- - Thursday, March 31, 2011


Military seeks to build trust with neighbors

BEIJING | China’s military promised Thursday to work at building trust with neighboring countries after months of tensions with the U.S. and other nations over Beijing’s increasingly assertive behavior.

The pledge was contained in a government policy paper issued every two years and follows complaints from the United States and others that China hasn’t adequately explained the goals of its rapid military expansion in the past three decades.

Alarm bells have sounded over China’s detention of foreign fishermen and harassment of research vessels in the South China Sea, along with warnings to the U.S. to stay out of the Yellow Sea off the northern coast and aggressive maneuvering by Chinese ships and helicopters in waters near Japan.

Stronger assertions of sovereignty claims also have sparked a regional backlash, drawing China’s neighbors closer to rival Washington and posing new challenges to Chinese diplomacy.


Population grows to 1.2 billion

NEW DELHI | India is home to 17 percent of the world’s people, as its population climbed to 1.21 billion this year, though growth actually slowed for the first time in 90 years, census officials said Thursday.

The South Asian nation - second only to China in number of people - added 181 million in the past decade, said C. Chandramouli, the census commissioner. That increase alone is nearly the entire population of Brazil.

United Nations projections show that India could overtake China and its 1.34 billion people as the world’s most populous nation by 2030, though Mr. Chandramouli said a more rigorous analysis of data would be needed before India made its own projections.

India’s population is nearly equal to the combined populations of the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, he said.

Yet the 17.6 percent increase was down from 21.5 in the last count a decade ago.


Bomber kills 12 in attack on convoy

PESHAWAR | A suicide bomber struck a convoy carrying a prominent hard-line Islamist leader in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 12 people.

It was the second attack to target the politician in as many days, police said.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam party, told local TV after the attack in the town of Charsadda that he was unharmed but his vehicle was slightly damaged.

The attack came a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up amid a crowd of Rehman supporters minutes after he passed by in a vehicle.

Mr. Rehman has been an outspoken supporter of the Afghan Taliban, but some militants in Pakistan have shown a willingness to target anyone connected to the U.S.-backed government. U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks last year also revealed that Mr. Rehman purportedly sought support from U.S. officials in Pakistan despite his fierce criticism of Washington in public.

The 12 dead from Thursday’s attack include at least three policemen, said Liquat Ali Khan, police chief in Peshawar city. The blast also wounded at least 20 people. It was unclear if the bomber was on foot or on a motorcycle.


Thai navy rescues stranded tourists

BANGKOK | Thailand’s navy used helicopters and an aircraft carrier on Thursday to rescue more than 800 tourists stranded by heavy rains on the country’s picturesque southern islands.

Nearly a week of torrential rains has caused flooding and landslides in southern Thailand that have killed at least 17 Thais and left tourists stranded on islands in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand, where ferry services were canceled because of rough water.

The flooding has affected 840,000 people in eight southern provinces and inundated 61 highways, the Department of Disaster Prevention said Thursday.

About 730 travelers, mostly foreigners, spent the night camped on mats aboard the HTMS Chakri Naruebet, the Royal Thai Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, after being evacuated from the island of Koh Tao, according to a statement from the navy and Thai television news reports.

The navy said it also rescued more than 100 people from other islands, including Koh Phangan, known for its raucous all-night beach bash, the Full Moon Party.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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