- - Thursday, December 16, 2010


China, Pakistan celebrate ‘all-weather’ friendship

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan calls China its “all-weather” friend - an ally that offers consistent, no-strings-attached support during turbulent times. However, the reality is a more complicated mix of economics, security and self-interest.

Those complexities will be on display during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s three day-visit to Pakistan that begins Friday. Islamabad has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency as well as political and economic turmoil in recent years, and Mr. Wen’s trip - the first by a Chinese premier in five years - provides Pakistan with a rare occasion to play host to a foreign leader.

The visit will focus on investment and bilateral trade, but also will be used to showcase ties between the Asian neighbors that have endured and even flourished despite Beijing’s closer relations to Islamabad’s archrival India.

China is Pakistan’s closest friend in the region, giving Islamabad military aid and technical assistance, including nuclear technology. Crucially, it is perceived by many here as not distinguishing between Pakistan and India and - unlike Islamabad’s so-called “fair-weather” friends in Washington - doesn’t demand anything in return for assistance.


Military to stage drills from border island

SEOUL | South Korea said Thursday that it will conduct artillery drills similar to those that prompted North Korea to shell a front-line island last month - a move that risks further confrontation.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement that marines based on Yeonpyeong Island, a tiny fishing community with military bases near the Koreas’ disputed sea border, will stage one-day live-fire drills sometime between Saturday and Tuesday.

Similar artillery exercises Nov. 23 were met with a rain of North Korean shells that killed two marines and two civilians, destroyed homes and shops and raised fears of renewed war between the rivals. The North says the waters around the island are part of its territory.


American jailed for blasphemy

JAKARTA | An Indonesian court has sentenced a U.S. businessman to five months in jail for marching into a mosque during Islamic prayers and ripping cables from the loudspeakers.

Gregory Lloyd Luke was found guilty of blasphemy.

Mohammad Bilal, an official at the Praya District Court on Lombok island, said the 64-year-old was given a relatively lenient sentence because he was apologetic and polite during the hearings.

Mr. Luke, a Muslim, has a lodge for tourists on Kuta beach. He stormed into the nearby mosque during prayers on Aug. 26 and disabled the speakers, which he said were too noisy.

A mob attacked him and ransacked his house, causing an estimated $20,000 in damage.


No more rescued a day after boat crash

SYDNEY | No more survivors of a horrific boat crash that killed at least 28 asylum seekers were found in the churning waters off an Australian island Thursday, more than 24 hours after their rickety boat smashed into rocks and broke apart in monstrous waves.

Navy and customs officers plucked 42 survivors - including nine children - from the raging surf off Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean soon after their boat sank Wednesday. But as darkness fell over the remote island a day later, rescuers reported no new signs of life, customs officials said.

The boat, carrying up to 100 asylum seekers of Iraqi, Iranian and Kurdish origin, smashed into the cliffs of Christmas Island. Twelve men, nine women and seven children - including four infants - were among the dead, the Customs and Border Protection Service said.

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