- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

CHINA

Destroyer deployed to guard survey ship

The Navy has assigned a destroyer to escort the U.S. surveillance ship that got into a high-seas confrontation with Chinese ships last weekend.

A defense official said the Hawaii-based destroyer USS Chung-Hoon is keeping a close eye on the unarmed sub-hunting ship Impeccable as it continues operations in the South China Sea. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive ship movements.

China has demanded that the United States quit surveillance work in a disputed area far off the Chinese coastline. U.S. officials say they won’t back off.

The Chung-Hoon is among the Navy’s newest and most sophisticated warships. It joined the fleet in 2004.

CANADA

Rescuers search for copter survivors

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland | Rescuers searched freezing waters for 17 missing people Thursday after their helicopter reported mechanical problems and ditched into the Atlantic Ocean off Newfoundland, officials said.

Of the 18 aboard, one was found. The others were missing about 30 miles out to sea, officials at a news conference said.

The survival window is about 24 hours - but only if the people were wearing survival suits, said Maj. Denis McGuire of the Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The condition of the survivor, who was flown to a hospital, was listed in critical but stable condition.

BRITAIN

Canadian terrorist gets decade in jail

TORONTO | A judge has sentenced a Canadian man to 10½ years in prison for plotting with a group of British Muslims to bomb buildings and natural gas lines in Britain.

Momim Khawaja is the first person to be sentenced under Canadian counterterrorism laws passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was convicted last fall of financing and facilitating terrorism.

The Canadian-born Muslim of Pakistani descent was accused of collaborating with Britons of Pakistani descent in a thwarted 2004 plan to attack a London nightclub, a shopping center and electrical and gas facilities.

VATICAN CITY

Pope cites errors in background check

VATICAN CITY | Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged that the Vatican erred in failing to check the background of a Holocaust-denying bishop, admitting the mistake in a highly unusual attempt to end one of the most serious crises of his papacy.

Benedict said in a letter to the world’s Catholic bishops made public by the Vatican on Thursday that not searching the Internet for information about British-born Bishop Richard Williamson before lifting his excommunication Jan. 24 was an “unforeseen mishap” that caused tensions between Christians and Jews.

Bishop Williamson had denied in an interview with Swedish TV earlier in January that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis. He said about 200,000 or 300,000 were killed and none was gassed.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas criticizes Palestinian rockets

GAZA CITY | The Islamic militant group Hamas made a rare criticism Thursday of Palestinian rocket fire on Israel, saying now is the wrong time as truce talks continue.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, appears to be concerned about disrupting talks for a long-term cease-fire with Israel or reconciliation talks with its West Bank-based moderate rival, Fatah.

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into southern Israel over the past few years - which led to Israel’s recent three-week offensive in Gaza. But the militant group said Thursday that it has not been involved in recent rocket attacks, including two fired Wednesday.

About 170 rockets have been fired at Israeli towns since Israel ended its Gaza offensive in January, the Israeli army says.

JAPAN

Tokyo sends warships to fend off pirates

TOKYO | Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Friday that he had ordered two destroyers to take part in an anti-piracy mission in pirate-infested waters off Somalia.

“Following the decision at today’s Cabinet meeting, I ordered the Self-Defense Forces to engage in maritime security activity,” Mr. Hamada told reporters.

Under its pacifist constitution, Japan’s military forces are called Self-Defense Forces.

The warships are expected to leave a western port in Japan on Saturday to travel to the area near the Gulf of Aden. U.S., European and Chinese vessels already have been deployed.

Pirates attacked more than 100 ships last year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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