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News Briefs 2

Deng Xiaoping's Likely Successor Gains Key Military Post

Los Angeles Times

President Jiang Zemin's position as the leading candidate to succeed Deng Xiaoping at the helm of China got a boost Thursday when a key ally was named to head an important military body - even as another senior party leader was dismissed for abuse of power.

As Jiang's star was rising, former Beijing mayor and Politburo member Chen Xitong was stripped of all his party posts because of alleged massive corruption in his Beijing administration.

In a report that concluded a four-day plenary meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee here, the party leadership said Chen "led a dissolute and extravagant life, abused power to seek illegal interests for his relatives and other people and accepted valuable gifts by taking advantage of his position and while performing public duties."

Chen has been accused of sharing in the spoils of a $37 million kickback scandal orchestrated by a top aide, who committed suicide. The highly unusual dismissal came a week before China is to host an international conference on public corruption.

No one rules China without the support of the military, and Jiang Zemin is chairman of the Central Military Commission. But for several years, Jiang has been pushing for the appointment of Defense Minister Chi Haotian, his main backer in the senior army ranks, to the military commission vice-chairmanship.

U.S., South Korea Reach Accord That Would Boost Auto Sales

Los Angeles Times

A low-key negotiation with South Korea blossomed suddenly Thursday into a major trade agreement, with the White House announcing that Seoul will begin tearing down towering barriers that have limited U.S. auto sales there to well less than 1 percent of the market.

"This agreement is a significant and major step forward," said U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, after signing off on a pact that was reached at 7:45 a.m. - just hours before a deadline that could have led to the imposition of trade sanctions on Korea.

Trade experts praised the agreement as tougher, more concrete, and more enforceable than the auto pact that was reached in June with Japan.

It covers six barriers, ranging from a three-foot high stack of safety regulations that will be chopped down to a relative handful of pages, to advertising regulations that kept most foreign auto companies off the Korean airwaves - and even to enforcement of the Korean tax code that led to audits of taxpayers who buy foreign cars.

But even as the American Automobile Manufacturers Association praised the agreement, it said greater Korean sales by U.S. and other foreign auto companies remained stymied by "significant barriers," among them high tariffs and other taxes.

In addition, the agreement could eventually open South Korea to Japanese automakers, who are currently blocked from competing there.