N. Korean leader visits China
JILIN, China | North Korean reclusive leader Kim Jong-il is visiting powerful ally China, possibly with his son and heir apparent, South Korean government sources said Thursday, ahead of a meeting that may settle Mr. Kim's succession.
South Korean officials have said Mr. Kim appears to be visiting northeast China. There have been no iron-clad sightings of the paunchy, frizzle-haired 68-year-old, but a hotel in the northeast city of Jilin was under heavy police guard on Thursday night, blocked off to reporters and ordinary residents - a practice seen in Kim's past visits and perhaps a sign he is staying there.
Mr. Kim may be seeking China's acceptance of succession plans.
The ruling Workers' Party, which rubber-stamps major policy decisions in the secretive North, is holding a rare meeting in September at which the assembly could set in motion the succession of the leader's son, Kim Jong-un, analysts say.
There is widespread speculation that the elder Mr. Kim is in poor health after a suspected stroke in 2008 and some analysts say he may be in a hurry to establish his son's succession to the family dynasty that has ruled North Korea since its founding after World War II.
China, S. Korea discuss N. Korea nuke program
SEOUL | China's top nuclear envoy Wu Dawei met his South Korean counterpart Thursday and said that six-party nuclear disarmament talks were still an "effective" tool to achieve peace in Northeast Asia.
Mr. Wu said he had "deep and trustful discussions about the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula" with South Korea's chief nuclear envoy, Wi Sung-Lac, on the first day of a three-day visit to Seoul.
"We think six-party talks are an effective resolution to achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and achieve peace in Northeast Asia," the Chinese envoy told reporters.
Mr. Wu visited Pyongyang last week to discuss the resumption of the talks, which the North quit in April 2009 in protest at the U.N.'s condemnation of an apparent missile test.
The six-way talks aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear weapons program involve the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan.
South Korea has been reluctant to resume the talks unless the North shows a sincere willingness to disarm and admits sinking one of Seoul's warships in March with the loss of 46 lives.
'Shadow shogun' is back in spotlight
TOKYO | Japan's veteran powerbroker, Ichiro Ozawa, is an old-school campaigner with a brusque and gruff manner who is making a late-career stab at political glory despite a series of damaging scandals.
Dubbed the "shadow shogun" for his usual style of backroom deal-making, the 68-year-old on Thursday stepped back into the limelight by announcing he would seek to oust Prime Minister Naoto Kan as party president next month.
A self-confessed poor speaker, he again made headlines Wednesday when he told a political seminar that Americans are "simple-minded" and added: "I don't like British people".
Despite his power inside the party, Mr. Ozawa is unpopular with voters for a series of political funding scandals that carry the whiff of the murky, wheeler-dealer style of politics of the LDP, which he bolted years ago.
"There is no shortage of speculation about Mr. Ozawa's motives for running, having to do with his tenuous legal position, his desire to reinsert himself into the policymaking process by running, losing, and then bargaining for an important post, or his genuine desire to, in Hatoyama's words, 'risk his life on behalf of the country'," wrote Tobias Harris in his blog, called Observing Japan.
Autopsies ordered for Manila hijacking victims
HONG KONG | Hong Kong may launch an official inquiry into the Manila bus hijacking after the city's coroner ordered autopsies for all eight victims of the bloody standoff, its security chief said Thursday.
Ambrose Lee said post-mortem examinations were ordered amid questions about whether the slain Hong Kong tourists were killed by bullets fired by the hostage taker or police during their bungled rescue operation on Monday.
"The coroner ordered that an autopsy be done - we'll have our own autopsies," Hong Kong's secretary for security told lawmakers at a specially convened meeting.
"The coroner will then decide whether a death inquiry will be held."
Autopsies done in the Philippines on five of the victims showed they died from gunshots mostly to the head and neck, while Philippine police carried out ballistic tests to determine whether commandos fired any of the fatal bullets.
Emotions are running high in Hong Kong over blunders by Philippine police in the chaotic climax to Monday's events, when the disgraced former policeman held a group of Hong Kong tourists hostage for 12 hours.
From wire dispatches and staff reports
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