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Top Asian News 4:45 a.m. GMT

January 4, 2023 GMT

Beijing threatens response to ‘unacceptable’ virus measures

BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government sharply criticized COVID-19 testing requirements imposed on visitors from China and threatened countermeasures against countries involved, which include the U.S. and several European nations. “We believe that the entry restrictions adopted by some countries targeting China lack scientific basis, and some excessive practices are even more unacceptable,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing Tuesday. “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity,” she said. Mao did not specify what steps China might take. The comments were China’s sharpest to date on the issue.

EU, Beijing heading for collision over China’s COVID crisis

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union and China on Tuesday moved closer to a political standoff over the COVID-19 crisis, with Beijing vehemently rejecting travel restrictions some EU nations have started to impose that could be expanded in coming days. An EU offer of help, including vaccine donations, was also as good as slapped down, with Beijing insisting the situation was “under control” and medical provisions “in adequate supply,” government spokesperson Mao Ning said. And as the 27-nation bloc moved closer to imposing some sort of restrictions on travelers from China, Beijing threatened countermeasures. “We are firmly opposed to attempts to manipulate the COVID measures for political purposes and will take countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity,” Mao said.

Biden to host Japan’s Kishida for talks on NKorea, economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will host Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House later this month for economic and security consultations, the U.S. administration announced Tuesday. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Jan. 13 meeting will include discussions of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, amid concerns over the potential for another nuclear test by the reclusive nation. Also on the agenda: economic issues, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change and stability across the Taiwan Strait. “President Biden will reiterate his full support for Japan’s recently released National Security Strategy, its presidency of the G7, and its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council,” Jean-Pierre said.

South Korea: Talks with US on management of nukes underway

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea maintained that Seoul and Washington are discussing its involvement in U.S. nuclear weapons management in the face of intensifying North Korean threats, after President Joe Biden denied that the allies were discussing joint nuclear exercises. The purported difference came as South Korea is seeking a greater U.S. security commitment after North Korea’s record number of missile tests and escalating nuclear doctrine last year caused security jitters among many people in the South. Some experts say South Korea’s statement on the discussion is likely largely based on an agreement between their defense chiefs in November to conduct table-top exercises, usually computer simulations, annually and further strengthen the alliance’s information sharing, joint planning and execution.

UN Security Council welcomes new members; 2 are first-timers

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Ecuador, Japan, Malta, Mozambique and Switzerland got a formal welcome into the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, taking the two-year seats they won unopposed in June. In a tradition that Kazakhstan started in 2018, the five countries’ ambassadors installed their national flags Tuesday alongside those of other members outside the council chambers. Mozambican Ambassador Pedro Comissário Afonso of Mozambique called it “a historic date” and Swiss Ambassador Pascale Baeriswyl said she felt “a deep sense of humility and responsibility” as their countries marked their first-ever terms on U.N.’s most powerful body. Malta joined for a second time, Ecuador a fourth and Japan a record 12th.

Hong Kong allows Cardinal Zen to attend Benedict’s funeral

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s outspoken Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen was allowed to leave the southern Chinese city to pay his respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Vatican City, his secretary said Tuesday. Zen, a 90-year-old retired bishop, will attend the funeral Mass, led by Pope Francis, at St. Peter’s Square on Thursday and return to Hong Kong on Saturday, the secretary said. Zen was elevated to cardinal by Benedict in 2006, which he said signaled the pope’s focus on China. In recent years, the democracy advocate has been sharply at odds with Francis over the Vatican’s agreement with Chinese authorities on the appointment of bishops.

Philippines’ Marcos Jr. heads to China amid sea disputes

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew to China on Tuesday for a three-day state visit, saying he looks forward to his meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as they work to boost bilateral ties. “As I leave for Beijing, I will be opening a new chapter in our comprehensive, strategic cooperation with China,” he told officials and diplomats, including the Chinese ambassador, prior to boarding his flight from an air base in the capital. “I look forward to my meeting with President Xi as we work towards shifting the trajectory of our relations to a higher gear that would hopefully bring numerous prospects and abundant opportunities for peace and development to the peoples of both our countries,” he added.

Pakistan appeals for flood aid ahead of donors conference

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s foreign minister on Tuesday issued an emotional appeal ahead of a major conference next week, urging the international community to generously donate funds for the country’s flood victims. The gathering in Geneva on Monday — jointly hosted by the United Nations and Pakistan — aims to raise funds for the victims of last summer’s unprecedented flooding, which experts partly attribute to climate change. The disaster killed 1,739 people and affected 33 million Pakistanis. At one point, a third of the country’s territory was under water. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari sought Tuesday to draw attention to the plight of homeless survivors, many of whom are now forced to live in the open amid harsh winter weather.

Police say gunman kills 2 Pakistani intelligence officers

MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — A gunman shot and killed two intelligence officers in an attack outside a roadside restaurant in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday before fleeing, police and security officials said. Murtaza Bhatti, a senior police officer in the Punjab province district of Khanewal, said the attack happened when the two officers were parking their vehicle. No one claimed responsibility for the attack on the officers, who were known for arresting Pakistani Taliban and other militants. They were also known for their expertise in investigating and solving complicated cases, including gun and bomb attacks in the country. Officials said one of the slain officers was the director of the provincial counter-terrorism department, which has played a key role in arresting Pakistani Taliban.

Pilot, 2 British visitors among 4 killed in Australia crash

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — A pilot, two British visitors and a Sydney woman have been identified as the four people killed in a collision of two helicopters over the waterfront at an Australian tourist hotspot. Authorities say it was fortunate the death toll in the crash of two aircraft operated by Sea World Helicopters was not higher. The pilot of the second helicopter managed to land safely on a sandy outcrop despite the aircraft being damaged in the collision Monday afternoon near Main Beach on Australia’s Gold Coast. “Considering the damage that was done to the front left-hand section of the helicopter, where the pilot was sitting, that has been a remarkable achievement,” said Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell, whose office is investigating the crash.