Top Asian News 4:06 a.m. GMT
BAZHOU, China (AP) — Yao Ruyan paced frantically outside the fever clinic of a county hospital in China’s industrial Hebei province, 70 kilometers (43 miles) southwest of Beijing. Her mother-in-law had COVID and needed urgent medical care, but all hospitals nearby were full. “They say there’s no beds here,” she barked into her phone. As China grapples with its first-ever national COVID wave, emergency wards in small cities and towns southwest of Beijing are overwhelmed. Intensive care units are turning away ambulances, relatives of sick people are searching for open beds, and patients are slumped on benches in hospital corridors and lying on floors for a lack of beds.
BAZHOU, China (AP) — Nearly three years after it was first identified in China, the coronavirus is now spreading through the vast country. Experts predict difficult months ahead for its 1.4 billion people. China’s unyielding “zero-COVID” approach, which aimed to isolate all infected people, bought it years to prepare for the disease. But an abrupt reopening, which was announced without warning on Dec. 7 in the wake of anti-lockdown protests, has caught the nation under-vaccinated and short on hospital capacity. Experts have forecast between a million and 2 million deaths next year. Predicting deaths has proven tricky throughout the pandemic, since it is influenced by varied factors and China presents an especially complicated case because of opaque information sharing.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters on Friday, its latest weapons demonstration that came days after U.S. and South Korean warplanes conducted joint drills that North Korea views as an invasion rehearsal. North Korea has conducted an unprecedented number of missile tests this year in what some experts call an attempt to bolster its weapons capability and pressure its rivals to make concessions such as sanctions relief in future negotiations. Recently, the North also claimed to have performed major tests needed to acquire its first spy satellite and a more mobile intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Sitiveni Rabuka was confirmed as Fiji’s next prime minister on Saturday more than two decades after the former military commander first held the office in a term lasting nearly seven years. The 74-year-old won the nomination by one vote over incumbent Frank Bainimarama at a sitting of the Fijian Parliament in Suva. Rabuka, the head of the People’s Alliance Party, was elevated to the position after forming a majority coalition with two other parties following last week’s close and contentious election. He will be officially sworn in later Saturday at Government House. The tripartite coalition had announced on Tuesday its intention to form a government with a combined 29 seats compared to the 26 held by Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s defense spending will jump 20% to a record 6.8 trillion yen ($55 billion) next year as the country prepares to deploy U.S.-made Tomahawks and other long-range cruise missiles that can hit targets in China or North Korea under a more offensive security strategy. The planned purchase of Tomahawks at 211.3 billion yen ($1.6 billion) is a centerpiece of Japan’s 2023 budget plan approved Friday by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Cabinet and shows his government’s determination to rapidly arm itself with more strike capability under the new strategy. Additionally, Japan will pay the United States 110 billion yen ($830 million) for equipment and software needed to launch Tomahawks, as well as fees for the technology transfer and staff training in the coming year, defense officials said.
HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping reaffirmed Beijing’s commitment to follow the “one country, two systems” governing principle for Hong Kong on Friday, saying it is the “best arrangement” to maintain the city’s prosperity and stability. The principle promises the former British colony the right to retain its own political, social and financial institutions for 50 years after returning to China’s rule in 1997. But critics say it is becoming increasingly threadbare, especially after Beijing imposed the 2020 National Security Law, which jailed or silenced many dissidents. “(The central government) fully supports the chief executive and the Hong Kong government to govern in accordance with the law, to promote international cooperation and better integrate into the national development plans,” Xi said during a meeting with Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee.
BEIJING (AP) — China has sanctioned two U.S. citizens in retaliation for action taken by Washington over human rights abuses in Tibet, the government said Friday, amid an ongoing standoff between the sides over Beijing’s treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Todd Stein and Miles Yu Maochun, along with their close family members, would be banned from entering China. Any assets they had in China would be frozen and they would be barred from contact with people or organizations within China. The notice said the measures were in response to the U.S. sanctioning two Chinese citizens “under the excuse of the ‘Tibet human rights’ issue.” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said China was responding to what it considered a violation of the “basic norms of international relations” and that Stein and Yu “behaved egregiously on Tibet and other China-related issues.” “We would like to stress once again that Tibetan affairs are purely an internal affair of China, and the U.S.
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Confessed French serial killer Charles Sobhraj was freed from prison in Nepal on Friday after serving most of his sentence for killing American and Canadian backpackers and was taken to the airport for a flight back to Paris, his attorney said. His alleged killings were dramatized in a series co-produced by the BBC and Netflix called “The Serpent,” which aired last year. A ticket was purchased with money received from a friend and the French Embassy in Kathmandu prepared the necessary travel documents allowing him to take the flight Friday evening, attorney Gopal Siwakoti Chitan said. Sobhraj was driven out of the Central Jail in Kathmandu in a heavily guarded police convoy earlier Friday to the Department of Immigration.
VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Rasarathnam Anushiya once had a mission: She awaited orders to blow herself up as a suicide bomber during Sri Lanka’s civil war. Years on, her struggle now is to feed her three children during the country’s unprecedented economic crisis. Anushiya, 36, was arrested in 2009 when government troops defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who had sought to create an independent homeland for minority Tamils. She had been a member of the rebels’ dreaded suicide squad known as the Black Tigers, and spent the next five years under government questioning and later at a rehabilitation camp.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A top court in Pakistan on Friday reinstated the chief minister of the country’s most populous province, a defense lawyer said, a day after the Punjab’s governor dismissed him from his post. The High Court of Lahore’s order restoring Pervez Elahi as Punjab’s top elected official is the latest twist in a national power struggle pitting Pakistan’s ruling political party against its former premier, Imran Khan. In a major move, Punjab Gov. Balighur Rehman on Thursday sacked Elahi as the province’s chief minister for failing to win a vote of confidence in its legislature. Elahi was removed ahead of his possible decision to order the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, as part of a broader plan announced by his political ally Khan to pressure Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to move up nationwide elections that are currently scheduled for October 2023.