Airspace dispute with China escalates

A war of words in a territorial dispute between Japan and China escalated Monday, with each country summoning the other’s ambassador and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling a newly declared Chinese maritime air defense zone dangerous and unenforceable.

Abe told a parliamentary session in Tokyo that the zone alters the state of affairs in the East China Sea and escalates a tense situation. “The measures by the Chinese side have no validity whatsoever for Japan, and we demand China revoke any measures that could infringe upon the freedom of flight in international airspace,” he said.

On Saturday, Beijing issued a map of the zone and rules that say all aircraft must notify Chinese officials and are subject to emergency military measures if they do not identify themselves.

Abe said the measures one-sidedly impose rules set by the Chinese military on all flights in the zone and violate the freedom to fly above open sea, a general principle under international law. He also slammed China for showing the disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese, as Chinese territory in the zone.

Since taking office almost a year ago, Abe has spearheaded a move to step up Japan’s defense capability, citing threats from China’s growing maritime presence. Japan has had a similar zone since the 1960s.

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have both said the United States is “deeply concerned” about China’s action.

— Associated Press

Vote on constitution now expected in Jan.

Egypt’s interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, said Monday that he expects a referendum on the constitution now being drafted to take place in January, not next month as previously expected.

The interim government — installed after the army ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected leader, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, on July 3 — has announced a road map that could lead to presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

“I believe that [a referendum] will take place in the second half of January,” Beblawi said, giving no reason for the delay.

A committee of 50 members, few of whom are Islamists, began work in September on amending the constitution that was pushed through by Morsi last year.

Leaks of draft amendments show a desire to curb Islamic laws and ease rules barring officials from the Hosni Mubarak era from running for office.

— Reuters

Man sentenced to death in U.S. Consulate raid: A Saudi court has sentenced a man to death and 19 others to prison terms of up to 25 years in the 2004 armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Jiddah, which killed five employees in an attack blamed on al-Qaeda. The official Saudi Press Agency said 35 other suspects will face hearings this week.

Attacks kill dozens in Iraq: A double bombing at a market and other attacks across Iraq killed at least 27 on Monday, officials said. Twin blasts shortly after sunset at an outdoor market in downtown Baghdad killed 16 shoppers and wounded 35 others, police said. Such bombings are the hallmark of al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch, which is trying to destabilize the Shiite-led government.

Libyan troops fight militants in Benghazi: Libyan troops struggling to establish control across the country clashed with militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday, and at least nine people were killed, city officials said. The new military faces a challenge from Islamist militants and militias who fought in the uprising against Moammar Gaddafi but refuse to disarm and control parts of the country.

France to send more troops to Central African Republic: France will triple its troop strength in the Central African Republic to 1,200 to help bolster security, the war-torn country’s premier said. The nation has descended into chaos since rebels ousted President François Bozizé in March.

— From news services