- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

JAPAN

China protests war shrine tree

BEIJING | China protested an offering by Japan’s Prime Minister Taro Aso to a war shrine seen as a symbol of his country’s militarist past, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

China expressed its “concern and dissatisfaction” to Japan through diplomatic channels, ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said.

Mr. Aso sent a 50,000 yen ($500) evergreen tree to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for a Shinto holiday, though he did not visit.

Past visits to Yasukuni by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi were a major irritant in Japan’s relations with China and South Korea, both of which suffered under Japanese occupation during the past century.

PHILIPPINES

U.S. Marine’s conviction voided

MANILA | A Philippine court overturned the rape conviction of a U.S. Marine, whose case became a rallying point for activists demanding American forces leave the country. Protesters said the decision underscored their government’s subservience to an old colonial master.

Three years ago, Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison for raping a Filipina after a night of drinking. The emotional case soon turned into a political tug-of-war between the government - eager to maintain smooth relations with its key ally - and nationalist, left-wing and women’s rights activists eager to show that the Philippines can do without U.S. military protection.

Just hours after the Philippine Appeals Court overturned Cpl. Smith’s 2006 conviction, more than two dozen activists marched to the U.S. Embassy in Manila but were stopped by riot police. They peacefully dispersed after the hourlong protest.

The woman accused Cpl. Smith of raping her in a van in the presence of other Marines, after the two met in a bar at the former U.S. Subic Bay Naval base in 2005, while Cpl. Smith was on leave after taking part in military exercises.

INDIA

‘Slumdog’ father won’t be charged

MUMBAI | Indian police said Thursday they would not charge the father of a child star in the hit movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” and ended their investigation into claims he tried to sell his 9-year-old daughter to a reporter posing as a wealthy sheik.

Rubina Ali’s estranged mother, Khurshid Monish Dewade, filed a complaint against the girl’s father on Sunday, after the British tabloid News of the World reported that he had offered to give the girl up for adoption in exchange for $400,000, police said.

The newspaper - owned by News International Ltd., the main British subsidiary of News Corp., which also owns “Slumdog” distributor Fox Searchlight Pictures - said the deal was offered to one of its reporters.

The father, Rafiq Qureshi, has denied any wrongdoing.

CHINA

Falun Gong survives crackdown

BEIJING | Now entering its second decade, China’s relentless drive to obliterate the Falun Gong spiritual sect has left a human toll ranging from the deaths of followers in custody to the self-exile of others and the beatings of their lawyers.

Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of a protest by an estimated 10,000 practitioners in Beijing that alerted the communist government to the group’s strength and wide appeal.

The April 25, 1999, demonstration was intended to show how Falun Gong believers had learned compassion, forbearance and tolerance, said practitioner Bu Dongwei in a telephone interview from the United States, where he fled six months ago.

But the size and discipline of those who gathered unsettled the communist leadership, ever wary of independent groups that could threaten its authority. Two months later, the group was labeled an “evil cult” and banned.

SRI LANKA

Aid sought for refugees

COLOMBO | Sri Lanka pleaded for international help Thursday after Doctors Without Borders warned that civilian casualties are rising rapidly in the country’s war zone despite the exodus of more than 100,000 people.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was sending a mission of experts to assess the deteriorating situation. He said the team will be tasked to “monitor the situation and support humanitarian assistance.”

About 350 wounded and their accompanying relatives were evacuated by the Red Cross to a hospital outside the war zone Wednesday, according to Red Cross spokeswomen Sarasi Wijeratne. Another evacuation was taking place Thursday, she said. Before those missions, she estimated that 1,000 people in the conflict zone were severely wounded and in desperate need of treatment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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