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Briefly

SOUTH KOREA

Troops stage artillery drills at border island

SEOUL | South Korea staged live-fire drills Thursday from a front-line island shelled by North Korea in 2010. It was the first such exercise since North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died last month.

The North called the maneuvers belligerent.

Marines at Yeonpyeong Island and nearby Baengnyeong Island fired artillery into waters near the disputed sea border during the two-hour-long drills, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said later in the day that the South was "kicking up war fever" by simulating a pre-emptive strike.

Similar drills at Yeonpyeong in November 2010 triggered a North Korean artillery bombardment that killed four South Koreans.

The latest drills were routine exercises, and there haven't been any suspicious activities by North Korea's military, the South Korean official said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

PHILIPPINES

U.S., Philippines eye more drills, but no bases

MANILA | U.S. and Filipino defense officials will discuss how to intensify joint war drills in the Philippines without re-establishing vast U.S. military bases as America tries to reassert its presence in Asia, a Manila official said Thursday.

While America plans to station troops in Australia and dock Navy ships in Singapore, it's only looking at increasing the frequency of joint military exercises with Filipino troops in the Philippines, Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said.

President Obama's administration plans to enhance U.S. presence in Asia because of the region's economic importance and China's rise as a military power. It aims to retain American military pre-eminence worldwide despite stiff budget cuts.

A Philippine delegation led by a defense undersecretary will hold strategic talks with U.S. counterparts in Washington this week on a wide range of economic and defense concerns, including intensifying joint military exercises of the longtime military allies, Mr. Gazmin said.

CAMBODIA

Khmer Rouge tribunal halts Cambodians' salaries

PHNOM PENH | About 300 Cambodians working at the U.N.-backed Khmer Rouge tribunal will not be paid this month - and some have worked without pay since October - because funds from donor countries have dried up, a tribunal spokesman said Thursday.

International staff are paid by the U.N. and will continue to receive salaries. The salaries of local staff, however, are funded by contributions from donor countries.

The tribunal is seeking justice for an estimated 1.7 million people who died from torture, starvation, exhaustion or lack of medical care during the Khmer Rouge's 1970s rule. It opened in 2006 after years of wrangling between Cambodia and the U.N., and just one trial has been completed.

The lengthy delays have been costly and raised fears justice will not be achieved because of the shaky health of the aging defendants.

AFGHANISTAN

Bomb kills 4 Afghans in attack on NATO team

KABUL | A suicide car bomber targeting a NATO-sponsored reconstruction team killed four Afghan civilians, including a child, and wounded 31 on Thursday in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

Three civilian international members of the aid team - two men and one woman - were among the wounded, said Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. He said their injuries were not life-threatening and he did not know their nationalities.

The bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle Thursday morning as a convoy of a NATO Provincial Reconstruction Team passed by in Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.

The blast ripped through the convoy of armored vehicles, knocking over at least one and charring others. The explosion also shredded nearby storefronts and damaged at least 17 civilian cars nearby.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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