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Private Lenders in South Korea suspended for 6 months

February 19, 2012

SEOUL - Major private money lenders in South Korea were ordered Thursday to suspend their operations for six months for reaping illegal profits through "unfair" interest rates, officials said.

Seoul's Gangnam Ward office informed four private lenders, including market leaders A&P Financial and Sanwa Money, to halt their business operations between March 5 and September 4, according to industry officials.

The move comes after the local financial regulator vowed to overhaul the private money market amid growing public outcry over its notoriously high interest rates.

US seeks more marines in Asia by rotation: Panetta

February 19, 2012

WASHINGTON - The United States plans to expand the presence of its Marines in Asia in tandem with a diplomatic pivot towards the region, US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, said.

Speaking at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Panetta said US military power in the Asia-Pacific area would not be weakened by envisioned steep budget cuts. "That's obviously a primary concern for us, because we do believe it is important to maintain a strong presence in the Pacific," he said.

Free trade pact with China still far off: Australia

February 14, 2012

CANBERRA - Australia's top diplomat has expressed frustration with the slow progress of free trade talks with China, suggesting there is unlikely to be a deal for many years to come.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Dennis Richardson says despite 17 rounds of negotiations since April 2005, a final free trade agreement is still a very long way off.

"Quite frankly, the progress has been frustratingly slow," he said.