SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has retained his most important leadership post as his rubber-stamp parliament made a slew of personnel changes that bolstered his diplomatic lineup amid stalemated nuclear diplomacy with the United States. Some observers say the personnel appointments could show Kim’s desire to keep nuclear diplomacy alive rather than returning to a policy of ratcheting up tensions. In Washington, President Donald Trump and visiting South Korean President met Thursday and agreed on the importance of nuclear talks with North Korea. The North’s Korean Central News Agency reported Friday that Kim was re-elected as chairman of the State Affairs Commission at the first session of the Supreme People’s Assembly on Thursday.
DAEJEON, South Korea (AP) — Just two hours after Lee Dong Kil’s daughter was born on New Year’s Eve, the clock struck midnight, 2019 was ushered in, and the infant became 2-years-old. She wasn’t alone, though it happened for her quicker than most: Every baby born in South Korea last year became 2 on Jan. 1. According to one of the world’s most unusual age-calculating systems, South Korean babies become 1 on the day of their birth and then get an additional year tacked on when the calendar hits Jan. 1. A lawmaker is working now to overturn the centuries-old tradition amid complaints that it’s an anachronistic, time-wasting custom that drags down an otherwise ultramodern country.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne says Australia remains “completely opposed” to the death penalty amid fears that Australian native Julian Assange could be exposed to such punishment if he is extradited to the United States. Australian consular officials plan to visit the WikiLeaks founder in a London jail on Friday a day after he was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy where he’d been holed up nearly seven years. For now, he faces a single computer conspiracy charge in the U.S. that does not carry the death penalty, but his supporters fear more serious charges may be brought later. Payne said Friday the U.K.
NEW DELHI (AP) — The Dalai Lama says he feels “normal, almost normal” after leaving a New Delhi hospital where he was treated for a chest infection. The 83-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader spoke after he was discharged on Friday. He had been hospitalized on Tuesday after leaving Dharmsala to consult with doctors in the capital. He is likely to return this week to the north Indian hill town that has been his headquarters since he fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising against Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama usually spends several months a year traveling the world to teach Buddhism and highlight the Tibetans’ struggle for greater freedom in China.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in agreed Thursday on the importance of nuclear talks with North Korea, but the two leaders aren’t completely aligned on whether sanctions will pressure Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear weapons or drive him away from the negotiating table. Trump, in his first meeting with Moon since the unsuccessful U.S. summit with Kim in Hanoi, said the U.S. wants to keep economic sanctions in place to pressure Kim to denuclearize. But Trump said he retains good relations with Kim and didn’t rule out a third summit or taking steps to ease food or other shortages in the repressive nation.
NEW DELHI (AP) — At least four people were killed in clashes Thursday on the first day of polling in India’s general elections, a six-week process that’s seen as a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, officials said Thursday. Police said two workers of Andhra Pradesh state’s ruling Telugu Desam party were killed in a confrontation with supporters of a regional opposition party, YSR Congress. One election official was killed in an alleged attack by suspected insurgents in India’s remote northeast, the Election Commission said. Violent clashes were also reported elsewhere in Andhra Pradesh state, where voters are casting ballots for 25 members of India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, and 175 state assembly seats.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s Election Commission said Thursday it is sending officials to investigate after videos circulated online of thousands of ballots for next week’s polls scattered throughout a warehouse in neighboring Malaysia. One of the videos shows police at the warehouse in Malaysia’s Selangor state and people holding up voting papers and commenting they’d been marked in favor of Indonesian President Joko Widodo and legislative candidates for parties in his coalition. Another video, apparently from a second location in Malaysia, shows two women making holes in ballots, which is how a vote is marked in Indonesia’s elections. Election Commission official Ilham Saputra said the commission “will immediately set up a team and send its members there to ascertain what really happened.” Presidential and legislative elections in Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy after India and the U.S., are set for April 17.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — In a major reversal, South Korea’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the easing of the country’s decades-old ban on most abortions, one of the strictest in the developed world. Abortions have been largely illegal in South Korea since 1953, though convictions for violating the restrictions are rare. Still, the illegality of abortions forces women to seek out unauthorized and often expensive procedures to end their pregnancies, creating a social stigma that makes them feel like criminals. The court’s nine-justice panel said that the parliament must revise legislation to ease the current regulations by the end of 2020.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Archaeologists who discovered fossil bones and teeth of a previously unknown human species that thrived more than 50,000 years ago in the northern Philippines said Thursday they plan more diggings and called for better protection of the popular limestone cave complex where the remains were unearthed. Filipino archaeologist Armand Salvador Mijares said the discovery of the remains in Callao Cave in Cagayan province made the Philippines an important research ground on human evolution. The new species is called Homo luzonensis after the main northern island of Luzon, where the remains were dug up starting in 2007.
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Three people were killed and seven civilians abducted in an attack on a police installation in western Myanmar that authorities blame on the Arakan Army rebel group, media reported Thursday. A report in the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said about 200 insurgents, who claim to represent the Rakhine ethnic minority in the western state of Rakhine, attacked a security police headquarters in Mrauk-U town on Tuesday night. Rakhine is best known for a brutal counterinsurgency campaign by the military against the Muslim Rohingya minority, which caused more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. But while Rohingya insurgents have been largely inactive for more than a year, the Arakan Army has been engaged in increasingly fierce fighting with government forces since late last year.
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