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Briefly: Asia-Pacific region set for slower growth

- - Thursday, May 10, 2012

ASIA

BANGKOK — Asia-Pacific nations face a year of slowing growth caused by troubled export markets and rising commodity prices, an annual U.N. report warned Thursday.

Despite the gloomy outlook, the region will remain the fastest-growing in the world this year, the U.N.'s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific survey found.

Asia-Pacific growth will edge down to 6.5 percent in 2012 from 7.0 percent last year, as the eurozone debt crisis and uncertainty about the U.S. economic outlook weaken demand for exports, it said.

The region also faces a "new normal" of volatile commodity prices that the U.N. warned will hit the poor hardest unless governments make plans to soothe the pain of higher costs.

PAKISTAN

Pakistan test-fires short-range missile

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan's military said it successfully test-fired a short-range missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.

A military statement said the Hatf III Ghaznavi, with a range of 180 miles, was launched Thursday at the conclusion of the annual field training exercise of Army Strategic Force Command.

It is the second such test by Pakistan in the past two weeks. On April 25, it launched what it said was an intermediate-ranged missile after archenemy India conducted its own missile test.

The country routinely test-fires what it claims are indigenously developed missiles. Pakistan has fought three wars with its nuclear-armed neighbor, India, since 1947.

AFGHANISTAN

Suicide attackers kill 5 in east

KABUL — Taliban militants in police uniforms blew themselves up after being caught trying to sneak through a checkpoint Thursday in eastern Afghanistan, killing five people, authorities said.

Police at the checkpoint in Paktika province's Yayakhil district became suspicious of the men and told them to stop, provincial police Chief Dawlit Khan Zadran said.

The men refused, triggering an hourlong gunbattle during which two attackers were fatally shot and the remaining four detonated vests rigged with explosives. Two civilians and three policemen were killed by the blasts, and three other police officers were wounded.

NORTH KOREA

Strong nuclear deterrent promised no matter the cost

SEOUL — North Korea said Thursday it would strengthen its nuclear deterrent and other defenses regardless of cost, amid fears it is preparing for another atomic weapons test.

"No matter what high expense the army and people of [North Korea] have to cover, they will further bolster its defense capability including nuclear deterrence to firmly protect its dignity and sovereignty," said a state body known as the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea.

The committee, in comments on the official news agency, vowed not to be deceived by offers from hostile forces that it could get benefits in return for abandoning nuclear weapons and suspending missile launches.

CHINA

Restrictions tightened on activist Chen's family

BEIJING — Authorities in the hometown of blind activist Chen Guangcheng have notched up restrictions on members of his extended family while he awaits permission in Beijing to travel abroad under an agreement between China and the U.S.

Mr. Chen's brother and sister-in-law have been placed under house arrest, his nephew is in police detention, and another half-dozen relatives face some form of restriction on their movements in their village in Shandong province, according to Mr. Chen, his attorneys and a rights group.

Mr. Chen's flight from house arrest in Shandong and into the protection of U.S. diplomats - which led to an agreement with Beijing to let him study in the U.S. accompanied by his wife and children - has exposed the impunity of local officials and embarrassed the central government.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports