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Top Asian News 4:26 a.m. GMT

January 12, 2023 GMT

Rights group: Litany of crises in 2022 but also good signs

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Widespread opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the strength of a unified response against human rights abuses, and there are signs that power is shifting as people take to the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction in Iran, China and elsewhere, a leading rights group said Thursday. A “litany of human rights crises” emerged in 2022, but the year also presented new opportunities to strengthen protections against violations, Human Rights Watch said in its annual world report on human rights conditions in more than 100 countries and territories. “After years of piecemeal and often half-hearted efforts on behalf of civilians under threat in places including Yemen, Afghanistan, and South Sudan, the world’s mobilization around Ukraine reminds us of the extraordinary potential when governments realize their human rights responsibilities on a global scale,” the group’s acting executive director, Tirana Hassan, said in the preface to the 712-page report.


AP: WHO knew of past sex misconduct claim against doctor

LONDON (AP) — When a doctor tweeted that she was “sexually assaulted” by a World Health Organization staffer at a Berlin conference in October, the U.N. agency’s director-general assured her that WHO had “zero tolerance” for such misconduct. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus replied to her, saying he was “horrified” by the accusations of groping and unwelcome sexual advances. He offered his personal assistance, WHO suspended the staffer and the agency opened an investigation that is nearing its conclusion. But internal documents obtained by The Associated Press show the same WHO staffer, Fijian physician Temo Waqanivalu, was previously accused by another woman of sexually harassing her several years ago.

Australia finalizing new security pact with Pacific neighbor

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The leaders of Australia and neighboring Papua New Guinea said Thursday they are finalizing a new security treaty — a move that comes as a challenge to China’s growing assertiveness in the region. Last year, China signed its own security pact with the nearby Solomon Islands, raising alarm that it could lead to a military buildup in the South Pacific region. Australia and PNG haven’t yet released details of their planned new treaty, but Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said it would be based on the deep trust between the two nations. He said the people of Papua New Guinea showed heroism and humanity during World War II battles.


US, Japan unveil plans to strengthen the alliance

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States and Japan unveiled plans Wednesday to strengthen their alliance to help counter threats from North Korea and China, which they called the greatest security challenge in the region. In unusually blunt terms, the U.S. and Japanese foreign and defense ministers condemned China’s increasing aggressiveness in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere, called out Russia for its war with Ukraine and castigated North Korea for ramping up its nuclear and missile programs. In a joint statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and their Japanese counterparts, Yoshimasa Hayashi and Yasukazu Hamada, said China presents an “unprecedented” threat to international order and vowed to redouble their efforts to counter it.


The AP Interview: Korean leader cites North’s serious threat

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s spike in missile tests, growing nuclear ambitions and other provocative acts pose a “serious threat” that could lead to a dangerous miscalculation and spark a wider conflict, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said Tuesday. Speaking with The Associated Press at the presidential office in Seoul, the conservative leader reiterated his call for closer security cooperation with the United States and Japan to counter the “dangerous situation” being created by North Korea as he played down the prospect for direct negotiations like those pursued by his liberal predecessor. “We’ve seen a miscalculation leading to serious wars many times in history,” Yoon said, adding that the North’s advancing nuclear arsenal poses a direct threat to the U.S.


Afghan women athletes barred from play, fear Taliban threats

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Noura’s determination to play sports was so great that she defied her family’s opposition for years. Beatings from her mother and jeers from her neighbors never stopped her from the sports she loved. But the 20-year-old Afghan woman could not defy her country’s Taliban rulers. They have not just banned all sports for women and girls, they have actively intimidated and harassed those who once played, often scaring them from even practicing in private, Noura and other women say. Noura has been left shattered. “I’m not the same person anymore,” she said. “Since the Taliban came, I feel like I’m dead.” A number of girls and women who once played a variety of sports told The Associated Press they have been intimidated by the Taliban with visits and phone calls warning them not to engage in their sports.


Japan, South Korea protest China visa stoppage in COVID spat

TOKYO (AP) — Japan and South Korea defended their public health restrictions on travelers from China on Wednesday, a day after China stopped issuing new visas in both countries in apparent retaliation. South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said he finds it “significantly regrettable” that China stopped issuing short-term visas to South Koreans and called for China to align its pandemic steps with “scientific and objective facts.” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno criticized China for “one-sidedly” restricting visa issuances to Japanese nationals “because of a reason that is not related to COVID-19 measures.” China’s Foreign Ministry threatened countermeasures last week against countries that had announced new virus testing requirements for travelers from China following a surge in COVID-19 infections there.

China FM on Africa visit sidesteps call for UN council seat

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, has sidestepped a new call by the African Union for permanent representation on the U.N. Security Council during his visit to Ethiopia. Speaking at the opening of the Chinese-built headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Qin instead emphasized China’s partnership with Africa in security and economic development. In a statement dated early Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry quoted Qin as saying Beijing supports the African Union’s “greater representation and voice at the UN Security Council and other international organizations,” but made no direct reference to permanent representation.

Pakistani PM reports global pledges of $9.7B in flood aid

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s prime minister said Wednesday that several countries and some of the world’s institutions have pledged $9.7 billion to help his country rebuild from the summer’s catastrophic flood that killed 1,739 people. Premier Shahbaz Sharif said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres fought for the flood victims “like a Pakistani” during a recent fundraising conference in Geneva. At a news conference in Islamabad, Sharif pledged transparency when the money is spent, and added that the government would try to prevent a repeat of last summer’s deluge. At one point, one-third of the impoverished country was under water, a “doomsday before the doomsday” of Earth’s changing climate.

Thousands rally in Nepal to seek restoration of monarchy

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of supporters of Nepal’s former royal family held a rally Wednesday demanding the restoration of monarchy in the Himalayan nation. They gathered around the statue of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who started the Shah dynasty in the 18th century. The last Shah king — Gyanendra — was forced to step down and the monarchy abolished in 2008, making Nepal a republic. There are still many supporters who seek to bring the monarchy back and rally every year on the birth anniversary of Prithvi Narayan. Some previous rallies have turned violent with clashes between demonstrators and police.