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CHINA

Spacecraft returns from docking mission

BEIJING | An unmanned Chinese spacecraft returned to Earth on Thursday after it docked twice with an orbiting module in preparation for the country launching its own space station.

The Shenzhou 8 craft landed by parachute in China’s western desert after more than two weeks in space.

It docked twice with the Tiangong 1 module, which remains in orbit, during a mission proving China capable of successfully docking by remote control. Early U.S. astronauts did so manually.

China will conduct two more space docking missions next year, one of them manned, and plans to complete a manned space station around 2020.

At about 60 tons, the Chinese station will be considerably smaller than the 16-nation International Space Station.

China has made steady progress toward a space station since a 2003 launch that made it only the third nation to put a man in space.

Two more manned missions have followed, and China separately seeks to launch a lunar rover next year.

CAMBODIA

Genocide defendant ruled unfit for trial

PHNOM PENH | Cambodia’s U.N.-backed tribunal on Thursday ruled a former senior Khmer Rouge leader unfit to stand trial for genocide and other crimes because she has Alzheimer’s disease.

The tribunal said the illness diminishes Ieng Thirith’s mental capacity and ordered the 79-year-old defendant freed from detention. She behaved erratically at earlier court appearances, and her lawyers had requested the medical exams.

The ruling came just four days before the start of her trial with three co-defendants, one of whom is her husband, Ieng Sary, foreign minister in the late 1970s Khmer Rouge regime. He informed the tribunal last month that he intends to exercise his right not to testify.

Ieng Thirith was minister for social affairs and is accused of involvement in the “planning, direction, coordination and ordering of widespread purges” and has been charged with crimes against humanity, genocide, homicide, torture and religious persecution.

The U.N.-backed tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died of starvation, exhaustion, lack of medical care or execution during the communist Khmer Rouge’s rule.

PHILIPPINES

U.S. assures Manila of second warship

MANILA | The United States will provide a second warship to the ill-equipped Philippine military as it confronts China in increasingly tense territorial disputes in the South China Sea, a Philippine official said Thursday.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton assured Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during talks in Manila on Wednesday that Washington would give its longtime ally a second Coast Guard cutter virtually for free some time next year.

The first second-hand cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard sailed into Manila in August and became the most modern vessel in the dilapidated Philippine fleet.

Mrs. Clinton assured the Philippine military of intensified U.S. assistance Wednesday, when the allies marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of their Mutual Defense Treaty aboard a U.S. naval destroyer in Manila.

The first U.S. ship, which has been renamed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, would be deployed to secure Philippine territorial waters in the South China Sea as early as this month, the military said.

PAKISTAN

Suspected U.S. missiles kill 8 in northwest

PESHAWAR | Suspected U.S. drones fired four missiles at a compound in Pakistan’s rugged tribal region near the Afghan border Thursday, killing eight alleged militants and wounding two others in the third such strike in as many days, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

Elsewhere in the tribal region, Pakistani security forces pounded militant hideouts in two different areas, killing 37 suspected militants, government officials said.

The figures could not be independently verified because of the difficulty of reporting in the tribal region.

The drones struck in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan, the main hub for Taliban and al Qaeda militants in Pakistan, the officials said.

The U.S. has conducted about 200 drone strikes in North Waziristan in recent years, most targeting al Qaeda militants and Afghan Taliban fighters who are battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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