- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2009

SOUTH KOREA

Flight paths changed after North’s threat

SEOUL | North Korea threatened South Korean passenger planes flying near its airspace on Thursday and accused the U.S. and South Korea of attempting to provoke a nuclear war with upcoming joint military exercises.

In response, South Korea’s airliners, Korean Air and Asiana, rerouted their flights to stay clear of North Korean airspace, the Yonhap news agency reported.

The threat from North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland comes four days before annual U.S.-South Korean exercises are to begin across South Korea and amid concerns the North is preparing to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile.

The committee did not say what kind of danger South Korean planes would face or whether the threat means the North would shoot down planes. It was also unclear whether the statement was a warning to clear the air before a possible missile launch.

INDIA

Confusion as firm buys Gandhi relics

NEW YORK | Indian peace icon Mohandas K. Gandhi’s eyeglasses and other items were sold at an auction for $1.8 million to the Indian company UB Group, which said it wants to donate the possessions to the Indian government.

But confusion surrounded Thursday’s sale, which had raised an outcry in India, with the seller, James Otis, announcing he was withdrawing the items. The Antiquorum auction house agreed to wait two weeks before finalizing the sale.

The lot included Gandhi’s round eyeglasses, worn leather sandals, a pocket watch, and a brass bowl and plate.

Earlier, India’s government rejected a proposal by Mr. Otis, a pacifist, that would have halted the auction. Mr. Otis had been demanding that India raise its spending on the poor from 1 percent of its GDP to 5 percent, an estimated $50 billion.

Junior Foreign Minister Anand Sharma said in New Delhi that Mr. Otis’ demands infringed on the country’s sovereignty. Mr. Otis said he planned to sell the items to raise money to promote pacifism.

CHINA

Leader promises vigorous spending

BEIJING | China fleshed out an ambitious expansion in government spending Thursday designed to prevent the sinking global economy from further dragging down the country’s recently buoyant growth and sparking unrest among laid-off workers and poorer Chinese.

In a two-hour address comparable to a state-of-the-nation speech, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao struck a tone that was at turns confident and sober-minded. He called for expanding central and local government spending by nearly 25 percent to rescue the sagging economy and reach 8 percent growth - a target Beijing believes is a make-or-break threshold for creating jobs and satisfying a population used to steadily rising living standards.

“We will be able to achieve this target,” Mr. Wen told the nearly 3,000 delegates gathered for the opening of the national legislature inside the Great Hall of the People. The broad-ranging address, focused on domestic affairs, also called for energy conservation and for trial programs to curb global warming. It also offered to hold peace and free-trade talks with Taiwan.

Typical for such occasions, security was ramped up around the Great Hall, adjacent Tiananmen Square and across the city. As Mr. Wen spoke, police detained about two dozen people.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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