ASIA:

KOREAS-TENSION

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials criticize a North Korean artillery launch they say happened minutes before a Chinese commercial plane reportedly carrying 202 people flew in the same area. It wasn't immediately clear what danger, if any, the launch Tuesday posed to the China Southern Airlines plane traveling from Tokyo to Shenyang, China, but Seoul Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok called it a "serious threat" that Pyongyang failed to notify international aviation authorities of its launch plans in the area. By Youkyung Lee. Sent: 500 words.

CHINA-POLLUTION

PINGSHAN COUNTY, China — Huge chunks of concrete and broken machinery are all that is left of a cement plant that once spewed clouds of pollution over the outskirts of the city of Shijiazhuang, in central China. It was demolished in December, one of 35 factories closed or torn down the area as part of the government's drive to clear up China's notoriously smoggy skies. Combatting pollution has shot up the agenda of the ruling Communist Party, which for years pushed for rapid economic development with little concern about the environmental impact. And yet the shift has taken a human and economic toll in lost jobs and income for thousands of people and businesses across the country. By Louise Watt. Upcoming: 800 words by 0800GMT, photos.

UNITED STATES-CHINA-MILITARY.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Pacific commander voices concern over China's intentions as the Asian power announces its latest double-digit hike in defense spending. Several lawmakers questioned Adm. Samuel Locklear about U.S. ability to contend with a rising China and sustain a "pivot" to Asia amid growing pressure on the U.S. defense budget. By Matthew Pennington. Sent 470 words.

UNITED STATES-NKOREA-MYANMAR

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Department says Myanmar is still buying conventional weapons from North Korea, although it has begun distancing itself from Pyonyang. Sent 130 words.

AUSTRALIA-EGYPT

BRISBANE — The parents of jailed Australian journalist Peter Greste say they are haunted and depressed by images of him caged in an Egyptian court. Greste is one of three Al-Jazeera English journalists who appeared in a Cairo court on Wednesday along with 17 other defendants on charges accusing them of joining and aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security. Sent: 200 words, photos.

SINGAPORE-CEO DEATH

SINGAPORE — An American CEO of a virtual currency exchange has been found dead in her home in Singapore. A police spokesman said Thursday there was no suspicion of "foul play" in the death of 28-year-old Autumn Radtke. Sent: 100 words.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — A provincial government official says an early morning NATO airstrike in Afghanistan's central Logar province killed 5 Afghan National Army soldiers and wounded another 17. Sent: 125 words.

CHINA-ECONOMY-JOBS

BEIJING — China's finance minister says that creating jobs is the government's priority this year and economic growth below the official target of 7.5 percent might be acceptable. The economic target announced this week is "about 7.5 percent," which could mean growth might be lower than that, Lou Jiwei said at a news conference during the annual meeting of China's legislature. Sent: 260 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian government takes a step toward relaxing foreign ownership restrictions on Qantas Airways by passing legislation through parliament's lower house. But the opposition Labor Party and Greens party plan to use their majority in the Senate to keep the national carrier in Australian ownership. By Rod Mcguirk. Sent: 300 words.

US-TRADE SECRETS STOLEN-TRIAL

SAN FRANCISCO — Two men are convicted of stealing an American company's secret recipe for making a chemical used to whiten products from cars to the middle of Oreo cookies and selling it to a competitor controlled by the Chinese government. The four-man, eight-woman federal jury found Robert Maegerle, 78, and Walter Liew, 56, guilty of economic espionage and each could face 15 years or more in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Sent: 760 words.

WORLD MARKETS

TOKYO — Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Thursday as the standoff over Ukraine between Russia and the West continued to ease and the yen weakened. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 1.5 percent at 15,120.01 as the dollar headed back toward 103 yen after dropping in previous days on safe-haven buying of the Japanese currency. Sent: 350 words, photos.

US & INTERNATIONAL

UKRAINE-DIPLOMACY

PARIS — The United States and Western diplomats fail to bring about face-to-face talks between the Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers over the confrontation in Crimea, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sounds an optimistic note that an exit strategy is possible for Europe's gravest crisis since the Cold War. "I'd rather be where we are today than where we were yesterday," Kerry says. The intense round of diplomacy comes as the European Union extends $15 billion in aid to Ukraine, matching the amount the country's fugitive president accepted from Moscow to turn his back on an EU trade accord. By Lara Jakes and Maria Danilova. SENT: 900 words, photos, video.

UKRAINE

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine's new prime minister vows to defend his nation's territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, but says that Ukraine would be willing to consider granting more autonomy to the Crimea region to assuage the concerns of the province's pro-Russian population. By Maria Danilova. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.

— ANCHORWOMAN-RUSSIA — Anchorwoman on Kremlin-funded TV network stands by her criticism of Russia's military incursion in Ukraine. SENT: 500 words.

GENERAL MOTORS-RECALL

DETROIT — U.S. safety regulators are demanding that General Motors turn over reams of documents and other data showing what the company knew when about a dangerous ignition problem that has been linked to 13 car-crash deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating how GM handled the problem, which triggered the global recall of 1.6 million older-model compact cars. GM has acknowledged it knew of the ignition troubles a decade ago but didn't recall the cars until last month. Sent: 670 words.

ISRAEL-IRAN

JERUSALEM — Israel seizes a ship laden with rockets allegedly bound for militants in the Gaza Strip and accuses Iran of orchestrating the delivery in an elaborate 5,000-mile mission that includes covert stops in ports across the region. The Red Sea arms bust, which comes as Iran shows off newly acquired ballistic missiles, draws renewed Israeli calls for world powers to toughen their stand in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. By Josef Federman. SENT: 1,000 words with new approach, photos.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC-SMALL TOWN BETRAYAL

MBAIKI, Central African Republic — The swarm of people showed up on their deputy mayor's doorstep late on a Friday morning, just before the time of the Muslim prayers. By then, it mattered only that Saleh Dido was Muslim. His fate shows how far the violence has gone in the Central African Republic, where hundreds of Muslims have been killed in just a few months, redefining who belongs here by their religion alone. By Krista Larson. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

VATICAN-POPE

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he doesn't get it on sex abuse. Three months after Francis agreed to assemble a commission of experts on protecting children, no members have even been appointed. Francis hasn't met with any victims, hasn't moved to oust a bishop convicted of failing to report a problem priest, and on Wednesday insisted that the Catholic Church had been unfairly attacked on abuse, using the defensive rhetoric reminiscent of the Vatican a decade ago. By Nicole Winfield. SENT: 1.025 words, photos.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — Oscar Pistorius asked a friend to take the blame after a pistol was accidentally fired under their table in a restaurant weeks before the double-amputee runner fatally shot his girlfriend, a witness testifies at Pistorius' murder trial. The prosecution contends that the testimony raises questions about Pistorius' character. By Christopher Torchia and Gerald Imray. SENT: 750 words, photos, video.

VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ

CARACAS, Venezuela — The anniversary of Hugo Chavez's death is marked with an outpouring of near-religious reverence from his followers and street protests from his foes, reflecting deep divisions over the Venezuela he left behind. By Fabiola Sanchez and Frank Bajak. SENT: 840 words, photos.

FACEBOOK-GUNS

ALBANY, N.Y. — Under pressure from gun control advocates, Facebook agrees to delete posts from users selling illegal guns or offering weapons for sale without background checks. It's unclear how many firearms are sold through Facebook, but gun-control advocates worry that it is becoming all too easy to skirt state and federal laws by doing business over the Internet. By Michael Virtanen. SENT: 670 words, photos.

BIN LADEN SPOKESMAN

NEW YORK — Osama bin Laden's son-in-law goes on trial in federal court in Manhattan, where jurors hear him portrayed both as a murderous mouthpiece for al-Qaida and as a target of a prosecution designed to play on fears and resentments from the Sept. 11 attacks. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since suicide attackers struck the twin towers. By Tom Hays and Larry Neumeister. SENT: 650 words, photos, video.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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