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Japan, S. Korea to discuss 'comfort women' before Obama visit

Japan and South Korea will hold talks this week to try to improve frosty relations before President Barack Obama visits both the US allies during an Asian tour, it was announced Sunday. The two governments "have decided to engage in intensive discussions on various subjects at various levels" to improve conditions surrounding relations, the Japanese foreign ministry said in a statement. Junichi Ihara, head of its Asia and Oceania affairs bureau, will visit Seoul on Wednesday for a meeting with his Korean counterpart, the statement said.

Japan, S. Korea diplomats to hold talks in Seoul on Wed.

Japan and South Korea will hold talks between their senior foreign ministry officials in Seoul on Wednesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Sunday. Issues at the director general-level talks will include Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women. At the talks, Japan will be represented by Junichi Ihara, head of the Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, and South Korea by Lee Sang Deok, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau.

French far-right leader backs Russia's Ukraine stance

The leader of France's far-right National Front voiced her support for the federalisation of Ukraine during a visit to Moscow Saturday, Russian news agencies reported. Marine Le Pen, who is also a European Parliament lawmaker, told the speaker of Russia's lower house Sergei Naryshkin she backed Moscow's call for Ukraine to devolve greater powers to its regions. The National Front leader also criticised European Union sanctions against Russians including Naryshkin, a member of President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party.

For Ukraine's eastern rust belt, it's Russia or bust

Pro-Russians cheer and clap as miners in hard hats march into the heavily fortified zone around the occupied state building in Donetsk: here they are heroes, the soul of an economically depressed coal region fighting for survival. As the protesters rally in support of separatists holed up inside the building, virulent anger against the new pro-Western government in Kiev and their plans to shift out of Russia's orbit is stoked by a real and visceral fear for their future.

Spaniard: Europe must increase gas imports from North Africa

Algiers, Apr 11 (EFE).- Spain's foreign minister said here Friday that Europe will need to increase natural gas imports from North Africa if it is to reduce its dependence on supplies from Russia. "What's happening as a consequence of the conflict in Ukraine is enormously important for energy relations between Spain and Algeria," Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told reporters after arriving at the airport serving this capital.

Militias in Central African Republic block Muslims exit to Cameroon: U.N.

By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - Christian militia forces are blocking the main roads used by Muslim civilians trying to flee Central African Republic to Cameroon and attacking the refugees, the United Nations said on Friday, citing accounts from "traumatized" victims. Some refugees have suffered serious machete and gunshot wounds and many are severely malnourished after walking for months, having to detour and enter Cameroon via remote entry points, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

USFK offers 1.7 pct pay hike for Korean employees

By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. Forces Korea said Friday it will offer a 1.7 percent pay raise for its Korean employees starting May, after their union threatened to launch a strike over their long-frozen wages later this month when U.S. President Barack Obama is set to visit. The USFK commander, Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, said in a letter that the U.S. Pacific Command on Wednesday approved a 1.7 percent pay raise for about 12,000 Korean employees, which is the maximum allowed for this year by U.S. law.

S. Korea offers to conditionally lift sanctions on N. Korea

SEOUL, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's point man on North Korea made a conditional offer on Friday to lift its sanctions imposed on Pyongyang nearly four years ago following its deadly attack. South Korea slapped blanket economic sanctions on the North in May 2010 in retaliation for the sinking of a warship near their disputed western sea border that killed 46 South Korean sailors. Under the sanctions, South Korea has suspended inter-Korean projects and banned its new investment in the North, except for their joint factory park in the North's western city of Kaesong.

S. Korea, Israel to jointly develop UAVs in wake of N. Korean spy drones

SEJONG, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Israel will launch a joint program to develop new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) this year, South Korea's commerce minister said Friday, in an announcement that came just hours after Seoul said North Korea was behind the spy drones discovered near the tensely guarded border. "South Korea and Israel have long cooperated in joint research and development projects," Yoon Sang-jick, minister of trade, industry and energy, said while meeting with reporters here.

S. Korea, U.S. carry out live-fire exercise

POCHEON, South Korea, April 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States on Friday carried out a live-fire exercise near the border with North Korea as part of their annual joint drill aimed at enhancing military readiness, the Eighth U.S. Army said. About 350 Korean and American soldiers participated in the drill held at Rodriguez Firing Range in Pocheon, north of Seoul, featuring a wide array of Army aviation, artillery, armor and infantry assets.
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