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Clinton Pushes Reform, Urges Myanmar to Cut Ties with NKorea

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won promises of further reforms from Myanmar's rulers in historic talks Thursday, but said it was too soon to end sanctions after decades of repression.

Paying the most senior U.S. visit in more than half a century to a nation long distrustful of the West, Clinton offered only cautious incentives to encourage more action, despite a call by China for Western sanctions to be lifted.

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S. Korean Defense Chief Warns of Provocations

South Korea's defense chief said Thursday that North Korea may use provocations next year to deal with economic woes and political instability stemming from a second dynastic succession.

Defense Minister Kim Kwan-Jin described 2012 as a critical year for security saying the military should stay alert against any provocations by North Korea.

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North Korea Claims Progress in Uranium Enrichment

North Korea said Wednesday that it is making rapid progress on work to enrich uranium and build a light-water nuclear power plant, increasing worries that the country is developing another way to make atomic weapons.

An unidentified spokesman at Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the construction of an experimental light-water reactor and low enriched uranium are "progressing apace."

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N. Korea Threatens Strike on South's Presidency

North Korea threatened Thursday to turn South Korea's presidential palace into a "sea of fire" in response to any provocation, a day after Seoul's military held a big exercise near the border.

The land, sea and air drill was staged to mark the first anniversary of a deadly North Korean attack on the South's border island of Yeonpyeong, which sparked outrage among South Koreans and prompted international alarm.

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S. Korea, U.S. Envoys to Meet on N.Korea in Vienna

South Korea's nuclear envoy Lim Sung-Nam will meet a top U.S. official in Vienna next week for talks on ways to revive stalled negotiations on North Korea's nuclear disarmament, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

The meeting with Glyn Davies, new U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will be held during Lim's two-day trip to Vienna from Monday, the ministry said.

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Iran Hardline Cleric Hits Out at U.N. Nuclear Chief

Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami warned the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday not to become "an instrument without will in the hands of the United States" against Iran.

The hardline cleric hit out at IAEA director general Yukiya Amano in an address during communal prayers in Tehran marking the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast.

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Report: Iran Mastered Critical Steps to Build Nuke

The Iranian government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon after receiving assistance from foreign scientists, The Washington Post reported late Sunday.

Citing unnamed Western diplomats and nuclear experts familiar with new intelligence to be released to the United Nations, the newspaper said a former Soviet weapons scientist had allegedly tutored Iranians on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction.

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21 N.Koreans Found Adrift Off South

A group of 21 North Koreans including women and children have been found adrift off the South's western coast, military authorities said Saturday.

A five-ton wooden boat with the group on board was spotted by sailors on a South Korean Navy vessel in the Yellow Sea on Sunday, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a press statement. Earlier reports said they were found Tuesday.

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Report: New Signs of Syria-Pakistan Nuclear Tie

U.N. investigators have identified a previously unknown complex in Syria that bolsters suspicions that the Syrian government worked with A.Q. Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, to acquire technology that could be used to make nuclear arms.

The buildings in northwest Syria closely match the design of a uranium enrichment plant provided to Libya when Moammar Gadhafi was trying to build nuclear weapons under Khan's guidance, officials told The Associated Press.

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U.S., S. Korea to Raise Readiness against N. Korea

The U.S. and South Korean defense chiefs vowed Friday to raise combat-readiness against North Korean attacks following two deadly incidents last year, saying aggression "is not to be tolerated".

Leon Panetta and his counterpart Kim Kwan-Jin also described the North's uranium enrichment program revealed last November as a "grave threat" that gave it a second path to develop atomic weapons.

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