Japan mission leaves for talks with N. Korea

Updated 03 March 2014

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.

At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

Updated 19 July 2019

At least 8 killed in blast near Kabul University

  • No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack
  • Explosion happened when a number of students were waiting near the campus gate to attend an exam

KABUL: At least eight people were killed and dozens more wounded Friday when a bomb detonated near a major university in Kabul while students were waiting to take an exam, officials said.

The blast comes amid an unending wave of violence across Afghanistan, where civilians are being killed every day in the country’s grueling conflict, now in its 18th year.

The Taliban denied any involvement in Friday’s blast, which took place near the southern entrance to Kabul University, an official with the interior ministry’s media office said.

Health ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar said the death toll had reached eight, with another 33 injured.

“Wounded patients have been receiving the required medical and surgical treatment,” he said on Twitter.

The heavily militarized Afghan capital remains one of the highest-profile targets for both the Taliban and the so-called Daesh group, with both regularly launching devastating attacks that often kill and maim civilians.

Bahar Mehr, the interior ministry official, said five people had been killed including a traffic police officer.

“The wounded were law students gathered for (an examination). We do not know how many students had gathered there,” he said.

The blast had been caused by a sticky bomb, he said, a common threat in Kabul where criminals and insurgents often slap explosives under vehicles.

Local media reports said police had been pursuing the vehicle when it detonated.

“The university and the examination ceremony were not the target of the attack, and we are investigating,” Firdaws Faramarz, Kabul police spokesman, told TV network TOLO.

Last week, Daesh claimed responsibility for a suicide attack at a wedding ceremony in Nangarhar province.

The hard-line Sunni extremists have a growing footprint in Afghanistan and the United States wants to leave a counter-terrorism force in the country to tackle them in the event of a peace deal with the Taliban.