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U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel to make 4-day visit to China in April

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit China from April 7 to 10 to discuss bilateral and regional security issues, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday. The announcement by Geng Yansheng, who did not provide other details, was made at a time when China and Japan, a long-standing security ally of the United States, are still struggling to repair bilateral ties seriously frayed over territorial and historical issues, raising fears that an unintended confrontation could escalate into a bigger military clash.

Australian 'Great Escape' survivor still has vivid memories

Australian Paul Royle, one of only two men alive from World War II's daring "Great Escape", says he still has vivid memories of the audacious prison breakout on its 70th anniversary. Royle, 100, was one of 76 men who tunnelled out of German prison camp Stalag Luft III on a bitterly cold night in March 1944, an event immortalised in the 1960s film "The Great Escape" starring Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough. They dug three tunnels -- codenamed Tom, Dick and Harry -- although only Harry was used.

Deep budget cuts may erode U.S. Army ability to fight long war: general

By David Alexander and Phil Stewart WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. Army officer told lawmakers on Tuesday that a return to deep budget cuts as required by law beginning in 2016 would make it difficult for the military to carry out even one extended ground war.

Americas News Agenda for March 25

Duty Editor: Jim Mannion Tel: +1 202 414 0541 What's happening in the Americas on Tuesday: + Dozens still unaccounted for in US landslide + Supreme Court hears Obamacare challenge ARLINGTON, Washington: Emergency teams hunt for survivors of a huge and deadly landslide in the US state of Washington, with more than 100 people still unaccounted for. Picture. Video. (US-LANDSLIDE)

Italy rescues more than 4,000 migrants, operations ongoing

ROME (Reuters) - Italy's navy has rescued more than 4,000 migrants from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily in the past four days and several other rescue operations are still going on, officials said on Friday. This week's warm spring weather has brought calm seas and an surge in new arrivals. Most migrants pay more than $1,000 to criminal gangs in increasingly chaotic Libya to make the crossing to Italy - and the European Union - that killed hundreds last year.

Joblessness among Gulf War era veterans inches down to 9.9 per cent for 2013, but still high

WASHINGTON - New Labor Department figures show the unemployment rate for working-age veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces since September 2001 edged down slightly in 2013, to 9.0 per cent. But Thursday's report also found that the rate remained well above the overall civilian unemployment figure of 6.7 per cent. The decrease followed a decline to 9.9 per cent in 2012. The statistics cover veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces at any time since September 2001, a group referred to as Gulf War-era veterans.

US minority veterans finally get Medal of Honor

Two dozen US veterans dodged bullets and grenades in military heroism, but were only Tuesday recognized with the most prestigious US combat award after being denied for decades due to racism. The Hispanic, black and Jewish soldiers served during the Vietnam, Korean and Second World Wars. Ten died during the wars. One remains missing after serving in Korea. And only three were still alive Tuesday to receive their Congressional Medals of Honor.

North Caucasus rebel leader Umarov dead, replaced: website

By Alissa de Carbonnel MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's most wanted man, Doku Umarov, is dead and has been replaced as the leader of an Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus, a website that sympathizes with the militants said on Tuesday. Umarov's forces have claimed responsibility for several deadly bombings, including in Moscow. His death has been reported several times by the Kremlin-backed leader of the Chechnya region, but never before by Umarov's sympathizers.

Chechen militant leader Doku Umarov is dead

Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, whose Caucasus Emirate group claimed responsibility for a string of deadly attacks in Russia over the last years, has been killed, a pro-insurgency website said Tuesday. "The leadership of the Caucasus Emirate officially announces the martyrdom of Emir Dokku Abu Usman," the Kavkaz Center website said, using the Arabised nom-de-guerre of Umarov.

Israel's Peres apologises over shooting of Jordan judge

Jordan said on Monday that Israeli President Shimon Peres had apologised to King Abdullah II for the killing of a Jordanian judge by Israeli troops last week. Peres for his part issued a statement saying he had called Abdullah to express "deep regret" for the shooting of Palestinian Jordanian Raed Zeiter at a border crossing, but the statement stopped short of quoting a full apology. A Jordan palace statement said Abdullah "received a telephone call from Peres who, as president of the state of Israel, apologised for the martyrdom of Jordanian judge Raed Zeiter".
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