- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2009

PAKISTAN

Missile strikes kill 17 in Waziristan

MIR ALI | Two suspected U.S. missile strikes, one using multiple drones, killed 17 people in a Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border Thursday, local intelligence officials said.

The officials said the second, bloodier attack involved five drones and 10 missiles - an unusually intense bombardment.

The missiles rained on North Waziristan, considered a safe haven for many militants including groups determined to push the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan.

The U.S. has carried out more than 40 such missile strikes this year, killing scores of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants, but angering many Pakistanis who point to the resulting civilian casualties. Pakistan regularly condemns the attacks as violations of its sovereignty, but it is believed to secretly aid the U.S. campaign.

NORTH KOREA

Retaliation warned over naval drills

SEOUL | North Korea threatened retaliation against South Korea over what it claimed were naval drills around their disputed sea border, accusing Seoul on Thursday of attempting to escalate tension.

The North’s Korean Central News Agency cited an unidentified source as saying that the South Korean military staged underwater explosive exercises around the border - the scene of a naval clash last month that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded.

The drills represent “a threat and an unpardonable act of crime against us,” KCNA said.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official could not immediately confirm whether the military conducted such drills but said he was checking.

VIETNAM

Buddhists seek asylum in France

HANOI | Followers of a famous Buddhist teacher plan to seek temporary asylum in France after months of pressure from Vietnam’s communist authorities to leave pagodas in the country’s south.

Some 400 disciples of Thich Nhat Hanh, who has popularized Buddhism in the West and sold millions of books worldwide, were forcibly evicted from the Bat Nha monastery in Lam Dong province in late September. Since then, nearly 200 have taken refuge at the nearby Phuoc Hue pagoda, but they have been ordered to leave by Dec. 31.

The standoff came to a head last week when a crowd of about 100 people, including undercover police, invaded Phuoc Hue and demanded that the abbot oust the disciples.

Vietnamese authorities could not be reached for comment Thursday. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said his government was following the case “with great attention” but would not comment on the request for asylum.

CHINA

Expo to feature giant panda cubs

SHANGHAI | Ten giant panda cubs will be on display at the Shanghai World Expo next year at the city’s zoos, giving tens of millions of Chinese and foreign visitors a glimpse at the highly endangered species.

The six females and four males will arrive in Shanghai in January and spend six months at the Shanghai Zoo and six months at Wild Zoo of Shanghai, said Cai Youming, deputy director of the Shanghai Forestry Bureau.

All the pandas were born at the country’s main panda research base in Sichuan province after the May 2008 earthquake that killed or left missing nearly 90,000 people.

The expo, due to begin May 1 and run for six months, is expected to draw 70 million visitors, most of them Chinese.

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