Japan's trade ministry said Friday that it has eased controls on exports to South Korea of one of three chemicals used in semiconductors that it had restricted, a sign of a thaw between the two countries just days before their leaders meet in China.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said it is granting a bulk permit for up to three years to one company for exports of photoresist, a chemical used to make semiconductors, to its business partner in South Korea.
The ministry said the step, which takes effect immediately, reflects the good record between the two companies. The ministry denied that it had anything to do with the upcoming meeting between the leaders of the two countries as part of a three-way summit hosted by China next week.
Ties between Japan and South Korea have plunged to their lowest level in decades since July, when Japan stepped up export controls against South Korea, citing a loss of trust and security concerns.
The move was seen as Japanese retaliation for South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate elderly former Korean laborers for abusive treatment during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The Japanese move triggered a series of retaliatory measures by South Korea, risking an intelligence information sharing pact.
The two sides struck a fragile truce in November following intervention by Washington to save the intelligence pact, a symbol of their three-way security cooperation in the face of increased threats from North Korea and China.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are to hold a one-on-one meeting on Christmas eve on the sidelines of the trilateral summit.
Two people were killed and two wounded Friday morning in a shooting at a government facility in North Carolina, according to city officials, who said they had stabilized the situation.
Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said in an email that two city employees are dead and two people are injured. He said the wounded have serious but not life-threatening injuries.
No other information about victims in the shooting at a Winston-Salem public works building would be released until a 2 p.m. EST news conference, Assistant Police Chief William Penn Jr. told reporters.
Winston-Salem city spokesman Ed McNeal said: "There is no ongoing threat."
Sanitation worker Dwight Black, 66, was running five minutes late when he parked his car at the facility. He said he was about to swipe his card to enter the building when people ran past him.
"They're shooting. Run!' Black said of the people leaving the building. "Fight or flight. I just followed suit."
"I didn't know what was happening so I just kind of got out of the way until I could ascertain what was going on," he added.
Black ran back to his car and said other people did the same and drove off. He said he just stood back and watched until police arrived.
Black said he was "kind of numb" after the shooting. "Everybody was devastated," he said. "Tough day."
Numerous police cars were on the scene in the late morning. Workers in the reflective gear worn by city sanitation workers were seen standing in a parking lot talking to each other. The scene outside the building appeared calm.
Herbert Martinez told local news outlets a coworker at the site ran out and told him someone was shooting inside the building east of downtown in the city about 245,000 people in the central part of the state. Martinez said he stayed in his truck and heard gunshots. He said he and the coworker ran and hid in a ditch, where they heard more gunshots.
Hundreds of high school students were protesting outside the government building in North Macedonia's capital on Friday, demanding authorities take urgent action to tackle dangerous air pollution in many of the country's cities.
North Macedonia has some of the highest levels of air pollution in Europe. In recent months, airborne particles in the capital of Skopje and other cities have been recorded as exceeding safety levels by up to 20 times.
Health authorities estimate that more than 3,000 people die each year as result of air pollution, which is mostly a result of heavy use of household wood-burning stoves during cold winters, an old fleet of cars and the practice in some areas of garbage disposal by incineration.
"We want to breathe! No air, no peace," students wearing protection masks chanted. Environmental groups have held weekly protests in a bid to force action on the issue from the center-left government and were expected to join the students later Friday.
North Macedonian President Stevo Pendarovski warned earlier this week in his annual address before lawmakers that air pollution "seriously undermines our nation's potential." He called for higher budget funding for environmental protection and said he would call an urgent meeting of government officials.
The European Union is investing more than 80 million euros ($89 million) to improve the air quality in Kosovo, whose capital of Pristina is choking from pollution by coal-based power plants, coal and wood heating in homes and old vehicles on the roads.
The European Union's office in Kosovo said Friday that air quality over the last few days in Pristina was like that of Beijing, considered one of the most polluted cities in the world.
The death toll in the shooting outside the Moscow headquarters of Russia's main security agency has risen to two, officials said Friday as investigators pressed to uncover the assailant's motives.
The Investigative Committee, the nation's top state investigative agency, identified the attacker as 39-year-old Yevgeny Manyurov, who lived in Moscow's suburbs.
It said Manyurov opened fire Thursday just outside the main headquarters of the Federal Security Service, killing one security officer and badly wounding another, who later died in a hospital. Officials previously reported just one death.
Manyurov also wounded five other people, including a civilian, before police shot him dead.
Investigators are still looking into the attacker's possible motives, the committee said.
The attack came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin wrapped up his annual news conference. About the same time as the shooting, Putin was speaking at a Kremlin concert honoring the service's officers and other security personnel less than one kilometer (about a half mile) away. That triggered speculation the attacker was trying to have timed the shooting to embarrass the Kremlin.
Putin is a veteran of the KGB, which was the Federal Security Service's predecessor.
REN TV television station and the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported that Manyurov worked as a private security guard and practiced shooting. He owned a small arsenal of shotguns and rifles and took part in shooting competitions, finishing third in a November event.
Residents of an apartment building in the town of Podolsk where Manyurov lived with his mother, described him as a loner who barely talked to anyone.
The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court took a major step Friday toward opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories, asking judges to outline the geographic scope of a future investigation.
The announcement ended years of preliminary investigations into alleged crimes by both Israeli forces and Palestinians and signaled that Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is preparing to open a formal probe.
But in asking a panel of judges to determine the territorial jurisdiction of the investigation, she acknowledged the land dispute at the heart of the decades-old conflict, which has never been resolved and could further delay the launch of any criminal probe.
The move drew swift condemnation from Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it "a dark day for truth and justice."
The Palestinians welcomed the decision, with Saeb Erekat, a senior official, calling it a "positive and encouraging step" toward "putting an end to the impunity of the perpetrators and contributing to the achievement of justice."
"This represents a message of hope to our people, the victims of those crimes, that justice is indeed possible," he added.
Israel is not a member of the court and does not recognize its jurisdiction, but Israeli officials could be subject to international arrest warrants if indicted. The state of Palestine requested the investigation as a member of the ICC.
"I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine," Bensouda said in a statement.
She said there was a "reasonable basis" to believe Israeli forces, Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups committed war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war. She also said Israeli authorities may have committed war crimes related to the "transfer of Israeli civilians into the West Bank," a reference to Jewish settlements in the occupied territory.
Bensouda said she has now asked judges to outline the territorial jurisdiction of a full investigation.
"Specifically, I have sought confirmation that the 'territory' over which the Court may exercise its jurisdiction, and which I may subject to investigation, comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza," she said.
Netanyahu said Bensouda's decision "has turned the International Criminal Court into a political tool to delegitimize the State of Israel. The prosecutor has completely ignored the legal arguments we presented to her."
At the Palestinians' request, Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation in 2015 into alleged violations of international law following the Gaza war.
With the peace process at a standstill for more than a decade, the Palestinians have in recent years sought to hold Israel accountable for alleged violations of international law, including the construction and expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Israel seized those territories along with the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Palestinians want all three to be part of their future state. Hamas, an Islamic militant group, seized control of Gaza from forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in 2007.
In a legal opinion released Friday, Israel's Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said the Palestinians do not meet the criteria of statehood because they do not have sovereignty over defined borders. Citing past peace agreements, Israel said the two sides had agreed to resolve their territorial dispute in negotiations.
"By approaching the ICC, the Palestinians are seeking to breach the framework agreed to by the parties and to push the Court to determine political issues that should be resolved by negotiations, and not by criminal proceedings," the legal opinion said.
The Palestinians insisted they are a fully fledged member of the court and that the court has jurisdiction.
Human Rights Watch, which has documented alleged violations by all sides in the conflict, said the court should have moved more quickly to a full investigation.
"Bensouda's decision to seek guidance from the court's judges nearly five years into her preliminary inquiry means that perpetrators of serious crimes will not face justice at the ICC anytime soon," Kenneth Roth, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
"Palestinian and Israeli victims have faced a wall of impunity for serious violations committed against them for long enough. The prosecutor should have proceeded directly with a formal probe as was within her power to do."
The territorial dispute at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back nearly a century and has bedeviled peace negotiators for decades. Bensouda herself acknowledged that the question of territorial jurisdiction could be difficult to resolve.
"It is no understatement to say that determination of the Court's jurisdiction may, in this respect, touch on complex legal and factual issues," the court filing said.
"The question of Palestine's Statehood under international law does not appear to have been definitively resolved."