- - Thursday, April 14, 2011

NORTH KOREA

N. Koreans celebrate Kim Il-sung’s birthday

PYONGYANG | The flags are up, and the streets of North Korea’s capital are lined with flowers as the nation prepares to celebrate the biggest holiday of the year: the birthday of the late President Kim Il-sung.

April 15 is called the “Day of the Sun” in honor of the man who founded North Korea in 1948 and maintains godlike status in the country now led by his son, Kim Jong-il.

It’s a time for North Koreans to relax with friends and family. But it’s also an occasion to rally national pride as the country undergoes a sensitive leadership transition and tensions with the outside world persist.

North Koreans are arriving in droves to lay bouquets at the towering bronze statue of Kim Il-sung in central Pyongyang.

CHINA

Police clash with civilians at Tibetan monastery

BEIJING | Police encircled a Buddhist monastery in a Tibetan area of southwestern China when tensions sparked by the self-immolation of a monk last month escalated into clashes, exiled Tibetans and activists said on Thursday, citing sources in the area.

The standoff prompted the leader of Tibet’s government-in-exile in northern India to say that monks at the Kirti Monastery, the focus of the conflict, could be in danger.

Hundreds of ethnic Tibetan people in Aba county, Sichuan province, gathered at the Kirti Monastery on Tuesday trying to stop authorities from moving out monks for government-mandated “re-education,” the International Campaign for Tibet said in an emailed statement.

That prompted armed police to lock down the monastery with as many as 2,500 monks inside, the organization said.

A 21-year-old Tibetan monk burned himself to death on March 16 in Aba, an overwhelmingly ethnic Tibetan part of Sichuan province that erupted in defiance against Chinese Communist Party control three years ago.

His act echoed protests that gripped Tibetan areas of China in March 2008, when Buddhist monks and other Tibetan people loyal to the exiled Dalai Lama, their traditional religious leader, confronted police and troops across the region.

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said police began to force their way through the crowds on Tuesday, beating some protesters and using police dogs on the crowd.

AFGHANISTAN

Suicide bombers hit village police, kill 3

KABUL | Suicide bombers attacked a training area for a new U.S.-backed village defense force on Thursday - one of three such attacks across Afghanistan that killed and wounded policemen and civilians.

Four suicide attackers stormed the defense force training area in the east, killing two trainees and a member of the Afghan National Police, officials said.

The bombers approached an area where about 50 men were being trained for the Afghan Local Police - a village-level fighting force being developed across the country to counter the Taliban insurgency, said Azad Khan, the top official in the Jaji district of Paktia province.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has referred to the new force as a “night watch with AK-47s.”

INDIA

Safety features added at nuclear plants

NEW DELHI | India is increasing safety features at all of its nuclear power plants to try to prevent a crisis like Japan’s caused by seismic activity or an extended power loss, a government official said Thursday.

Assessors who inspected India’s 20 nuclear power plants found the structures had adequate capability to handle severe natural events, such as earthquakes or tsunamis, said Shreyans K. Jain, chairman of Nuclear Power Corp. of India LTD.

The state-run corporation operates all of India’s nuclear power plants, including two boiling-water reactors similar to the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors crippled by last month’s earthquake and tsunami.

The recommendations made after the inspections include augmenting water supplies for cooling, inerting the primary containment with nitrogen, installing new technologies to ensure automatic shutdowns in case of a major earthquake and providing an alert mechanism for tsunamis.

“Additional shore protection measures are also being undertaken, which will absorb considerable energy from tsunami waves,” Mr. Jain said in a statement.

Because power outages occur frequently in India, all the country’s nuclear plants have backup arrangements to offset extended power losses, Indian nuclear scientists say.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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