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North Korea Says Its Rockets Could Hit Continental US

North Korea is warning that its rockets are capable of striking the continental United States, two days after Seoul said it signed a deal with Washington to allow South Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles.

A spokesperson for the North's National Defense Commission said in state media Tuesday Pyongyang has "strategic rocket forces" that can hit not only the mainland U.S., but also American military bases in South Korea, Japan and Guam.

Asian Nations Meet on Island Disputes

Delegates with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a handful of East Asian countries and other Western powers skirted controversy over the heated issue of conflicting claims in Asia-Pacific waters during a meeting this week in the Philippines.

Diplomats joined security experts, maritime officials and others to discuss regional cooperation, the protection of marine resources and trade routes at a time when there has been growing tension over territorial disputes throughout the region.

Pakistan, Russia Intensify Contacts to Improve Ties

Pakistan and Russia have held high-level discussions focusing on how to expand their political, economic and military relationship. But analysts believe Afghanistan is at the center of the intensified diplomacy as both countries are positioning themselves in anticipation of expected withdrawal of most U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan by 2014.

Pakistani military chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani traveled to Moscow this week while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Islamabad.

Turkey OKs Possible Further Action Against Syria

The Turkish parliament has voted to authorize further military operations outside its borders after it struck Syrian targets on Thursday in response to a deadly cross-border mortar attack that killed five civilians.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said the one-year measure is not a declaration of war, but is intended as a deterrent against aggressive action by Syria.

The Turkish official said his government is acting in coordination with international institutions in its response to the artillery shelling by Syria that struck the southeast border town of Akcakale.

US Expands Military Operations in Africa

The United States is expanding its military presence in Africa to counter the growing influence of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other militant groups throughout North and West Africa.

U.S. concerns have been growing as militants have seized control of large parts of Mali and made their presence known across the region, through a campaign of bombings and other attacks from Nigeria to Libya.

Hitting closest to home for the United States was the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

NATO Extends Rasmussen’s Term as Secretary General

The North Atlantic Council has extended Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s four-year term as NATO secretary general for another year, until July 31, 2014, the council announced.

“Allies will support Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his dedicated work to carry forward NATO’s tasks, missions and objectives, based on consensual allied decisions,” a written statement from the council read.

In a short briefing from NATO headquarters in Brussels this morning, Rasmussen said he is honored by the trust and support of allied governments.

Venezuelan Voters to Decide Whether to Continue Chavez Rule

On Sunday, Venezuelans will go to the polls to either extend President Hugo Chavez's almost 14-year rule for another six years or choose his younger challenger Henrique Capriles to lead the nation. While the Venezuelan leader's ongoing battle with cancer has been a prominent issue in the presidential race, that for many voters this election will be a referendum on the results of Chavez's socialist policies.

Chinese Ships Re-Enter Disputed Waters

Four Chinese surveillance ships have entered waters near disputed Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea, further intensifying a bitter territorial dispute.

Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said Tuesday authorities have called on the ships to leave the Japanese waters, and that a complaint has been lodged with China's government.

MAP: Senkaku/Diaoyu region

AN AMERICAN GOLIATH IN AFGHANISTAN

The following is largely based on an interview with Contractor, MSG (Retired) Michael (Train) Beltran

The Best Assignment of a Warrior’s Life
MSG Michael (Train) Beltran enlisted in the Army out of California in 1975 at the age of 19, completed jump school and went straight into the 2nd BN. (Ranger) 75th Inf. Ft. Lewis WA.

IN PURSUIT OF VICTORY

Ross Elder is a soldier recently returned from Afghanistan who has been writing these columns to give a “boots on the ground” perspective of Operation Enduring Freedom.

I have been asked some very specific questions about my experience in Afghanistan, so I will give some very direct opinions in this, and future, articles.

LAST ROLL CALL

Without question, this is the most difficult article I have ever attempted to author. Although feelings of loss and sadness never fully leave a person, the grieving process has run its course. It isn’t so much the memory as much as it is the struggle to find the appropriate words to describe it that makes it so difficult. Out of respect for the family of the fallen, I will not mention their names or their unit. Suffice to say, they were men I knew.

Britain, Ecuador Fail to Reach Deal on Assange's Fate

The foreign ministers of Britain and Ecuador have met, but failed to reach agreement on the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London.

Britain's William Hague and Ecuador's Ricardo Patino spoke Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York to talk over Assange's fate. The British government said in a statement that both ministers are committed to finding a diplomatic resolution to the matter and are willing to meet again.

US to Lift Burma Import Ban

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Washington will take steps to lift a ban on imports from Burma in response to continued reforms by the country's military-backed government.

At a meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Clinton told Burma's President Thein Sein that the U.S. will "begin the process" of easing restrictions on Burmese goods into the United States.

No Sign of Progress in Japan-China Island Dispute

A bitter territorial dispute between China and Japan showed no signs of improvement Tuesday, as foreign ministers from both countries held high-level talks to ease tensions.

The official Xinhua news agency says Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi "reiterated China's position" on the disputed East China Sea islands during the talks, which were held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Vietnam Slammed for 'Harsh' Sentences Against Bloggers

Rights groups and world leaders are slamming Vietnam for prison sentences given to three prominent bloggers who wrote about human rights abuses and corruption in their country.

Following a brief trial in Ho Chi Minh City Monday, the defendants received sentences ranging from four to 12 years for spreading "propaganda against the state."

U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Washington is "deeply troubled" at the conviction of the bloggers, who she said "appear to have done nothing more than exercise their right to freedom of expression."