In brief: Communist Party to pick leaders
Hanoi, Vietnam – Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party opened a meeting today to pick new leaders and set the country’s direction for the next five years as human rights groups criticized recent crackdowns on political dissidents in the one-party state.
The country’s top four leaders are expected to be decided during the secretive party congress amid tight security over the next eight days. Regardless of the outcome, no major changes in government policies are expected during the country’s most important meeting, held every five years.
Red Cross line back up in Koreas
Seoul, South Korea – The two Koreas restored an important cross-border communication channel today, though South Korea still rejected North Korea’s calls for talks meant to defuse high tensions.
The North cut off the Red Cross communication line at the border village of Panmunjom last year when tension spiked over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship blamed on Pyongyang. Relations between the Koreas further soured following a North Korean artillery attack that killed four South Koreans on a front-line island in November.
The North, however, has recently proposed resuming talks with South Korea. It also made conciliatory gestures Monday, offering to restore the Red Cross line and allowing South Korean officials back into a joint factory park in the North.
Seoul has so far rebuffed the dialogue offer as a ploy for aid.
South Korea, however, decided to let telecommunication workers from the two Koreas restore the Red Cross line.
Violent crackdown follows protest
Tunis, Tunisia – Tunisian police violently broke up a demonstration Tuesday by actors, musicians and other artists in support of youths who have rioted for weeks over the country’s high unemployment.
The government says 20 people have died since the start of rioting in mid-December, including four on Monday, while the opposition puts the figure at more than twice that.
Youths have attacked government buildings and set cars on fire in nearly three weeks of rioting in this North African country on the Mediterranean Sea.
The unrest began after a 26-year-old man with a university degree set himself on fire when police confiscated the fruits and vegetables he was selling without a permit. The man later died, and his desperate act touched a nerve with educated, unemployed youth nationwide.