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Trade, Haiti, Koreas Top Xinhua's News Stories for 2010

Cheap toys imported from China are displayed in a makeshift market in Jakarta, 15, Jan. 2010. Southeast Asian countries will not delay implementing a free-trade zone with China that has drawn fire from some industry groups.

Editors at China's official Xinhua news agency have selected the opening of a free trade pact between China and Southeast Asian nations as the most significant news event of 2010.

Xinhua described the deal between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as "a milestone in the development of China-ASEAN relations." It said that the deal creates the world's largest free trade region among developing countries, with a total population of 1.9 billion people and estimated trade volume of $4.5 trillion during its first year.

Second on the top 10 list was the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, which killed 200,000 people, followed by the increased tensions between North and South Korea.

Ecological disasters snatched the next two spots on the list – with fourth place going to the Iceland volcano that tied up air traffic in Europe, and fifth going to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Economic stories filled out the middle of Xinhua's list. They included the status of emerging economies and the debt crisis in Europe.

The bottom of the list was rounded out by U.S. scientists' creation of a single-cell life form entirely from synthetic DNA, and the rescue of 33 Chilean miners after 69 days underground.

In commenting on the Korean crisis, Xinhua recounted the chain of events that raised tensions on the peninsula without assigning blame. It noted that North Korea has rejected the findings of an international investigation that blamed Pyongyang for the sinking of the South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March. And it described the exchange of artillery fire at Yeonpyeong Island last month without saying which country fired first.