Top Asian News 4:53 a.m. GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House said Thursday that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, has taken delivery of an arms shipment from North Korea to help bolster its forces as it fights side-by-side with Russian troops in Ukraine. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said U.S. intelligence officials determined that North Korea completed an initial arms shipment that included rockets and missiles last month. “We assess that the amount of material delivered to Wagner will not change battlefield dynamics in Ukraine,” Kirby said. “But we’re certainly concerned that North Korea is planning to deliver more military equipment.” On Friday, North Korea again flatly denied it has shipped munitions to Russia, calling the U.S.
BEIJING (AP) — China has sanctioned two U.S. individuals in retaliation for action taken by Washington over human rights abuses in Tibet, the government said Friday, amid a continuing standoff between the sides over Beijing’s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Todd Stein and Miles Yu Maochun, along with their close family members, would be banned from entering China. Any assets they had in China would be frozen and they would be barred from contact with people or organizations within China. The notice said the measures were in response to the U.S. sanctioning two Chinese individuals “under the excuse of the ‘Tibet human rights’ issue.” Neither could immediately be reached for comment.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan adopted a plan on Thursday to extend the lifespan of nuclear reactors, replace the old and even build new ones, a major shift in a country scarred by the Fukushima disaster that once planned to phase out atomic power. In the face of global fuel shortages, rising prices and pressure to reduce carbon emissions, Japan’s leaders have begun to turn back toward nuclear energy, but the announcement was their clearest commitment yet after keeping mum on delicate topics like the possibility of building new reactors. Under the new policy, Japan will maximize the use of existing reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of aging ones beyond a 60-year limit.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The minister of higher education in the Taliban government on Thursday defended his decision to ban women from universities — a decree that had triggered a global backlash. Discussing the matter for the first time in public, Nida Mohammad Nadim said the ban issued earlier this week was necessary to prevent the mixing of genders in universities and because he believes some subjects being taught violated the principles of Islam. He said the ban was in place until further notice. In an interview with Afghan television, Nadim pushed back against the widespread international condemnation, including from Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
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PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A court in Cambodia on Thursday convicted 36 activists and former opposition lawmakers of conspiracy to commit treason, a local human rights group said. The 36, including former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and several leaders of his disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party, were accused of trying to help exiled former lawmakers, including deputy party leader Mu Sochua, return home in January 2021 in defiance of a government ban. The human rights group Licadho said on its website that the sentences handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ranged from five to seven years in prison, with three defendants receiving suspended sentences.
BANGKOK (AP) — Three Cabinet ministers from Myanmar attended an informal regional meeting in Thailand’s capital on Thursday to discuss efforts to restore peace in the military-run country, Thai officials said. “The open-ended informal consultation was meaningful, with ministers engaging in free-flow and proactive discussions,” Thai Foreign Ministry spokesperson Kanchana Patarachoke said. Representatives from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam also attended the meeting. There was no indication that the talks made any progress toward resolving Myanmar’s crisis or in facilitating more engagement with its generals. Myanmar’s military government is shunned by many nations for seizing power and violently suppressing opposition to its rule, but neighboring Thailand has remained on good terms with the generals and refrained from serious criticism.
NEW DELHI (AP) — India has begun randomly testing international passengers arriving at its airports for COVID-19, the country’s health minister said Thursday, citing an increase in cases in neighboring China. Mansukh Mandaviya announced the new rule in Parliament, where he also urged state governments to increase surveillance for any new coronavirus variants and send samples of all positive cases to genome sequencing laboratories. Mandaviya also asked the public to wear masks and maintain social distancing, even though there are no official mandates for either. India relaxed its mask-wearing rules earlier this year after coronavirus cases began dropping sharply. It has reported the most COVID-19 cases in the world since the pandemic began, but confirmed infections have fallen sharply in the past few months.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — In a major political move, Pakistani authorities before dawn Friday removed Pervez Elahi as the top elected official in the country’s populous eastern Punjab province, following his failure to win a vote of confidence from the provincial legislature. The move was a setback for former Prime Minister Imran Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party was allied with Elahi in the Punjab Assembly. A government statement said Punjab governor Balighur Rehman also sacked the provincial Cabinet, citing Elahi’s failure to get the vote of confidence Wednesday, which indicated he did not enjoy the support of the majority of the province’s lawmakers.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian and Chinese military commanders met in yet another attempt to end a more-than-two-year-old standoff between tens of thousands of their soldiers along their disputed border that triggered bloody clashes in 2020, an Indian Defense Ministry statement said on Thursday. The 17th round of talks was held at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side on Tuesday, the statement said. It gave no indication of whether a breakthrough had been reached to end the impasse. There was no immediate comment by the Chinese side. Indian army chief Manoj Pande said last month there had been “no significant reduction” in Chinese troop strength in Ladakh.