Hagel knocks Beijing over territorial disputes


SINGAPORE -- China's aggressive moves to claim jurisdiction over land and sky in the Asia-Pacific risk undermining peace and security in the region and beyond, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday. Beijing scoffed at the "groundless" charges.

Hagel told an international security conference that the United States "will not look the other way" when China and others try to restrict navigation or ignore international rules and standards.

China's territorial claims in the South China Sea are destabilizing the region, he said, adding that Beijing's failure to resolve such disputes threatens East Asia's long-term progress.

A Chinese general took issue with Hagel's comments, saying that "although I do think that those criticisms are groundless, I do appreciate your candor."

Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the General Staff, told Hagel during a brief meeting after the defense secretary's speech, "You were very candid this morning and, to be frank, more than our expectation."

Another arrest: Police arrested a third suspect Saturday in Lucknow, India, in the gang rape and slaying of two teenage cousins found hanging from a tree in northern India, as a top state official said he was recommending a federal investigation into a case that has triggered national outrage. The three suspects detained in the attack in Uttar Pradesh state are cousins in their 20s from an extended family, and they face murder and rape charges, crimes punishable by the death penalty, said police officer N. Malik. Two other suspects from the same village are also being sought, he said.

Biden gives commencement speech: Today's college graduates are stepping into a rapidly changing world that presents profound dangers and challenges as well as incredible opportunities, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday at Newark, Del. in a commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Delaware. A sense of confidence and an optimistic attitude will enable the newest class of graduates not only to confront those challenges and make the most of them, just as previous generations of Americans have done, but "to bend history a little bit," the vice president said. "Once every couple of generations, a class enters a point in our history where they actually have a chance to change the trajectory of the country, an inflection point, where change is taking place," Biden said.

New power plant rules: As governors, businesses and environmentalists brace for new limits on power plant pollution, President Barack Obama is casting his unprecedented effort to curb greenhouse gases as essential to protect the health and wellbeing of children. "I refuse to condemn our children to a planet that's beyond fixing," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday. His administration is bringing forward the first carbon pollution limits on existing U.S. power plants on Monday, the centerpiece of his campaign against climate change. Critics say the plan will drive up costs, kill jobs and damage a fragile economy.

Bomber grew up in Central Florida: The American man who launched a suicide bombing against Syrian government troops grew up in Central Florida and attended several colleges in the state before dropping out and moving abroad. U.S. officials identified the bomber as Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha of Vero Beach, Fla., but have said little else. Records show a person with that name lived with his family in a two-story stucco home in a gated community plunked among the orange groves on the edge of Vero Beach, the historic winter training ground for the Dodgers baseball team. Abu-Salha was 22, according to records from one of the colleges. Cynthia Heinz, a former member of the neighborhood homeowners association in Vero Beach, said the family had moved twice within the neighborhood since they lost their home to foreclosure a few years back.

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