ASIA

JAPAN-ISLAMIC STATE

TOKYO — Japan was studying the latest message purportedly from the Islamic State group, which extends the deadline for Jordan's release of an Iraqi prisoner, while officials worked feverishly Thursday to try to free a Japanese journalist held by the militant group. The message, read in English by a voice the Japanese government said was likely that of hostage Kenji Goto, was released online late Wednesday after Jordan offered to hand over the al-Qaida-linked would-be suicide bomber to the Islamic State group in exchange for Jordanian air force pilot Mu'as al-Kasaseabeh. By Elaine Kurtenbach and Karin Laub. SENT: 840 words, photos, audio, video.

KOREAS-SUMMIT FOR CASH

SEOUL, South Korea — Late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il repeatedly pushed for summit talks with South Korea before his 2011 death but the plans failed because Pyongyang demanded $10 billion and large-scale shipments of food and fertilizer, a former South Korean president said in a memoir to be published next week. SENT: 700 words.

NORTH KOREA-REACTOR

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea may be attempting to restart its main nuclear bomb fuel reactor after a five-month shutdown, a U.S. research institute said Thursday. If true, the finding, which is based on recent commercial satellite imagery, will be an added worry for the United States and the North's neighbors at a time of increasing animosity over recent U.S. sanctions against the North and Pyongyang's fury about a U.N. push to punish its alleged human rights abuses. By Foster Klug. SENT: 460 words.

AUSTRALIA-SYDNEY SIEGE

SYDNEY — A hostage who died during a siege in a downtown Sydney cafe was killed when she was struck by fragments of a bullet fired from a police officer's gun as authorities stormed in to end the 16-hour standoff, a lawyer told an inquest on Thursday. Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old lawyer who was among 18 people taken hostage last month by a gunman, died after being hit by six fragments of a police bullet that had ricocheted off a hard surface, Jeremy Gormly, a lawyer assisting the coroner, told the Glebe Coroner's Court. By Kristen Gelineau. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

PHILIPPINES-POLICE COMMANDOS KILLED

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has warned that the collapse of a peace deal with the country's largest Muslim rebel group would abet terrorism and fresh violence after criticism of the accord followed the killing of 44 police commandos in what authorities said was an accidental clash with the guerrillas. President Benigno Aquino III called Wednesday for continued support for the pact with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but added he also expected the insurgent group to help authorities identify the rebels who killed the elite police commandos and recover their firearms and belongings. By Jim Gomez. SENT: 660 words, photos.

INDIA-OFFICIAL FIRED

NEW DELHI — The Indian government has fired its top foreign ministry official, replacing her with its current ambassador to the United States. S. Jaishankar took over as India's new foreign secretary on Thursday, describing his elevation as "a big responsibility."He had served as India's ambassador to China before taking up the job in Washington. SENT: 200 words.

CHINA-BABY PLEA

BEIJING — An official in China's biggest city is calling on families to have more children as far fewer people than expected take advantage of a rule change that lets more households bear a second child. The Qianjiang Evening News reported this week that Fu Tan of Shanghai's family planning commission said only 5 percent of women of child-bearing age in the city had applied to have a second child. The report said 90 percent of women of child-bearing age were eligible to have another child. SENT: 130 words.

PHILIPPINES-ECONOMY

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine official says the country no longer deserves to be branded the "sick man of Asia" after its economy grew more than 6 percent for a third consecutive year. Hampered by natural disasters, growth of the $300 billion economy slowed to 6.1 percent in 2014, but still outpaced most other countries in Asia, officials said Thursday. By Oliver Teves.

SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea — Samsung lost the battle of the big phones last quarter as Apple's copycat large iPhone lured buyers in the crucial Chinese market. The South Korean company said Thursday its profit sank last quarter, with an improvement in its semiconductor business insufficient to mask its mobile problems. By Youkyung Lee. SENT.

SKOREA-EARNS-LG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea — LG Electronics Inc. lost money in the fourth quarter due to the closure of its plasma TV operations but its operating income rose thanks to a mobile business recovery. The Korean company Thursday reported a net loss of 205.7 billion won ($189 million) for the October-December quarter. Operating income rose 28 percent to 275 billion won ($253 million) on revenue of 15.3 trillion won ($14 billion). SENT, photos.

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