Top Asian News 2:20 a.m. GMT
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China’s military sent 71 planes and seven ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Monday, after China expressed anger at Taiwan-related provisions i n a U.S. annual defense spending bill passed on Saturday. China’s military harassment of self-ruled 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.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four major international aid groups on Sunday suspended their operations in Afghanistan following a decision by the country’s Taliban rulers to ban women from working at non-governmental organizations. Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee, the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE said they cannot effectively reach children, women and men in desperate need in Afghanistan without the women in their workforces. The NGO ban was introduced a day earlier, allegedly because women weren’t wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly. The four NGOs are providing healthcare, education, child protection and nutrition services and support amid plummeting humanitarian conditions. “We have complied with all cultural norms and we simply can’t work without our dedicated female staff, who are essential for us to access women who are in desperate need of assistance,” Neil Turner, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s chief for Afghanistan, told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Could the COVID-19 surge in China unleash a new coronavirus mutant on the world? Scientists don’t know but worry that might happen. It could be similar to omicron variants circulating there now. It could be a combination of strains. Or something entirely different, they say. “China has a population that is very large and there’s limited immunity. And that seems to be the setting in which we may see an explosion of a new variant,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University. Every new infection offers a chance for the coronavirus to mutate, and the virus is spreading rapidly in China.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi defended what he said was his country’s position of impartiality on the war in Ukraine on Sunday and signaled that China would deepen ties with Russia in the coming year. Wang, speaking by video to a conference in the Chinese capital, also blamed America for the deterioration in relations between the world’s two largest economies, saying that China has “firmly rejected the United States’ erroneous China policy.” China has pushed back against Western pressure on trade, technology, human rights and its claims to a broad swath of the western Pacific, accusing the U.S.
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The leader of former communist rebels became Nepal’s new prime minister Sunday with the support from his ex-opponent and other smaller political parties. The announcement was made by the office of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari after the Maoist communist party leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal met her to stake his claim for the prime minister following last month’s elections in a major twist in politics in the Himalayan nation. Dahal has support of more than half the members of the newly elected House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament. He is likely to take the oath of office on Monday and prove his majority in the 275-member house later in the week.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad on Sunday warned its staff of a possible attack on Americans at a top hotel in Pakistan’s capital as the city was already on high alert following a suicide bombing earlier in the week. The U.S. government is aware of information that “unknown individuals are possibly plotting to attack Americans at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad sometime during the holidays,” the embassy said in a security alert. The advisory banned its American personnel from visiting the popular hotel over the holidays. The U.S. mission also urged all personnel to refrain from non-essential travel in Islamabad during the holiday season.
MALE, Maldives (AP) — A court in Maldives on Sunday found the former president guilty of money laundering and accepting a bribe and sentenced him to 11 years in prison. The Criminal Court of Maldives also ordered Abdulla Yameen to pay a fine of $5 million. The court found Yameen guilty of accepting money for leasing an island owned by the government. He ruled the Indian ocean archipelago nation, known as an exclusive tourist destination, from 2013 to 2018. It gave him a seven-year sentence for money laundering and four years for accepting a bribe. This was not the first time Yameen was found guilty.
BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Dozens of hungry and weak Rohingya Muslims were found on a beach in Indonesia’s northernmost province of Aceh on Sunday after weeks at sea, officials said. The group of 58 men arrived on Indrapatra beach at Ladong, a fishing village in Aceh Besar district, early Sunday, said local police chief Rolly Yuiza Away. Villagers who saw the group of ethnic Rohingya on a rickety wooden boat helped them to land and then reported their arrival to authorities, he said. “They look very weak from hunger and dehydration. Some of them are sick after a long and severe voyage at sea,” said Away, adding that the men received food and water from villagers and others as they waited for further instructions from immigration and local officials in Aceh.
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A soldier and a militant were killed near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani military said Sunday, when a group of militants attempted to sneak into the country’s northwest, triggering a shootout. The clash erupted in the Sambaza area of Zhob overnight, according to a military statement. Two other soldiers were also injured in the exchange of fire. It said the area had already been under surveillance for days after intelligence reports that militants were using the route to sneak into Pakistan to target civilians and security forces. The Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, ended a ceasefire last month and have attacked Pakistani security forces over the last month.
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-19 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-19 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.