Top Asian News 4:12 a.m. GMT
BEIJING (AP) — China has suspended or closed the social media accounts of more than 1,000 critics of the government’s policies on the COVID-19 outbreak, as the country moves to further open up. The popular Sina Weibo social media platform said it had addressed 12,854 violations including attacks on experts, scholars and medical workers and issued temporary or permanent bans on 1,120 accounts. The ruling Communist Party had largely relied on the medical community to justify its harsh lockdowns, quarantine measures and mass testing, almost all of which it abruptly abandoned last month, leading to a surge in new cases that have stretched medical resources to their limits.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — As COVID-19 rips through China, other countries and the World Health Organization are calling on its government to share more comprehensive data on the outbreak. Some even say many of the numbers it’s reporting are meaningless. Without basic data like the number of deaths, infections and severe cases, governments elsewhere have instituted virus testing requirements for travelers from China. Beijing has said the measures aren’t science-based and threatened countermeasures. Of greatest concern is whether new variants will emerge from the mass infection unfolding in China and spread to other countries. The delta and omicron variants developed in places that also had large outbreaks, which can be a breeding ground for new variants.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan and the United States will hold security talks between their foreign and defense ministers in Washington the day before Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida lands in the U.S. capital next week, wrapping up his tour of the Group of Seven nations as Tokyo expands its military and deepens its alliance with America amid China’s growing influence. Kishida will embark Monday on a five-nation trip to France, Italy, Britain and Canada ahead of his Jan. 13 summit with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two leaders last met during a Group of 20 meeting in Bali, Indonesia, but Kishida’s Washington visit will be his first as prime minister.
SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian woman charged with willingly entering part of Syria that was under control of the Islamic State group was freed on bail Friday as a debate raged about the risk to the community. Mariam Raad, 31, is one of several Australians whose husbands were killed or jailed after they joined the Islamic State group. Australia repatriated four such women and 13 children from a Syrian refugee camp in October. Raad has been living in the town of Young, in New South Wales state, and was first arrested Thursday. Federal and state police executed warrants at her home and the home of a relative in Sydney.
LONDON (AP) — In a book full of startling revelations, Prince Harry’s assertion that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan is one of the most striking — and has drawn criticism from both enemies and allies. In his memoir, “Spare,” Harry says he killed more than two dozen Taliban militants while serving as an Apache helicopter copilot gunner in Afghanistan in 2012-2013. He writes that he feels neither satisfaction nor shame about his actions, and in the heat of battle regarded enemy combatants as pieces being removed from a chessboard, “Baddies eliminated before they could kill Goodies.” Harry has talked before about his combat experience, saying near the end of his tour in 2013 that “if there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game.” But his decision to put a number on those he killed, and the comparison to chess pieces, drew outrage from the Taliban, and concern from British veterans.
Nate Thayer, a fearless reporter who survived several brushes with death over decades covering conflict in Southeast Asia and was the last western journalist to interview Pol Pot, the leader of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, has died. Thayer was found dead at his Falmouth, Massachusetts home on Tuesday by a friend, his brother, Rob Thayer, said Thursday. He was 62. He had been suffering with multiple ailments for several months, and the cause of death was listed as natural causes, Rob Thayer said, adding that he had last spent time with his brother on Sunday. Thayer at various times worked for The Associated Press, Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Phnom Penh Post, The Washington Post, Agence France Presse and Soldier of Fortune Magazine, but it was while working as a correspondent for the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review that he scored the Pol Pot interview published in October 1997.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal officials have appointed a group of experts to examine safety practices at Boeing, including an aerospace engineer whose sister was killed in one of the crashes involving Boeing 737 Max jets. The Federal Aviation Administration said the panel – required under a 2020 law passed by Congress — includes people from the FAA, NASA, airlines and aviation manufacturers. The group will have nine months to issue findings and recommendations. Among the panel members named Thursday is Javier de Luis, a lecturer in aeronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His sister, Graziella de Luis Ponce, was a passenger on the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing Max that crashed in March 2019.
NEW DELHI (AP) — India will host a virtual summit of over 120 developing countries next week to share their economic woes in deliberations during its G-20 presidency this year, a top foreign ministry official said Friday. The summit on Jan. 12 and 13 will take up key issues such as the worldwide impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; the ongoing conflict in Ukraine decreasing access and affordability of food, fertilizer and fuel; and mounting debt and inflationary pressures taking a toll on developing countries’ economies, said Vinay Kwatra, the top bureaucrat of India’s foreign ministry. India endeavors, he said, to provide a common platform to deliberate on the concerns, interests and priorities of developing countries and exchange ideas and solutions to various problems.
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — A 10-year-old Australian boy remained in a coma Friday following a collision earlier this week between two helicopters that killed four people, including the boy’s mother. Another boy, age 9, who was hospitalized in critical condition after the crash, awoke Thursday after suffering brain trauma, according to health authorities. The 9-year-old boy’s mother remained hospitalized in stable condition. Another three people who were injured in the collision were discharged Thursday from hospitals, according to Queensland Health. Police said one helicopter was taking off and the other landing when they collided Monday afternoon near the Sea World theme park on Queensland state’s Gold Coast.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants riding on a motorcycle shot and killed two policemen Friday in northwestern Pakistan, a region bordering Afghanistan where violence has spiked in recent months, police said. The Pakistani Taliban promptly claimed responsibility for the attack. In a separate statement, A police statement said a search was underway to find the pair of gunmen who had fled the scene of the attack in Lakki Marwat, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is a separate group but also a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S.