straits.

More than a quarter of the world's trade - and half of its oil and most of its liquefied gas - pass through the Malacca Strait dividing Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Asian sea lanes have already seen an increase in piracy and armed robbery recently, and security analysts fear it is only a matter of time before terrorists attack shipping.