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U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a joint news conference at the Akasaka Palace in TokyoBy Linda Sieg and Matt Spetalnick TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama used a state visit to Japan on Thursday to try to reassure Asian allies of his commitment to ramping up U.S. engagement in the region, despite Chinese complaints that his real aim is to contain Beijing's rise. Obama is being treated to a display of pomp and ceremony meant to show that the U.S.-Japan alliance, the main pillar of America's security strategy in Asia, remains solid at a time of rising tensions over growing Chinese assertiveness and North Korean nuclear threats. "As you said, my visit here, I think, once again represents my deep belief that a strong U.S.-Japan relationship is not only good for our countries, but good for the world," Obama told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the start of their summit. "Our shared democratic values mean that we have to work together in multilateral settings to deal with regional hot spots Around the globe, but also to try make sure we are creating a strong set of rules that govern the international order." Behind the scenes, U.S. and Japanese trade negotiators for the two countries were working around the clock in Tokyo on a two-way trade pact seen as crucial to a broader trans-Pacific agreement.


A mother whose teenage child was onboard the capsized Sewol ferry and is missing, cries as she reads messages dedicated to the missing and dead passengers on the ship at a port in JindoBy James Pearson and Kahyun Yang SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean boy whose shaking voice first raised the alarm that an overloaded ferry with hundreds of children on board was sinking has been found drowned in the submerged wreckage of the vessel, his parents believe, the coastguard said on Thursday. More than 300 people, most of them students and teachers from the Danwon High School, are dead or missing presumed dead after the April 16 disaster. Of the 476 passengers and crew on board, 339 were children and teachers from the school in Ansan, a gritty suburb on the outskirts of Seoul, who were on an outing to Jeju. As the ferry began sinking, the crew told the children to stay in their cabins.


File photo shows Commander of the Slaviansk self-defence battalion Ponomaryov addressing the media at the mayor's office in SlavianskBy Alissa de Carbonnel and Aleksandar Vasovic DONETSK/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - One is a dapper former croupier and promoter of Ponzi scams run by "Russia's Bernie Madoff"; In an uprising whose calling cards are the Kalashnikov and the black balaclava, Denis Pushilin and Vyacheslav Ponomaryov have become the unmasked faces of the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that has plunged Moscow and the West into their most ominous confrontation since the Cold War. But many in the Donetsk region, including officials who have negotiated with the activists, see the pair as mere fronts for brains behind the scenes: a "puppeteer" in the words of one local Ukrainian mediator; Pushilin, a 32-year-old who won 77 votes when he ran for parliament a few months ago, emerged this month as leader of the self-styled People's Republic of Donetsk, occupying the regional governor's office in Ukraine's industrial heartland.


Thailand's opposition leader and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva gestures during an interview in BangkokBy Amy Sawitta Lefevre BANGKOK (Reuters) - Alarmed by the prospect of bloodshed in Thailand as a six-month political crisis nears a critical juncture, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for talks between the government and its foes, urging compromise to restore stability. The 49-year-old leader of Thailand's main opposition Democrat Party has joined street demonstrations in Bangkok aiming to force out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and his party boycotted a February 2 election, which was nullified by a court in March after widespread disruption.


Red flags flutter next to a national emblem and a national flag of China on top of the Great Hall of the People, which is the venue of the closing ceremony of the CPPCC, in BeijingChina has banned petitioners from taking their grievances directly to higher levels of government without first going through local authorities, state media reported on Thursday, in the latest effort to streamline its chaotic petitioning system. The system of petitions dates back to imperial times as a means for citizens to bring grievances to the attention of government officials by bypassing the legal system or authorities, especially at the local level. In practice, few of the cases are ever resolved and petitioners are frequently forced home or imprisoned by regional or provincial authorities when they seek to escalate their complaints to higher-level officials. The State Bureau of Letters and Calls, responsible for handling petitions, stipulated in a new regulation that the central government will not accept complaints about issues that should be handled at provincial level, the People's Daily said.


Steve March and Mike Unzicker recover the Phoenix International AUV Artemis, also known as the Bluefin-21, back onto the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield after searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, in Southern Indian OceanBy Byron Kaye and Sonali Paul PERTH/MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Authorities ruled out any link between debris picked up on an Australian beach and a missing Malaysian jetliner on Thursday as a tropical cyclone again threatened to hamper a 26-nation air, surface and underwater search of the Indian Ocean. The debris, found on Wednesday on a beach at the southern tip of Western Australia state, was seen as the first lead since April 4 when authorities detected what they believed was a signal from the black box of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board. But it took Australian authorities less than a day to analyze detailed photographs of the beached debris, no description of which was given, and dismiss the possibility that it may be linked to the plane. "We're not seeing anything in this that would lead us to believe that it is from a Boeing aircraft," Australian Transport Safety Bureau commissioner Martin Dolan the Australian Broadcasting Corp. That puts the focus of the search, the most expensive in aviation history, back on U.S. Navy undersea drone Bluefin-21, which will soon finish scouring a 10 square kms (6.2 square mile) stretch of seabed where the acoustic pings were located.


President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama said Thursday that he wants to see a dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea resolved peacefully, while affirming that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)TOKYO (AP) — Showing solidarity with Japan, President Barack Obama affirmed Thursday that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Tokyo in a confrontation with Beijing over a set of disputed islands, but urged all sides to resolve the long-running dispute peacefully.


US President Barack Obama reviews an honour guard at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on April 24, 2014US President Barack Obama Thursday told a press conference in Japan that islands at the centre of a bitter territorial dispute with China are covered by a defence treaty that would oblige Washington to act if they were attacked. "Article five (of the US-Japan security treaty) covers all territories under Japan's administration including (the) Senkaku islands," he said. "We do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally, and what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan. Obama said during the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the two men agreed to continue deepening security cooperation, and to working through the thorny problem of the huge US military presence in Okinawa, which is resented by many locals.


SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian forces used tear gas and wooden batons to disperse scores of Kashmiri demonstrators who raised anti-India slogans and threw rocks to protest against voting in Indian elections in the disputed region.

President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participate in a joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama is seeking to reassure Japanese leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges to Asia even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama says he's not optimistic North Korea will stop behaving irresponsibly in the near future.


GENEVA (AP) — Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG has reported a 24 percent increase in profit for the first quarter, helped by selling off less-profitable parts of its business.

President Barack Obama speaks as he participates in a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Akasaka Palace state guest house in Tokyo Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama says the time is now to resolve issues preventing the conclusion of a major, 12-nation trade agreement. Opening a four-country swing through the Asia-Pacific region, Obama is aiming to promote the U.S. as a committed economic, military and political partner, but the West's dispute with Russia over Ukraine threatens to cast a shadow over the president's sales mission. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)TOKYO (AP) — Warning Russia that new economic sanctions are "teed up," President Barack Obama accused Moscow of failing to live up to an agreement last week to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine.


KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani official says a bombing in the country's south targeted a police officer known for his anti-militant campaigns, killing him and his two friends.

Three major mountaineering companies have joined others in quitting Everest citing fears of violence, safety concerns and tension at base camp, deepening a crisis on the world's highest peak sparked by the death of 16 guides last weekThree major mountaineering companies joined others in quitting Everest citing fears of violence, safety concerns and tension at base camp, deepening a crisis Thursday on the world's highest peak sparked by the death of 16 guides last week. International expeditions said they were shutting down operations on the mountain, as a Nepalese government delegation was set to fly to Everest base camp to try to cool tensions and save this year's climbing season. Leading US mountaineering company International Mountain Guides said the main route through the Khumbu Icefall, where the avalanche struck a team of guides carrying equipment for their clients, was too dangerous.


TOKYO (AP) — Standing next to Japan's leader, President Barack Obama affirmed Thursday that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Tokyo in a confrontation with Beijing over a set of disputed islands, but urged all sides to resolve the long-running dispute peacefully. Wading cautiously into a diplomatic minefield, Obama insisted the U.S. takes no position on whether the islands in the East China Sea are ultimately in the dominion of China or Japan. But he noted that historically Japan has administered the islands, triggering America's NATO obligations to defend its ally Japan should tensions escalate militarily.

FILE - A June 24, 2010 photo from files showing Mark Shand, left, brother of The Duchess of Cornwall showing her an elephant sculpture titled Mr. Cameron as she is escorted around the Elephant Parade exhibition at Chelsea Hospital Gardens. Royal officials in Britain say that the brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has died after sustaining a serious head injury following a fall in New York. Clarence House said that the 62-year-old Mark Shand died in the hospital Wednesday, April 23, 2014, after falling late Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ian Nicholson, Pool, File)NEW YORK (AP) — The Prince of Wales and his wife, Camilla, are "utterly devastated" by the death of her brother, who fell outside a hotel bar and suffered a head injury, royal officials said.


A strong earthquake measuring 6.7 struck late Wednesday off Canada's Vancouver island in the Pacific, the US Geological Survey said. File picture for illustration onlyAn earthquake measuring 6.6 struck off Canada's Vancouver island in the Pacific, the US Geological Survey said. There were no initial reports of casualties or damage. The quake, which hit at 0310 GMT, was at a depth of 11.4k m (7.1 miles) and 94 km (58 miles) south of Port Hardy, Canada. The US tsunami warning office in Palmer, Alaska said there was no tsunami danger for potentially affected areas: Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California.


Relatives of missing passengers visit the site of the sunken South Korean ferry 'Sewol' at sea off Jindo on April 24, 2014Some parents of the mostly teenage victims of South Korea's ferry disaster are pushing for autopsies that might show their children were alive inside the submerged vessel and only died because the emergency response was so slow. "They want to know for certain how their family members died," Kim said.


President Barack Obama, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe participate in a joint news conference at the Akasaka State Guest House in Tokyo, Thursday, April 24, 2014. Obama is seeking to reassure Japanese leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges to Asia even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)TOKYO (AP) — Standing next to Japan's leader, President Barack Obama affirmed Thursday that the U.S. would be obligated to defend Tokyo in a confrontation with Beijing over a set of disputed islands, but urged all sides to resolve the long-running dispute peacefully.


File photo of students in Limpopo, a rural area of South Africa where 5,000 children had no text books for more than six months because the government stuffed-up a delivery contractIn the bowels of Africa's largest hospital, doctors carry out emergency surgery by the light of a cell phone while, on a nearby ward, seriously ill patients are sardined three-to-a-bed. Twenty years after South Africans jubilantly swept apartheid aside, Johannesburg's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, like many of the country's post-apartheid institutions, has failed to live up to the dream.


Phinjum Sherpa, 17, daughter of Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, lights a butter lamp in front of a portrait of her father in their rented apartment in Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Dozens of Sherpa guides packed up their tents and left Mount Everest's base camp Wednesday, after the avalanche deaths of 16 of their colleagues exposed an undercurrent of resentment by Sherpas over their pay, treatment and benefits. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — With the Mount Everest climbing season increasingly in doubt, Nepalese tourism officials traveled to base camp Thursday to negotiate with Sherpas who want to walk off the job after an avalanche killed 16 of the mountain guides.


Members of Maidan self-defence forces march along the street in central KievBy Pavel Polityuk and Alastair Macdonald KIEV (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of being behind the political upheaval in Ukraine and said Moscow would respond if its interests came under attack. Lavrov's comments came a day after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in the Ukrainian capital with promises of support for the pro-Western government, and a warning to Russia not to interfere in Ukraine. The crisis in Ukraine, now in its fourth month, has dragged Russia's relations with the West to their lowest since the Cold War. In the east, pro-Russian armed separatists have seized about a dozen public buildings and are defying Kiev's authority.


TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that additional sanctions were "teed up" against Russia if it does not deliver on promises in an agreement in Geneva last week to ease tensions in Ukraine. He added that Russia could avoid further sanctions by changing course but that the evidence so far had not left him hopeful that Moscow would do so. Obama made the remarks at a joint news conference after a summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Reporting by Mark Felsenthal; Writing by Edmund Klamann; Editing by Dominic Lau)

Phinjum Sherpa, 17, daughter of Ang Kaji Sherpa, killed in an avalanche on Mount Everest, lights a butter lamp in front of a portrait of her father in their rented apartment in Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Dozens of Sherpa guides packed up their tents and left Mount Everest's base camp Wednesday, after the avalanche deaths of 16 of their colleagues exposed an undercurrent of resentment by Sherpas over their pay, treatment and benefits. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — With the Mount Everest climbing season increasingly in doubt, Nepalese tourism officials traveled to base camp Thursday to negotiate with Sherpas who want to walk off the job after an avalanche killed 16 of the mountain guides.


Garment workers and activists carry a mock coffin during a protest in front of the Bangladesh Garment Manufactures and Exporters Association (BGMEA) office in Dhaka on April 23, 2014Savar (Bangladesh) (AFP) - Western fashion brands faced pressure Thursday to increase help for the victims of the world's worst garment factory accident, as mass protests marked the one-year anniversary of the Bangladesh disaster that cost 1,138 lives. Thousands of people, some wearing funeral shrouds, staged demonstrations at the site of the now-infamous Rana Plaza factory complex outside the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, which collapsed last April 24 after a catastrophic structural failure. Relatives of the 140 workers still unaccounted for also joined in, calling for the government to help find their bodies. At least it would give us some consolation," said crying mother Minu Begum as she held the photo of her missing daughter Sumi Begum, who worked at one of the Rana Plaza factories.


PRAGUE (AP) — Amid Ukraine's deepening crisis, the presidents of post-Soviet republics and EU member states are gathering in Prague to save a project to boost their ties.
Pakistani fighter jets pounded suspected militant hideouts near the Afghan border on Thursday in response to a spate of attacks around the country, the army said, in the first aerial operation against Taliban insurgents in two months. The operation came despite efforts by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to engage the Taliban in talks to end years of fighting with an insurgency seeking to topple the democratically elected government in the capital Islamabad. "Terrorist hideouts were engaged by fighter jets in Khyber agency early (in the) morning today," the army's press wing said in a text message sent to media. It said it was a response to a number of recent attacks against police and civilians in Islamabad and Peshawar, a volatile Pakistani city near the Khyber tribal agency.
TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama said Thursday that he wants to see a dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea resolved peacefully, while affirming that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands. "Historically they have been administered by Japan and we do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally," Obama said at a news conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "What is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan."
A member of crew of a South Korean ferry that sank last week said on Thursday she and her colleagues were "under command" to abandon ship. The Sewol, weighing almost 7,000 tons, sank on a routine trip from the port of Incheon, near Seoul, to the southern holiday island of Jeju. The unidentified crew member, speaking briefly to reporters on the way from court back into detention, was speaking behind a surgical mask and wearing a baseball cap with a jacket hood. As the ferry began sinking, the crew told the children to stay in their cabins.

The Baosteel Emotion, a 226,434 deadweight-tonne ore carrier owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, is docked at the port of Maji Island, south of ShanghaiBEIJING/TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd paid about $29 million for the release of a ship seized by China over a dispute that dates back to the 1930s war between the countries, China's Supreme Court said on Thursday. The Chinese government has described the case as a simple business dispute unrelated to wartime compensation claims, but it has become a cause célèbre for activists in China seeking redress from Japan. Mitsui paid about 2.92 billion yen ($28.5 million) in leasing fees, including interest and damages, China's Supreme Court said, in a statement on its official microblog.


Japan's PM Abe visits Yasukuni shrine in TokyoTOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that he will continue to explain his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for war dead to gain understanding from neighboring Asian countries. Last December Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine, which is seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, sparking anger from China and South Korea. China and South Korea have repeatedly expressed anger in the past over Japanese politicians' visits to the shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal are honored along with war dead. ...


FILE - This June 21, 2013 file photo shows a yellow ribbon honoring captive U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl tied to a tree in Hailey, Idaho. The nearly five-year effort to free the only American soldier held captive in Afghanistan is scattered among numerous federal agencies with a loosely organized group of people working on it mostly part time, according to two members of Congress and military officials involved in the effort. An ever-shrinking U.S. military presence in Afghanistan has re-focused attention on efforts to bring home Bergdahl, who has been held by the Taliban since June 30, 2009. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — The captors of an American soldier held for nearly five years in Afghanistan have signaled a willingness to release him but are unclear which U.S. government officials have the authority to make a deal, according to two individuals in the military working for his release. Critics of the release effort blame disorganization and poor communication among the numerous federal agencies involved.


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday the United States and Japan have agreed to cooperate on a broad range of security and defense issues, adding that U.S. President Barack Obama had welcomed Tokyo's efforts to review its exercise of collective self-defense. Abe is seeking to lift Japan's self-imposed ban on the actual exercise of the right of collective self defense, or aiding an ally under attack. Proponents say lifting the ban would free up the Japanese military to work more closely with the armed forces of the United States and other allies, while critics say it would make Japan more likely to get involved in overseas armed conflicts.

Britain's Prince William, center left, is accompanied by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, center right, as they arrive for a reception Thursday, April 24, 2014, at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. (AP Photo/Alex Ellinghausen, Pool)CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Britain's Prince William bid farewell to Australia on Thursday in the only speech of his national tour, revealing that his baby son George had become particularly fond of a toy native animal during the visit.


FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2013, file photo,k Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson tries to get away from Green Bay Packers' C.J. Wilson during the second half of an NFL preseason football game in Green Bay, Wis. As Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks get to kick off the NFL's regular season by hosting the Packers on Sept. 4. That Thursday game is the first of four prime-time games on opening weekend. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps, File)NEW YORK (AP) — Mike McCarthy promises there won't be any bad memories plaguing his Green Bay Packers when they open the NFL season on Sept. 4 at Super Bowl champion Seattle.


TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama is seeking to reassure Japanese leaders Thursday that he can deliver on his security and economic pledges to Asia even as the crisis in Ukraine demands U.S. attention and resources elsewhere. The ominous standoff between Ukraine and Russia is threatening to overshadow Obama's four-country Asia swing that began Wednesday. He may decide during the trip whether to levy new economic sanctions on Moscow, a step that would signal the failure of an international agreement aimed at defusing the crisis.
TOKYO (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said that the U.S.-Japan security treaty covers islands at the center of a Sino-Japanese dispute but that he had not drawn any new "red line" over the islands, emphasizing the need to resolve maritime disputes peacefully. Sino-Japanese relations have long been plagued by conflicting claims over a group of tiny East China Sea islets, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Obama made the remarks at a joint news conference after a summit meeting on Thursday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. ...
TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama says the time is now to resolve issues preventing the conclusion of a major, 12-nation trade agreement.
TOKYO (AP) — Obama says further Russia sanctions are "teed up" in response to Ukraine crisis.

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