By Magdalena Sudibjo
Representatives from South and North Korea met in the border village of Panmunjom last Wednesday to start their highest-level talks since the North’s nuclear test last February.
The head of the South’s delegation, national security official Kim Kyou-hyun, said that the South was focused on ensuring the commencement of the 20-25 February reunion event, in which 100 South Koreans chosen by lottery will be allowed to see their relatives in the North for the very first time since the Korean War ended in the year 1953.
“We approach today’s talks with an intention of probing for opportunities to open a new relationship on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim Kyou-hyun told reporters before the Panmunjom meeting.
One of the biggest concerns for the North is South Korea’s annual military exercises with the United States scheduled for next Monday, which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said in a statement that the U.S. will not postpone.
Last Thursday, the Belgian parliament voted 86-44, with 12 abstentions, in favor of a bill legalizing euthanasia of children under 18, and became the first country to remove age restrictions on euthanasia.
In 2002, Belgium legalized euthanasia for people 18 and over with broad public support.
A survey by the RTBF, a Belgian broadcaster, found that 75 percent of responders supported the newest euthanasia bill.
“Our responsibility is to allow everybody to live, but also to die, in dignity,” said Karine Lalieux, a member of the House of Representatives.
Earlier last week, a group of 170 Belgian pediatricians signed an open letter requesting that parliament delay the vote.
Several doctors are concerned that the bill did not clearly set out the procedures for assessing a child’s mental capacity to make such important decisions and that the parents might pressure the child into making a decision.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta announced that he will resign after his own Democratic Party gave a no-confidence vote against him with 39-year-old party leader Matteo Renzi expected to take his place in April without an election.
“Italy cannot live in a situation of uncertainty and instability. We are at a crossroads,” said Renzi in a Democratic Party meeting.
The New York Times writes that Renzi “has a reputation for boldness and has long been considered Italy’s most promising young politician.”
Prime Minister Letta will have been in office for barely 10 months, leaving Renzi to deal with Italy’s highest unemployment rate in 40 years and, according to BBC, an economy shrinking by nine percent in seven years.
An Algerian military transport plane carrying off-duty military personnel and their families crashed into Mount Fortas on the country’s eastern region last Tuesday. The crash killed 77 people and left only one survivor.
The lone survivor, who was a soldier, suffered serious head injuries and is reportedly being treated at a military hospital in Constantine.
“Unfavorable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region were behind the crash,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika called the soldiers who died “martyrs” and declared a three day mourning period for the plane crash victims.