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Hoping to break a six-week stalemate in trade talks with the US, Japan announced on March 29 a package carefully crafted to answer US demands to open its market. But it postponed many tough decisions. If the Clinton administration is unsatisfied with Japan's efforts to reduce its $59 billion annual trade surplus with the US, it can levy sanctions under the newly revived Super 301 provision of US trade law. The first step toward sanctions could come March 31. Japan pledged March 29 to make it easier for foreigners to win government contracts and sell insurance, both key US requests. It also promised to relax regulations in communications, retailing, pharmaceuticals, food, and other industries, valued at a total of $1.9 trillion. But Japan said it would not decide until June on specifics of how to bring product regulations and standards more in line with world norms.

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Second assassin

A retired security guard hired to help control the crowd is suspected of helping in the assassination of Mexico's leading presidential candidate, according to comments on March 29 by Rene Gonzalez de la Vega, deputy attorney general for investigations. Others also may have been involved in the killing of Luis Donaldo Colosio March 23. The government had insisted that Colosio was killed by a lone gunman. (Related stories, Pages 1 and 6) Fernando Ortiz Arana, chairman of Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, has ruled himself out as a replacement candidate, appearing to throw the race toward former Education Secretary Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon.

Korean tour ends

South Korean President Kim Young Sam wrapped up a four-day trip to China March 29, toeing the Chinese line that negotiations are the only way to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear program. Chinese analysts say the low-key meeting between top South Korean and Chinese officials could signal a Chinese commitment to nudge North Korea into allowing inspections of its nuclear facilities, which it blocked earlier this month. At a press conference March 29, Mr. Kim said South Korean Foreign Minister Han Sung Joo will continue the country's diplomatic initiative with a trip to the US and Japan. He will travel to Russia in April.

Eugene Ionesco

French playwright Eugene Ionesco, Romanian-born pillar of absurd theater and one of the world's most performed authors, died March 28. One of the pre-eminent ``absurdist'' writers, whose work dominated postwar European theater, Ionesco depicted mankind's lonely despair in strange and often deliciously ludicrous plays.

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