- Bomb explodes outside home of Greek prison director
- North Korea says to reopen hotline with South, seeks weekend talks
- Japan approves national security council bills amid China tensions
Posted: 06 Jun 2013 09:09 PM PDT
ATHENS (Reuters) - A time bomb exploded outside the Athens home of a Greek prison director overnight on Friday, smashing windows and slightly injuring one woman in the face, police officials said.
The device, which police estimate contained at least 1 kg of dynamite, was left under a car used by Maria Stefi, director of the high-security Korydallos prison, in the Dafni neighborhood.
Police cordoned off the area after an unidentified caller warned Greek news website zougla.gr that a bomb would blow up in 20 minutes. The device went off at about 2.40 a.m. British time and one woman was slightly injured in her home by broken glass.
"We believe this is an act of domestic terrorism," said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion.
Small homemade bomb attacks by militant groups are frequent in Greece and usually target police, public buildings or businesses.
Attacks on political figures and journalists have picked up in recent months, some claimed by anti-establishment leftists angry about Greece's financial woes.
In January, two Greek anarchist groups claimed responsibility for an explosion at an Athens shopping centre that fuelled fears of rising political violence.
(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Philip Barbara)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 06 Jun 2013 08:37 PM PDT
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said it would reopen a Red Cross hotline with South Korea on Friday and invited officials from Seoul to talks over the weekend, a further sign Pyongyang wants to improve ties after a barrage of threats to wage war earlier this year.
On Thursday, North Korea proposed talks to normalise commercial projects, including a joint industrial zone it shut down at the height of tensions in early April.
Pyongyang's moves come ahead of a summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday in California. North Korea's actions, including its latest nuclear test in February and threats to attack South Korea and the United States, are likely to be high on the agenda.
North Korea stopped responding to calls on the Red Cross hotline in March. Another hotline, used by military officials, remains shut.
"We appreciate the fact that the South side promptly and positively responded to the proposal made by us for holding talks between the authorities of both sides," the North's official KCNA news agency quoted a spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying.
The two Koreas have not held talks since February 2011.
South Korea has proposed cabinet level talks on June 12 in Seoul to discuss a range of issues including commercial projects and families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.
In response, Pyongyang invited South Korea to a working-level meeting on Sunday in the border city of Kaesong, where South Korean companies employed 53,000 North Korean workers to make cheap household goods until Pyongyang ordered it closed.
Tensions escalated on the peninsula after the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its February 12 nuclear test, the country's third. North Korea also claimed that two months of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills that ended in late April were a prelude to an invasion.
The international community condemned North Korea for its recent threats. China, the North's major diplomatic ally, was also critical.
China told a North Korean delegation that visited Beijing late last month that the country should stop conducting nuclear tests and focus on economic development, a source with knowledge of the talks told Reuters.
(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Jack Kim and Dean Yates)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 06 Jun 2013 08:04 PM PDT
TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government on Friday approved legislation to set up a national security council, moving to strengthen the premier's grip on foreign policy in the face of North Korean missile threats and a territorial dispute with China.
The hawkish Abe has pursued the formation of Japan's version of the White House's National Security Council to centralise information gathering and speed up decision-making, a move welcomed by U.S. security experts.
"We have put in place a structure that allows Japan to comprehensively monitor the country's security," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a news conference.
The bills are now to be submitted to the current session of parliament, which ends on June 26, for possible enactment in an extraordinary diet session in the fall.
The need for a centralised national security body has been highlighted by North Korea's recent sabre-rattling and a deadly January raid by jihadists on a natural gas plant in Algeria.
Japan struggled to obtain information on the Algeria hostage crisis, where 10 Japanese nationals were among three dozen foreign workers killed during the four-day siege of the desert gas plant.
In the East China Sea, a maritime territory dispute has escalated to the point where Beijing and Tokyo scramble fighter jets and patrol ships shadow each other, raising fear that miscalculation could lead to a broader clash.
Similar legislation was presented to parliament six years ago when Abe served his first term as prime minister, but it was dropped after his resignation in the wake of a one-year stint troubled by cabinet-level scandals and his Liberal Democratic Party's rout in an upper-house poll.
Referring to the Sino-Japanese island spat, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told a seminar last month that several Japanese ministries were involved but there was "no process which can get all the information ... to the prime minister in a timely fashion so he can make a decision."
"This formation of an NSC will be very key to Japan's decision-making as we move forward," he said.
Under the security council framework, the prime minister, chief cabinet secretary, foreign and defence ministers would meet regularly to hammer out strategy, while relevant ministers would be called together to respond to emergency situations.
Ministries would be required to quickly provide key information to help the council play a commanding role in setting security policies and handling national emergencies.
The current security council of nine ministers has been criticised as being too cumbersome, while relevant offices such as the defence and foreign ministries are said to take too long to share critical information.
In a move to boost Japan's defensive capabilities, Abe has also proposed amending the pacifist, U.S.-drafted constitution to loosen restraints on the military.
Koichi Oizumi, professor at Aomori Chuo Gakuin University, said the creation of the national security council would be a step in the right direction but Japan would still face a tough task of training intelligence specialists.
"What's important is training people, which is time-consuming and money-consuming. They can set up a system, but without the right people, how can the system function?" Oizumi said.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said late in May that the government recognised the importance of nurturing experts in the field, but that no specific measures had been decided.
(Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka and Linda Sieg; Editing by Stephen Coates)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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