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Top Asian News 4:52 a.m. GMT

December 27, 2022 GMT

S. Korea’s leader calls for stealth drones to monitor North

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president on Tuesday called for a stronger air defense and high-tech stealth drones to better monitor North Korea, a day after Seoul accused North Korea of flying five drones across the rivals’ tense border for the first time in five years. South Korea’s military fired warning shots and scrambled warplanes and attack helicopters in response Monday, but there has been no confirmation that any of the North Korean drones were shot down. That has raised a serious question about South Korea’s air defense network at a time when tensions remain high over North Korea’s torrid run of missile tests this year.

China to scrap COVID-19 quarantine for incoming passengers

BEIJING (AP) — China will drop a COVID-19 quarantine requirement for passengers arriving from abroad starting Jan. 8, the National Health Commission announced Monday in the latest easing of the country’s once-strict virus-control measures. Currently, arriving passengers must quarantine for five days at a hotel, followed by three days at home. That is down from as much as three weeks in the past. The scrapping of the quarantine requirement is a major step toward fully reopening travel with the rest of the world, which the government severely curtailed in a bid to keep the virus out. The restrictions have prevented most Chinese from traveling abroad, limited face-to-face diplomatic exchanges and sharply reduced the number of foreigners in China for work and study.

China races to vaccinate elderly, but many are reluctant

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities are going door to door and paying people older than 60 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But even as cases surge, 64-year-old Li Liansheng said his friends are alarmed by stories of fevers, blood clots and other side effects. “When people hear about such incidents, they may not be willing to take the vaccines,” said Li, who had been vaccinated before he caught COVID-19. A few days after his 10-day bout with the virus, Li is nursing a sore throat and cough. He said it was like a “normal cold” with a mild fever. China has joined other countries in treating cases instead of trying to stamp out virus transmission by dropping or easing rules on testing, quarantines and movement as it tries to reverse an economic slump.

More Rohingya refugees reach Indonesia after weeks at sea

PIDIE, Indonesia (AP) — A second group in two days of weak and exhausted Rohingya Muslims landed on a beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh on Monday after weeks at sea, officials said. At least 185 men, women and children disembarked from a rickety wooden boat at dusk on Ujong Pie beach at Muara Tiga, a coastal village in Aceh’s Pidie district, said local police chief Fauzi, who goes by a single name. “They are very weak because of dehydration and exhaustion after weeks at sea,” Fauzi said. A distressing video circulated widely in social media showed the 185 dehydrated and exhausted Rohingya, crumpled weakly and emaciated, many crying for help.

Pakistan troops search for attackers after 6 soldiers killed

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani forces on Monday expanded their search for the perpetrators behind multiple attacks that killed six troops and wounded 17 civilians in a restive southwestern province the previous day. The top government official in the southwestern Baluchistan province, Abdul Aziz Uqaili, said there were a total of nine attacks in the province on Sunday. No civilians were killed in the attacks, he tweeted. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the violence in Baluchistan. Earlier, the military in a statement said five soldiers, including an army captain, were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near a security forces’ vehicle during a clearance operation in Kahan, a remote area in Baluchistan bordering Afghanistan.

Nepal’s new PM takes oath at the helm of fragile coalition

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s newly appointed prime minister took his oath Monday, leading a fragile coalition that includes his former opponent and other smaller political parties. Maoist Communist party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal was sworn in by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari at the President House in Kathmandu at a ceremony attended by top officials, diplomats and politicians. Dahal has appointed three deputies and four other ministers in the Cabinet that is expected to be expanded in the next few days to accommodate more members from the seven parties in the new coalition government. Dahal has the support of more than half the members of the newly elected 275-member House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament where he will have to prove his majority.

China sends 71 warplanes, 7 ships toward Taiwan in 24 hours

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China’s military sent 71 planes and seven ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the self-ruled island, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said Monday, after China expressed anger at Taiwan-related provisions i n a U.S. annual defense spending bill. China’s military harassment of Taiwan, which it claims is its own territory, has intensified in recent years, and the Communist Party’s People’s Liberation Army has sent planes or ships toward the island on a near-daily basis. Between 6 a.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday, 47 of the Chinese planes crossed the median of the Taiwan Strait, an unofficial boundary once tacitly accepted by both sides, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.

Heavy snow in Japan leaves 17 dead, dozens injured

TOKYO (AP) — Heavy snow in large swaths of Japan has killed 17 and injured more than 90 people and left hundreds of homes without power, disaster management officials said Monday. Powerful winter fronts have dumped heavy snow in northern regions since last week, stranding hundreds of vehicles on highways, delaying delivery services and causing 11 deaths by Saturday. More snowfall over the Christmas weekend brought the number of dead to 17 and injured to 93 by Monday morning, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. Many of them had fallen while removing snow from the roofs or were buried underneath thick piles of snow sliding off rooftops.

South Korea lifts ban on imported sex dolls

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea has formally lifted a ban on the import of full-body sex dolls, ending years of debate over how much the government can interfere in private life. Although there are no laws or regulations banning the import of sex dolls, hundreds, and perhaps thousands, have been seized by the customs, which cited a clause in the law that bans the import of goods that “harm the country’s beautiful traditions and public moral.” Importers complained and took their case to courts, most of which agreed with them and ordered customs to release the sex dolls, saying they are used in people’s private spaces and don’t undermine human dignity.

Deaths of 3 endangered Cambodian dolphins raise alarm

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Three endangered freshwater dolphins have died within 10 days of each other, alarming conservationists in Cambodia. The death of a third healthy dolphin in such a brief period indicates “an increasingly alarming situation and the need for an intensive law enforcement be urgently conducted in the dolphin habitats,” the World Wildlife Fund said in an announcement Monday. The latest Irrawaddy dolphin death — believed to have stemmed from entanglement in an illegal fishing line — spotlighted the need for law enforcement to help save the species, also known as the Mekong River dolphin, according to the statement.