North Korea has the right to launch long-range rockets, but speculation that it's about to do so is a "vicious trick," the official Central News Agency said Monday as new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her first trip to Asia. The agency accused the US of trying to block North Korea's "peaceful scientific development" and said the world would learn after the fact "what will be launched." Clinton has warned the North not to engage in "provocative action and unhelpful rhetoric."

The recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip helped to perfect a rocket-interception system that will be tested late this year and implemented in 2010, defense officials said Monday. They said researchers studied how all types of rockets fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza behaved during varying weather conditions and how they were picked up by radar.

Nuclear-armed submarines from the British and French navies collided earlier this month while on separate underwater patrols, a defense official in London confirmed Monday. France's Defense Ministry acknowledged that its vessel had stuck another object, but said it was "probably a shipping container." The accident, at undisclosed coordinates in the Atlantic Ocean, damaged both subs but apparently caused no injuries.

A suspect in one of Australia's brush fires is being held at a secret location for his safety, law-enforcement officials said, asking angry survivors not to try taking justice into their own hands at any of his court appearances. He was identified as Brendan Sokaluk, a onetime volunteer firefighter. Meanwhile, the number of confirmed dead from the fires rose to 189.

Police in Madagascar's capital fired warning shots to disperse supporters of opposition leader Andry Rajoelina after he broke off peace talks with President Marc Ravalomanana because the latter refused to quit. Rajoelina said he, not Ravalomanana, now has the support of the Army and that the 12 cabinet "ministers" he appointed would try to report to their offices Monday.

Congratulatory messages from President Obama and other world leaders were arriving in Kosovo's capital as the ex-Serbian province prepared to observe its first anniversary of independence. But Serbia and Russia lead the ranks of nations that have refused to recognize the Balkan state, where UN troops still enforce an uneasy coexistence between the Albanian majority and its Serb minority. Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared Kosovo's first year a success and predicted that it ultimately will become a member of the UN, the European Union, and NATO and "be recognized by the entire world."

Whether the Republic of Ireland should move up the date of a new referendum on the EU charter was being studied Monday after a new opinion survey found a majority now favors acceptance. In the poll, published by the respected Irish Times, 51 percent of respondents said they'd vote "yes," compared with 33 percent who still oppose the Treaty of Lisbon, as the revised charter is called. Last June, Irish voters rejected it by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin. October has been projected as the likely date for a second referendum. The treaty cannot be implemented until all 27 EU members ratify it.

Former Mexican "drug czar" Noe Ramirez was charged with accepting $450,000 to warn traffickers of planned police raids. Ramirez resigned his post under pressure last summer and has been in police custody since November. Meanwhile, 13 more people were killed over the weekend in drug-related violence – 10 of them from the extended family of a state police officer.

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