Selasa, 11 Februari 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Former Japanese Prime Minister meets 'comfort women'

Posted: 11 Feb 2014 02:39 AM PST

SEOUL: Tomiichi Murayama, the former Japanese prime minister known for his 1995 apology over wartime aggression, met Tuesday with three South Korean "comfort women" who served as sex slaves to Japanese troops.

"Please stay healthy," the 89-year-old ex-premier told the women as he clasped their hands at an exhibition of art works by comfort women being held in the South Korean parliament complex in Seoul.

One of the three women, Kang Ul-Chul, told Murayama through an interpreter that the Japanese government should apologise properly to the former sex slaves and provide compensation.

They also presented him with one of the artworks, titled "Flower destroyed unbloomed".

Murayama served as Japan's prime minister from 1994-96 and is best remembered for his 1995 speech in which he publicly apologised for Japanese atrocities during World War II.

Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula remains a hugely emotive issue in South Korea, which believes Japan has failed to live up to the spirit of the 1995 apology and not properly atoned for its past aggression.

Relations hit a new low in December when the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, visited a controversial war shrine which commemorates around 2.5 million Japanese war dead including several high-level war criminals.

Murayama arrived on Tuesday for a three-day visit at the invitation of an opposition party.

He reportedly requested a meeting with President Park Geun-Hye but was turned down on account of her "busy schedule".

Park has made it clear she will not hold a summit with Abe until the Japanese leader takes steps to address South Korea's historical grievances. -AFP

China and Taiwan hold historic talks

Posted: 10 Feb 2014 08:50 PM PST

NANJING, China: China and Taiwan on Tuesday held their first government-to-government talks since they split 65 years ago after a brutal civil war - a symbolic yet historic move between the former bitter rivals.

Taipei's Wang Yu-chi, who oversees the island's China policy, met his Beijing counterpart Zhang Zhijun in Nanjing on the first day of a four-day trip.

With sensitivities crucial, the room was neutrally decorated with no flags visible and nameplates on the table devoid of titles or affiliations.

The meeting was the fruit of years of slow efforts to improve political ties on the back of a burgeoning economic relationship.

"For us to simply sit at the same table, sit down to discuss issues, is already not an easy thing," Wang said in initial remarks, according to a statement.

"That we can sit here today, formally getting together, formally holding meetings, together exploring issues that people on both sides of the strait care about - this represents a new chapter for cross-strait relations, and is a day worth recording," he said, adding that he hoped Zhang could visit Taiwan "in the foreseeable future".

Nanjing, in eastern China, was the country's capital when it was ruled by Wang's Kuomintang, or Nationalist, party in the first half of the 20th century.

When they lost China's civil war - which cost millions of lives - to Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949, two million supporters of the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China.

The island and the mainland have been governed separately ever since, both claiming to be the true government of China and only re-establishing contact in the 1990s through quasi-official organisations.

But Beijing's Communist authorities still aim to reunite all of China under their rule, and view Taiwan as a rebel region awaiting reunification with the mainland - by force if necessary.

Over the decades Taipei has become increasingly isolated diplomatically, losing the Chinese seat at the UN in 1971 and seeing the number of countries recognising it steadily whittled away. But it is supplied militarily by the United States and has enjoyed a long economic boom.

No official agenda has been released for the talks - widely seen as a symbolic, confidence-building exercise - and Wang said earlier he would not sign any agreements.

Taiwan is likely to focus on reaping practical outcomes such as securing economic benefits or security assurances, while China has one eye on long-term integration of the island, analysts say.

Detente and differences

The political thaw comes after the two sides made cautious steps towards economic reconciliation in recent years.

As the heirs of a pan-Chinese government, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party accepts the "One China" principle and is opposed to seeking independence for the island.

Since it returned to power on the island in elections in 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou has overseen a marked softening in Taiwan's tone towards its giant neighbour, restoring direct flights and other measures.

In June 2010 Taiwan and China signed the landmark Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement, a pact widely characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation.

Yet despite the much-touted detente, Taipei and Beijing have still shunned all official contact and negotiations have been carried out through proxies.

While these bodies - the quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation representing Taiwan and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits for China - have achieved economic progress, they lack the power to broach deeper differences.

Analysts say only government-level officials can address the lingering sovereignty dispute that sees each side claiming to be the sole legitimate government of China.

Tuesday's meeting will be watched closely to see whether it can pave the way for talks between Ma and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping - although chances of that happening any time soon are slim.

"The current interaction across the Taiwan Strait is quite positive," said Jia Qingguo, a professor of international studies at Peking University.

Ties have "been developing very fast, but the potential of this relationship has not been fully tapped (by) both sides," he said.

"But people should not expect too much out of it. It will take time for the two sides to get really integrated."

The mood surrounding the talks soured in Taiwan after Beijing refused to issue credentials to the Taipei-based Apple Daily and the US government-funded Radio Free Asia at the weekend. -AFP

Egypt policeman shot dead, militants blow up Sinai gas pipeline

Posted: 11 Feb 2014 02:10 AM PST

CAIRO: Suspected militants blew up a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Tuesday and gunmen shot dead a policeman in the Suez canal city of Ismailia, security officials said.

Attacks in the Sinai and violence targeting soldiers and policemen across Egypt have surged since the military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

In Ismailia, two unknown gunmen riding a motorcycle shot dead the policeman while he was standing at a traffic light, officials said.

Since January 23, 18 policemen have been killed in militant attacks, according to an AFP tally based on reports by security officials.

In the Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, militants Tuesday planted a bomb under a pipeline that transports gas to an industrial area south of Al-Arish city, security officials said.

No one was injured in the attack, the fourth this year in the restive peninsula.

The army has poured troops into the mountainous and underdeveloped Sinai peninsula, to combat the growing militancy.

Militants had previously forced a halt to gas supplies to Israel and Jordan by repeatedly targeting the pipeline following the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

An attack on January 27 was claimed by an Al-Qaeda inspired group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis or Partisans of Jerusalem.

The group has claimed most of the deadliest attacks in Egypt since the army ousted Morsi, saying that they were in revenge for a deadly crackdown by the security forces on his supporters.

More than 1,4000 people have been killed in the crackdown, according to Amnesty International, and thousands jailed. -AFP


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