- - Thursday, March 1, 2012

AFGHANISTAN

2 U.S. troops killed in shooting

KABUL | Two U.S. soldiers were killed Thursday in a shooting by an Afghan soldier and a literacy teacher at a joint base in southern Afghanistan, officials said, the latest in a series of deaths following the burning of Korans by U.S. soldiers.

Both were killed on the same day that the top NATO commander allowed a small number of foreign advisers to return to work at Afghan ministries after more than a week of being locked down in secure locations because of the killing of two other Americans.

Thursday’s killings raised to six the number of Americans killed in less than two weeks amid heightened tensions over the Feb. 20 burning of Korans and other Islamic texts that had been dumped in a garbage pit at Bagram Airfield near Kabul.

More than 30 Afghans also were killed in six days of violent riots that broke out after the incident.

President Obama and other U.S. officials apologized and said the burning was an accident. His statement has failed to quell the anger, although Muslim protests over the burnings have ebbed this week.

NORTH KOREA

Nuclear envoy to visit U.S. on heels of deal

SEOUL | In another sign of warming relations between two wartime foes, a senior North Korean nuclear negotiator will attend a security conference in the United States, a person with knowledge of the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Word of Ri Yong-ho’s visit to the forum at Syracuse University, where he also may meet on the sidelines with U.S. officials, comes on the heels of a breakthrough agreement that will provide much-needed U.S. food aid to North Korea in exchange for a rollback of its nuclear programs.

The agreement announced Wednesday sets in motion a plan laid out by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il before his death in December: to improve relations with the U.S. and to get back to six-nation disarmament-for-aid negotiations.

INDIA

India, China meet as Tibetans protest

NEW DELHI | India and China on Thursday discussed ways to cooperate as they vie for dominance in the region’s oceans, an official said, as police detained nearly a dozen Tibetan exiles protesting outside against China’s treatment of Tibet.

China presses territorial claims to much of the South China Sea, while India has been exploring for oil in Vietnamese waters - an agreement with Vietnam that China views with suspicion.

Vietnam’s fast-growing economy and its natural resources, including oil and gas, are an attraction for India, which, like China, is seeking energy sources to fuel its economic boom.

On Thursday, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi met in the Indian capital and decided to hold a maritime cooperation dialogue, said India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

PHILIPPINES

27,000 Filipino policemen don’t have official guns

MANILA | More than 27,000 Philippine police officers - about a fifth of the national force - do not have government-issued guns, prompting many of them to rely on their own guns to battle criminals and insurgents, officials said Wednesday.

Like the underfunded Philippine military, one of Asia’s weakest, the 140,000-strong police have struggled with scarce funds and weapons while dealing with widespread crimes, decades-long communist and Muslim rebellions, and attacks and threats from al Qaeda-linked militants in the country’s volatile south.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said his department has released $5.7 million to purchase 12,696 9 mm pistols, and arm less than half of the police officers and recruits without government-provided arms.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports