North Korea's government said its missile and nuclear programs pose no threat to international stability. At the same time, it warned that its military forces are "fully ready for an all-out confrontation" with rival South Korea. The rhetoric, issued through the official Korean Central News Agency, came as new Secretary of State Clinton arrived in South Korea's capital calling the leadership situation in the North "unclear." She said the US and South Korean goal is "to come up with a strategy that is effective in influencing the behavior of the North Koreans."
As expected Thursday, members of Parliament in Kyrgyzstan endorsed a proposal to close a critical US military base used to supply troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The vote was 78 to 1, with 11 others abstaining or absent. It means that after President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signs the legislation and a formal eviction notice is issued, the US will have six months to vacate. Bakiyev announced plans to close the facility earlier this month after accepting more than $2 billion in aid and credits from Russia, which also maintains a base on Kyrgyz soil. A spokesman for the US base said: "We are saddened by the decision today. We have enjoyed [serving] here."
Prosecutors in Moscow said they'll appeal the "not guilty" verdicts Thursday for all three defendants accused of murdering investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya. But critics, among them the victim's family, accused the prosecution of shoddy investigative work and called the defendants "pawns." The Kremlin has denied accusations that it ordered Politkovskaya's October 2006 murder because of her hard-hitting exposes of official corruption and rights abuses.
A $253-a-month supplement was offered to low-wage employees on the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique Thursday by France's government after another night of protests and violence. The supplement had been demanded by unions representing the workers, who say they can't cope with the spiraling cost of living. Police reinforcements were deployed across Guadeloupe Wednesday night amid more rioting, resulting in 39 arrests. Tourism officials say at least 10,000 people have canceled vacation reservations on the two islands, and cruise ships scheduled to dock there are going elsewhere instead because of the turmoil.
Snow caused the closure of 12 highways around Beijing Thursday, the first significant precipitation that has fallen on northern China this year. But critics questioned the claim by the Weather Modification Command Center that chemical cloud-seeding produced the moisture to alleviate a three-month drought, the longest in 38 years. Beijing and its 12 surrounding provinces normally are cold but dry in winter.
An alarming increase in cocaine smuggling is threatening the stability of western Africa, a new report said Thursday. The independent International Narcotics Control Board called on the UN and other agencies to provide funds and expertise to cope with the problem despite the global economic decline. The report singles out Guinea-Bissau, but law-enforcement agents also recently intercepted 10 tons of drugs in Congo. Most of the drug shipments are destined for Europe.
Handwritten signs appeared across the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez Wednesday, warning of more police deaths unless their chief resigns. As long as Roberto Orduna remains in his post, a police officer will be killed every 48 hours, the signs said. Orduna's second-in-command and three other officers were shot to death earlier this week in apparent drug-related violence. Other officers in the city have quit in fear for their lives.