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Briefly: Asia

- - Thursday, July 7, 2011

CHINA

State media dismiss reports of Jiang's death

BEIJING — China on Thursday dismissed as rumor reports that retired President Jiang Zemin, who led the country through massive changes after the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement, has died.

The official Xinhua News Agency quoted what it called authoritative sources as saying the reports were "pure rumor." The one-sentence dispatch in English wasn't carried by the Chinese-language service of the state-run agency, indicating it was meant for overseas audiences.

The need to comment underscores the difficulties the secretive, authoritarian government faces in controlling information. While state media are under tight control, foreign reports seep into China via the Internet, giving Chinese access to news — and rumors — the leadership dislikes.

An official from the Cabinet's information office said only, "It's a rumor," when asked about Mr. Jiang's death.

AFGHANISTAN

Canada ends combat mission; 8 Afghan police killed

KABUL — Canada formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan on Thursday after years of being on the front lines of the fight against Taliban insurgents in the south.

The withdrawal of 2,850 Canadian combat troops comes at a time when the Taliban continue to show their resilience, peace talks are in their infancy, and governance and development are lagging security gains on the battlefield.

Underscoring the persistent dangers, a roadside bomb killed eight Afghan policemen on a patrol in the northern district of Fayz Abad.

The police chief of the surrounding Jawzjan province, Abdul Aziz Ghyrat, said six policemen, including the unit's commander, were killed instantly and two died later at a hospital.

Since 2002, 157 Canadian troops have been killed in Afghanistan.

SOUTH KOREA

Work begins on N. Korean refugee camp

SEOUL — South Korea broke ground Thursday for a second resettlement center to help growing numbers of refugees from communist North Korea adjust to life in the capitalist South.

When completed by the end of next year, the new facility in Hwacheon County, 75 miles northeast of Seoul, will accommodate up to 500 refugees at a time, the Unification Ministry said.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Unification Minister Hyun In-Taek said the number of refugees to reach the South since the 1950-53 war stood at 22,000 but would soon reach 30,000 to 40,000.

"It is the duty of [South Korea] to ensure that they will not lag behind in the South," Mr. Hyun said.

THAILAND

Activist seeks to thwart prime minister-elect

BANGKOK — Days after Thailand voted for a new government led by the country's first woman prime minister, a determined doctor with a knack for rallying crowds is pursuing legal action to bring her down.

Tul Sitthisomwong, a die-hard opponent of self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, accuses the billionaire's sister and prime minister-elect, Yingluck Shinawatra, of perjury and wants the courts to indict her before she takes office.

Dr. Tul denies that he is a puppet for the powerful forces that have long tried to thwart the twice-elected Thaksin, but said Mrs. Yingluck is unfit to rule and accuses her of giving false testimony during an assets concealment investigation involving her brother three years ago.

From wire dispatches and staff reports