China says other nations can sail South China Sea

The Chinese military declared Friday that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea but insisted it will continue to allow others to freely navigate one of the busiest waterways in the world.

The statement by the People’s Liberation Army seemed designed to reiterate China’s claims to the entire 1.3 million-square-mile waterway while calming concerns in Washington and Asian capitals that its policy toward the region had suddenly become significantly more aggressive.

“China has indisputable sovereignty of the South Sea, and China has sufficient historical and legal backing” to support its claims, Senior Col. Geng Yansheng, a Ministry of Defense spokesman, said Friday.

But he added, “We will, in accordance with the demands of international law, respect the freedom of the passage of ships or aircraft from relevant countries.”

Geng’s remarks were in reaction to a push last week by the United States, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to challenge China’s claims to the whole sea.


Pakistan steps up aid effort for northwest flood victims

The Pakistani government stepped up relief efforts Friday for the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the worst flooding in decades to hit the country’s northwest.

While unusually heavy monsoon rains have inflicted damage across the country this week, northwestern Pakistan has borne the brunt of the destruction, with the death toll climbing to at least 408, provincial officials said.

The government’s response has come under special scrutiny because the impoverished northwest has been the scene of persistent militant attacks and frequent U.S.-backed army offensives in recent years. The Taliban, which is active across the region, has fed on the widespread perception that the government is ineffective and unable to meet basic needs.


Earthquake rattles Iran city, leaving 110 people injured

A 5.7-magnitude earthquake rattled the northeast Iranian city of Torbat-e Heydariyeh on Friday, injuring at least 110 people.

Iran’s state TV said the quake also damaged several villages and temporarily disrupted communications. The earthquake struck around 6:20 p.m. local time and rocked the city for about 10 seconds, causing cell phone disconnections.

Local Governor Mojtaba Sadeqian said one of the injured was in critical condition.

Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. It experiences at least one slight earthquake every day on average.

Some 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6-magnitude quake that flattened the historic southeastern city of Bam in the same region in 2003.