Top Asian News 4:34 a.m. GMT
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida begins a weeklong trip Monday to strengthen military ties with Europe and Britain and bring into focus the Japan-U.S. alliance at a summit in Washington, as Japan breaks from its postwar restraint to take on more offensive roles with an eye toward China. Kishida’s talks Friday with U.S. President Joe Biden will highlight his five-nation tour that also takes him to France, Italy, Britain and Canada — some of the Group of Seven nations with which Japan has stepped up defense ties. His first stop is Paris on Monday. Kishida said his summit with Biden will underscore the strength of the Japan-U.S.
BEIJING (AP) — After years of separation from his wife in mainland China, Hong Kong resident Cheung Seng-bun made sure to be among the first in line following the reopening Sunday of border crossing points. The ability of residents of the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city to cross over is one of the most visible signs of China’s easing of border restrictions imposed almost three years ago, with travelers arriving from abroad no longer required to undergo expensive and time-consuming quarantines. That comes even as the virus continues to spread in China amid what critics say is a lack of transparency from Beijing.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The Chinese military held large-scale joint combat strike drills starting Sunday, sending war planes and navy vessels toward Taiwan, both the Chinese and Taiwanese defense ministries said. The exercises coincided with the visit of a group of German lawmakers who landed in Taiwan on Monday morning. Leading the delegation is the Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who leads the German Parliament’s Defense Committee. The exercises have continued into Monday, Taiwan’s defense ministry said, monitoring Chinese warplanes and navy vessels on its missile systems. China’s actions “have severely disrupted the peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits and surrounding waters,” the ministry said.
BEIJING (AP) — A traffic accident in southern China killed 19 people and injured 20 others early Sunday as the annual Lunar New Year holiday travel rush got underway, authorities said. The accident occurred outside the city of Nanchang in Jiangxi province, according to the local traffic management brigade. The cause was under investigation, the brigade said. Heavy fog was also reported at the time of the accident, just after midnight, according to reports. Website Jimu News quoted a resident as saying the victims were mourners from the village of Taoling who had set up a funeral tent on the side of the road, as is common in rural China, and were hit by a passing truck as they were preparing to proceed to the local crematorium in the morning.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban’s “internal debates and extreme decrees” are paralyzing humanitarian work in Afghanistan, the head of a major aid agency told The Associated Press on Sunday, after he arrived on a week-long trip to talk to Taliban leaders about reversing a ban on women working for national and international non-governmental groups. Jan Egeland, the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, is the first NGO chief to visit Afghanistan for talks with the Taliban since the ban came into effect more than two weeks ago. Authorities have barred Afghan women from working at NGOs, allegedly because they weren’t wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — More than 100 weak and hungry Rohingya Muslim refugees were among the latest group to reach ashore in Indonesia on Sunday after a long and dangerous journey aboard a wooden boat. The group of 184 people, including a pregnant woman and children, landed at the Kuala Gigieng beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh, which has already received more than 500 Rohingya last year. The refugees say they’re seeking a better life than in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh, where they fled military persecution across the border in Myanmar. “In Bangladesh, there are no opportunities for Rohingya refugees.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Thousands of Catholic devotees, many donning protective masks and bearing candles, joined a night procession through downtown Manila early Sunday to venerate a centuries-old black statue of Jesus Christ, which was not paraded to discourage an even larger crowd amid lingering fears of COVID-19. The more than 80,000 devotees who church officials said joined the nearly 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) “Walk of Faith” procession were a fraction of the more than a million worshippers who typically converged in pre-pandemic years to pay homage to the life-size Black Nazarene statue in one of Asia’s biggest religious festivals. In chaotic dawn-to-midnight processions in the past, when the Black Nazarene was paraded on a carriage pulled by ropes, mobs of mostly poor, barefoot devotees in maroon shirts would squeeze their way through the crowd around the slow-moving carriage to throw towels at volunteers, who wiped parts of the statue in the belief that the Nazarene’s powers would cure ailments and ensure good health and a better life.
WASHINGTON (AP) — E-commerce billionaire Jack Ma will give up control of Ant Group, the leading Chinese financial technology provider he founded. In a statement posted Friday, Ant Group said that after an ownership restructuring, “no shareholder, alone or with other parties” will have “control over Ant Group.” The company is an affiliate of e-commerce giant Alibaba, which Ma also founded. The move follows other efforts over the years by the Chinese government to rein in Ma and the country’s tech sector more broadly. Two years ago, the once high-profile Ma largely disappeared from view for 2 1/2 months after criticizing China’s regulators.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Protesters in southern Afghanistan on Sunday gathered following Prince Harry’s claim in his new memoir that he killed 25 people he described as Taliban fighters while posted with British forces in the country. Around 20 faculty and students demonstrated at a local university in Helmand, the province where British forces were largely concentrated during the NATO and U.S.-led coalition operations in Afghanistan. “We condemn his (Prince Harry’s) action which is against all norms of humanity,” one demonstrator said. Others carried posters showing Harry’s portrait with a red ‘x’ across it. Sayed Ahmad Sayed, a teacher at the university, condemned Harry for his role in UK military operations in Afghanistan.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian police have arrested an unruly airline passenger following a complaint by a woman aboard an Air India flight from New York that he urinated on her in business class. Shankar Mishra was picked up by police in the southern city of Bengaluru and brought to the Indian capital on Saturday, New Delhi Police spokesperson Suman Nalva said on Sunday. Nalva declined to say what Mishra told investigators after his arrest. The Times of India newspaper cited Mishra as saying that he was drunk and could not believe what he had done. A New Delhi court sent him to prison for 14 days as police investigate the complaint accusing Mishra of outraging the modesty of a woman during the New York-New Delhi flight.