World news briefs: 12/7/13

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N. Korea boots U.S. war vet

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said today it has deported an elderly U.S. tourist and war veteran detained for more than a month for alleged hostile acts against the country.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said it made the decision because 85-year-old Merrill Newman had apologized for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and on a recent trip to the country and because of his age and medical condition.

Mr. Newman has yet to speak publicly and it was unclear today where he'd been deported to. It wasn't clear if his alleged confession shown on state TV last month was coerced.

A former group of South Korean guerrillas say Mr. Newman advised them as they fought behind enemy lines during the war.

Hagel targets Gulf ties

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to about 250 troops on the deck of the USS Ponce at the home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, pledged stronger relations with Persian Gulf allies Friday on a visit to Bahrain designed to ease doubts about U.S. commitments to the region.

Mr. Hagel will probably offer more detail on U.S. policy today, when he speaks at the Manama Dialogue, a regional security conference. His talk will contain proposals to strengthen defense relations with Gulf nations, according to a U.S. defense official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity before the speech is delivered.

U.S. commitments to the Gulf region have been tested in recent months by events in Syria and Iran.

Biden nears end of trip

SEOUL, South Korea -- Seeking to reassure wary allies and nearing the end of a weeklong trip through Asia, Vice President Joe Biden on Friday pushed back against those who question America's commitment to Asia, which has at times been obscured by an array of distractions at home and abroad.

But Mr. Biden warned in a speech at an elite South Korean university that without trust and common ground rules, the potential for great prosperity and security in fast-growing Asia may be undermined by mounting tensions in the region.

U.K. awaits more flooding

LONDON -- Hundreds of people in Britain mopped up flooded homes Friday after a powerful storm that scoured northern Europe with hurricane-force gusts kicked up the biggest tidal surge in 60 years, swamping stretches of shoreline and prompting evacuations along the eastern English coast.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said there would be "exceptionally high tides" on Friday and today, though they were not expected to reach Thursday's levels, when water swamped seaside promenades and flooded homes.

Also in the world ...

Six people showing signs of radiation exposure were hospitalized in central Mexico on Friday, government officials said, two days after a stolen truck carrying radioactive waste was found abandoned in the area, its potentially lethal contents disturbed. ... The police in Beijing have recommended that one of China's most prominent human rights advocates, Xu Zhiyong, be tried for his role in organizing demonstrations demanding that the Communist Party disclose officials' wealth and provide equal educational opportunities, his lawyer said Friday. ... Saudi militants were behind the massive car bombing and assault on Yemen's military headquarters that killed more than 50 people, including foreigners, investigators said in a preliminary report released Friday.

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