Japan-N Korea talks begin
Japan and North Korea yesterday started high-level government talks in Beijing— the first such summit in more than a year — that are expected to focus on the fate of at least a dozen people Tokyo says Pyongyang abducted in the 1970s and 1980s. The two-day talks began with North Korean Ambassador Song Il-ho meeting a Japanese delegation led by Junichi Ihara, director-general for Asian and Oceanic Affairs at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at North Korea’s embassy in Beijing.
Ruling party set to triumph
The ruling Freedom Alliance party was headed for victory in local elections, but by smaller-than-expected margins in a crucial mid-term test for President Mahinda Rajapakse, early results showed yesterday. Rajapakse’s party won comfortably in his home constituency of Hambantota, taking 57.42 percent of the vote, preliminary Department of Elections figures showed. However, that was less than the 66.95 percent it won in 2009. In neighboring Matara District, the party’s vote base was eroded by nearly 10 percent as opposition parties made inroads, the figures showed, while counting was ongoing in the third district. In Western Province, the party was leading in most districts, but also by smaller-than-anticipated margins.
Abandoned children found
Officials on Saturday said that in one week, they found 370 migrant children who were apparently abandoned by traffickers paid to take them to the US. The children were rescued across 14 states between March 17 and Monday last week, the National Migration Institute said, adding that 163 of those under 18 were traveling alone. According to the institute, the children told officials the traffickers left them after being paid between US$3,000 and US$5,000. It said most of the children showed signs of extreme fatigue, dehydration, foot injuries and disorientation from being abandoned at unknown locations.
‘Hollande referendum’ starts
Voters headed to the polls yesterday in municipal elections seen as a referendum on embattled President Francois Hollande’s first two years in office, with the far-right National Front aiming to build on its strong finish in the first round of voting. The front made advances nationwide amid record-low turnout and is poised to make big gains in the mayoral and municipal counselor elections of 36,000 villages, cities and towns. The ruling Socialist Party, reeling from Hollande’s record-low approval ratings, is bracing for a rout pollsters estimate could see the opposition Union for Popular Movement party take back about 100 city halls.
Mudslide missing lowered
The number of those believed missing following a mudslide in Oso, Washington State, has plummeted to 30 after many people were found safe, authorities said on Saturday. Officials previously said they expected the figure — previously estimated at 90 — to fall as they worked to find the missing and cross-referenced a “fluid” list that likely included partial reports and duplicates. As the number of people unaccounted for went down, the fatalities went up. The number of victims identified by the medical examiner on Saturday rose by one to 18, said Jason Biermann, from the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. More than two dozen bodies — including one on Saturday — have been recovered, but they are not added to the official tally until formally identified.