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China boosts military spending

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World Digest
China raises its military spending

BEIJING The Chinese government announced yesterday that it would increase military spending 11.6 percent, about $2.6 billion, in the next year to improve the "defensive combat readiness of the armed forces under high-tech conditions."

China does not publicize its spending on weapons, research and development, and other costs. The Pentagon puts actual outlays at up to four times the public figures. Last year's announced military budget was $22.4 billion.

The 2.5 million-member People's Liberation Army is the world's largest but lags behind U.S. and other major forces in technology despite big purchases of advanced submarines and aircraft in recent years.

Though Taiwan wasn't mentioned in the announcement, the boost to the military comes days ahead of a March 20 Taiwan presidential election that includes an unprecedented referendum on relations with the mainland.

Beijing insists Taiwan is part of China. It has repeatedly threatened to use force to unify the two sides, separated by a bloody civil war that ended with the communist revolution in 1949.

Chinese court gives life term to British citizen for spying

BEIJING A Chinese court has sentenced a Hong Kong-based British citizen to life in prison for spying, the South China Morning Post reported yesterday.

Chan Yu-lam, 53, is a former employee of the Hong Kong bureau of China's official Xinhua News Agency. The bureau acted as China's consulate in the former British colony before it returned to mainland rule in 1997.

The Washington Post reported last week that Chan was charged for discussing China's 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests with a British agent and for giving the agent phone numbers for the Xinhua bureau.

Russian researchers rescued from disintegrating ice floe

MOSCOW Twelve Russian researchers were plucked from an Arctic ice floe yesterday, three days after a chunk of the floe disappeared beneath the sea and took most of the researchers' meteorological station with it.

The researchers, who had been recording weather conditions and studying climate change, were unhurt and had enough supplies to survive for several days.

The research station was set up on the floe in April. The floe had drifted some 1,710 miles south before it broke up a few weeks earlier than expected.

Court ruling clears surgeons in deaths of conjoined twins

SINGAPORE A Singapore court ruled yesterday that surgeons who tried to separate adult conjoined twins from Iran should not be held criminally liable for their deaths.

The ruling concludes an inquest into the deaths of Ladan and Laleh Bijani, 29, who died of blood loss during the 50-hour surgery in Singapore in July. Lead surgeon Dr. Keith Goh testified he tried to talk the sisters out of going through with the surgery, warning them the chance of success was only one in six. But the sisters insisted on the attempt and told surgeons to press on even if complications arose.

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