Japan mission leaves for talks with N. Korea

Updated 03 March 2014
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Japan mission leaves for talks with N. Korea

TOKYO: Japanese government and Red Cross officials left Sunday for talks in China with their North Korean counterparts in a rare meeting that might help improve frosty relations.
The delegation headed to Shenyang for the Red Cross talks about possible visits by Japanese to the graves of family members who died in North Korea decades ago, or missions to collect their remains.
The team includes Keiichi Ono, who heads the foreign ministry’s Northeast Asia division. The government talks will be held on the sidelines of the Red Cross meeting.
While there were few details of the agenda for the meeting which starts Monday, officials are hopeful that good discussions might help bridge the gap between the two nations, said Osaku Tasaka, head of the international division at Japan’s Red Cross.
“We don’t know exactly what kind of agenda items (North Koreans) will bring,” he told reporters.
“This meeting is designed specifically for the remains. But if discussions on this theme make progress, I hope it will also make a positive impact on other subjects.”
Ties between the two countries have long been strained, though they periodically try to resume dialogue with the ultimate — and so far elusive — goal of establishing formal diplomatic relations.
Officials from the two Red Cross societies last met in August 2012 and this led to talks by government officials in November of that year.
They had planned to meet again in December 2012 but that was canceled after Pyongyang announced its plan to launch a long-range missile.
One of the thorniest issues between Tokyo and Pyongyang is the fate of Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s to train its spies.
But it is not clear if government officials will discuss that in the upcoming talks, Japanese diplomats have said.
North Korea, meanwhile, craves trade with Japan yet blasts its military alliance with the United States, its 1910-45 colonisation of Korea and its treatment of ethnic Koreans in Japan.


London climate protesters seek talks with government

Updated 29 min 29 sec ago
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London climate protesters seek talks with government

  • Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests

LONDON: Climate change protesters who have brought parts of London to a standstill said Sunday they were prepared to call a halt if the British government will discuss their demands.
Some 831 arrests have been made and 42 people charged in connection with the ongoing Extinction Rebellion protests.
On the seventh day of demonstrations that have occupied key spots in the British capital, organizers said they were willing to switch tactics from disruption to dialogue.
“We are prepared to pause, should the government come to the negotiating table,” Extinction Rebellion spokesman James Fox told AFP.
“What the pause looks like is us stopping an escalation.
“We can discuss leaving if they are willing to discuss our demands.
“At the moment, we haven’t received a response from the government... so we’re waiting on that.”
Extinction Rebellion was established last year in Britain by academics and has become one of the world’s fastest-growing environmental movements.
Campaigners want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new “citizens’ assemblies on climate and ecological justice.
“We’re giving them an opportunity now to come and speak to us,” Fox told AFP.
“If they don’t take that opportunity, and if they refuse to come and negotiate with us, then this is going to continue and this is going to escalate in different, diverse and very creative ways.”
Police said they had managed to clear the Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus junctions of protesters, who remain in place on Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.
“We remain in frequent contact with the organizers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue,” the police said in a statement.
Calling for an end to the protests, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said more than 9,000 police officers had been responding to the demonstrations, which had left the force as a whole overstretched.
“This is now taking a real toll on our city — our communities, businesses and police. This is counter-productive to the cause and our city,” he said.
“I’m extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime if they continue any longer. It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk.
“You must now let London return to business as usual.”
In the blazing sunshine on Waterloo Bridge, police lifted protesters and carried them off to waiting police vans.
“I’m genuinely terrified. I think about it all the time. I’m so scared for the world. I feel like there is going to be calamity in my lifetime,” student Amber Gray told AFP.
“I don’t even feel comfortable bringing children into this world knowing that that is coming.
“And I don’t want people in the future to say to me, ‘why didn’t you do anything?’“
Retiree Kathy Hayman said politicians were “ignoring and denying.”
“I’m amazed really at the lack of consciousness that they have and the lack of responsibility.”