Top Asian News 4:27 a.m. GMT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presented unspecified goals to further bolster his military power next year at a meeting of top political officials, state media reported Wednesday, in an indication he’ll continue his provocative run of weapons displays. Kim’s statement came as animosities with rival South Korea rose sharply this week as the South accused the North of flying drones across the rivals’ border for the first time in five years. This year, North Korea already performed a record number of missile tests in what experts call an attempt to modernize its arsenal and increase its leverage in future dealings with the United States.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The death toll from heavy rains and floods that devastated parts of the Philippines over the Christmas weekend has risen to 25, with 26 others still missing, the national disaster response agency said Wednesday. Nearly 400,000 people were affected, with over 81,000 still in shelters and nine others injured, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. Sixteen of the 25 deaths were reported in Northern Mindanao region in the south, while 12 of the 26 missing are from the eastern Bicol region, the council added. A shear line — the point where warm and cold air meet — triggered rains in parts of eastern, central and southern Philippines, the state weather bureau PAGASA said.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan will extend its compulsory military service from four months to a year starting in 2024, President Tsai Ing-wen said Tuesday, as the self-ruled island faces China’s military, diplomatic and trade pressure. Taiwan, which split from the mainland in 1949 during a civil war, is claimed by China. The decades-old threat of invasion by China has sharpened since Beijing cut off communications with Taiwan’s government after the 2016 election of Tsai, who is seen as pro-independence. China’s People’s Liberation Army in particular has stepped up its military harassment, sending fighter planes and navy vessels toward Taiwan on a near-daily basis in recent years.
PIDIE, Indonesia (AP) — At least 26 Rohingya Muslims had died in dire conditions during a month at open sea while making a dangerous voyage that brought scores of others to safety in Indonesia, a U.N. agency said Tuesday, adding there will likely be more. Exhausted women and children were among 185 people who disembarked from a rickety wooden boat on Monday in a coastal village in Aceh’s Pidie district, authorities said. A distressing video circulated widely on social media showed the Rohingya worn out and emaciated, with many crying for help. “They are very weak because of dehydration and exhaustion after weeks at sea,” said local police chief Fauzi, who goes by a single name.
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Tuesday that Japan will tighten border controls for COVID-19 by requiring tests for all visitors from China starting Friday as a temporary emergency measure against the surging infections there. The announcement comes days after the World Health Organization said it was very concerned about rising reports of severe cases across China after the country largely abandoned its “zero-COVID” policy. The quantitative antigen test that is already conducted on entrants suspected of having COVID-19 will be mandatory for all people arriving from mainland China. Those who test positive will be quarantined for seven days at designated facilities and their samples will be used for genome analysis.
BEIJING (AP) — Foreign companies welcomed China’s decision to end quarantines for travelers from abroad as an important step to revive slumping business activity while Japan on Tuesday joined India in announcing restrictions on visitors from the country as infections surge. The ruling Communist Party’s abrupt decision to lift some of the world’s strictest anti-virus controls comes as it tries reverse an economic downturn. It has ended curbs that confined millions of people to their homes and sparked protests, but hospitals have been flooded with feverish, wheezing patients as the virus spreads. The announcement late Monday that quarantines for travelers from abroad will end Jan.
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Novak Djokovic has arrived in Australia almost a year after he was deported over his stance against COVID-19 vaccination, Tennis Australia confirmed Wednesday. Djokovic will open his 2023 campaign in Adelaide as he prepares for a shot at a 10th Australian Open title. The 21-time major winner has been granted a visa by the Australian government and is listed to play at the Adelaide International, which starts Sunday. The 35-year-old Serb arrived in Adelaide on Tuesday night, the governing body confirmed. Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley indicated at a news conference Tuesday that Djokovic had arrived.
BANGKOK (AP) — An Irish national taking a tour in western Thailand died Tuesday after falling out of a moving train, police said. The man was identified as 45-year-old Patrick Ward, whose Irish passport said he was born in New Zealand. His current place of residence was not immediately known, but he entered Thailand on Monday on a tourist visa. Police said Ward traveled Tuesday by rail with a tour group from the capital, Bangkok, to Kanchanaburi town, where the bridge over the River Kwai, made famous in the movie about the railway constructed by forced labor under Japanese WWII occupation, is located.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Authorities arrested five people suspected of involvement in last week’s suicide car bombing that killed a police officer in the capital of Islamabad, Pakistan’s interior minister said Tuesday. Rana Sanaullah Khan made the announcement on Twitter, saying the detainees included the suicide bomber’s handler. He said the attacker arrived in the garrison city of Rawalpindi from a former tribal area of Kurram. Khan did not disclose the identity of the detainees and no spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, which had claimed responsibility for the attack, was immediately available for comment. Initially, police and the government said the slain driver of the weaponized vehicle was also a suspect.
BERLIN (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday decried increasing restrictions on women’s rights in Afghanistan, urging the country’s Taliban rulers to reverse them immediately. The Security Council “reiterated its deep concern of the suspension of schools beyond the sixth grade, and its call for the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women and girls in Afghanistan,” it said in a press statement. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker pointed to “terrible consequences” of a decision to bar women from working for non-governmental organizations. Last week, Taliban authorities stopped university education for women, sparking international outrage and demonstrations in Afghan cities.