Briefly: Two Hong Kong officials charged in housing fraud scandal

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HONG KONG

Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog has charged a former government secretary with fraud over a housing scandal that erupted days after he was appointed by the city’s new leader.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption said former Secretary for Development Mak Chai-Kwong and Tsang King-man, the assistant director of the Highways Department, face a joint charge of conspiracy to defraud the government of $90,000.

The two are accused of abusing a civil servant housing allowance by hiding the fact that they owned the apartments they rented to each other to claim the payments from 1985 to 1990. They also face five bribery-related charges.

SOUTH KOREA

President visits island, vows defense against North Korea

SEOUL — South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit Thursday to an island near the tense border with North Korea that was shelled by Pyongyang two years ago.

“We must defend [the maritime border] to the last man,” Mr. Lee was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency as he inspected an artillery company on Yeonpyeong Island. “If North Korea provokes us, we have to retaliate strongly.”

A presidential spokeswoman said Mr. Lee’s visit – his first to the island since taking office in 2008 – was aimed at “checking the security status there ahead of the second anniversary of the shelling.”

In protest at a firing exercise by South Korean troops, the North shelled Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, 2010, leaving two South Korean soldiers and two civilians dead.

The South retaliated with an artillery bombardment on two targets in the North, triggering concerns that the incident could provoke a wider conflict.

CHINA

Wind farm firm claims discrimination by U.S.

BEIJING — The Chinese company suing President Obama for blocking its planned wind farm projects in Oregon accused the administration of discrimination Thursday and warned that the case would deter Chinese investment in the United States.

Last month, Mr. Obama blocked Ralls Corp.’s plan to build four wind farms near a U.S. Navy base, after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States concluded that it posed security risks.

It was the first time a U.S. president stepped in to halt such a foreign business deal for national security reasons since 1990, when President George H.W. Bush scuttled the sale of a manufacturer to a Chinese agency.

Chinese construction machinery giant Sany denied that the project posed security risks and said U.S. officials were discriminating against the company because it is Chinese. It filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government last month and added Mr. Obama’s name as a defendant later.

MYANMAR

Discovery could flood vintage Spitfire market

YANGON — As many as 140 World War II Spitfire fighter planes – three to four times the number of airworthy models known to exist – are thought to be buried in near-pristine condition in Myanmar.

A British-Myanmarese partnership says it will begin digging up the planes by the end of the month.

The excavation was given the go-ahead this week, when the Myanmarese government signed an agreement with British aviation enthusiast David J. Cundall and his local partner.

Mr. Cundall, a farmer and businessman, announced this year that he had located 20 of the planes, best known for helping the Royal Air Force win mastery of the skies during the Battle of Britain.

On Thursday, however, a retired Myanmarese geology professor who has assisted in the recovery operation since 1999 said there are about 140 Spitfires buried in various places in the Southeast Asian country, which until 1948 was a British colony called Burma. He did not explain the discrepancy in estimates.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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