- - Sunday, December 11, 2011

CHINA

Beijing pledges more opportunities for trade

BEIJING — Chinese President Hu Jintao said Sunday that China doesn’t intentionally pursue a large trade surplus and that it will focus on expanding imports in the coming years.

In a speech broadcast live on state television, Mr. Hu said China’s ultimate aim is to have balanced trade and that total imports will exceed $8 trillion in the next five years, bringing “enormous opportunities” to businesses around the world eager to sell to hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers.

Mr. Hu was speaking at a forum to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization.

Other economies are looking to China to help drive global demand, but its high trade surplus has meant that fewer of the gains are shared with other countries.

China imported goods worth $1.39 trillion last year, but imports are on the rise, reaching $1.43 trillion in the first 10 months of 2011.

SOUTH KOREA

Huge Christmas trees allowed near border with North

SEOUL — South Korea will allow Christians to light two more towers shaped like Christmas trees near the tense border with North Korea despite strong opposition from Pyongyang, an official said Sunday.

The South Korean government allowed a Christian group to light a massive steel Christmas tree near the border last year for the first time in seven years, as tensions flared in the wake of two deadly attacks blamed on the North.

That tree will be lit again this month, and a Defense Ministry official said South Korea has decided to allow Christian groups to light two other Christmas trees near the border.

The decision is meant to help guarantee freedom of expression and religion, the official said.

North Korea’s state-run Uriminzokkiri website said Sunday that lighting the first tree was a form of psychological warfare and would trigger an “unexpected consequence.”

IRAQ

NATO mission will not extend beyond 2011

LONDON — NATO will not extend its training mission in Iraq beyond the end of the year because Baghdad would not grant its soldiers immunity from prosecution, Iraq’s national security adviser said Sunday.

“NATO surprised us with this decision,” Falih al-Fayadh said in an interview aboard a flight taking Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Washington.

“We are sorry that NATO has advised that it will withdraw its mission from Iraq … because immunity is something that is out of the government’s reach,” he added, saying Baghdad was informed of the decision Thursday.

On Nov. 29, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq was studying a contract to extend NATO’s presence in the country beyond 2011 but noted that such a deal would not grant its troops immunity from prosecution.

AFGHANISTAN

Death toll rises to 80 in attacks on Shiites

KABUL — The death toll from last week’s rare sectarian attacks on Shiite Muslims in Afghanistan has risen to at least 80, the country’s president said Sunday.

Hamid Karzai said during a speech in Kabul that Tuesday’s bombings were carried out by people seeking to undermine peace and stability.

An extremist group in neighboring Pakistan — Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — has claimed responsibility for the deadliest of the attacks, a suicide bombing that targeted Shiite crowds gathered around a shrine in Kabul, killing more than 50 people.

The militant group is raising fears that it is trying to stoke Shiite-Sunni tensions in Afghanistan. It is blamed for many attacks on Shiites in its own country.

SOUTH KOREA

Coast guard officer slain in Chinese fisheries arrest

SEOUL — A South Korean coast guard officer was killed and another injured Monday when they were stabbed by a Chinese captain whose boat was stopped on suspicion of illegally fishing in South Korean waters, officials said.

Two Chinese boats were stopped in Yellow Sea waters rich in blue crabs, anchovies and croaker, but details of the fight were unclear, coast guard officials said.

The officials, who declined to give their names because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the captain of one of the boats stabbed the South Korean officers. Nine Chinese sailors were in custody.

A South Korean officer stabbed in the side died. The other officer wasn’t severely injured, the officials said.

There was no immediate comment from the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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