Top Asian News 3:24 a.m. GMT
BATANG KALI, Malaysia (AP) — Rescue workers using tracker dogs and excavators scoured through rubble and mud on Saturday in search of a dozen people believed buried in a landslide in Malaysia that killed 21 others, including five children. Authorities said 94 people were sleeping at an unlicensed campground on an organic farm early Friday when the dirt tumbled from a road about 30 meters (100 feet) above the site and covered about 1 hectare (3 acres). Most were families enjoying a short vacation during the year-end school break. A total of 21 bodies have been recovered including five children and 12 women.
BEIJING (AP) — Outside a funeral home in eastern Beijing, dozens of people were bundled up in parkas and hats against the freezing temperatures Friday evening as workers in full protective suits wheeled out coffins one by one. When an employee with a clipboard shouted the name of the dead, a relative trundled up to the coffin to examine the body. One of the relatives told The Associated Press their loved one had been infected with COVID-19. Deaths linked to the coronavirus are appearing in Beijing after weeks of China reporting no fatalities, even as the country is seeing a surge of cases.
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin banned the use of several Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok and WeChat, on state government devices and wireless networks on Friday, calling them a threat to national security. Youngkin’s executive order covers apps developed by ByteDance and Tencent. Businesses who contract with Virginia must also prohibit their use on state-owned devices or IT infrastructure. “TikTok and WeChat data are a channel to the Chinese Communist Party, and their continued presence represents a threat to national security, the intelligence community, and the personal privacy of every single American,” Youngkin, a Republican, said in a statement.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of a “high-thrust solid-fuel motor” for a new strategic weapon, state media reported Friday, a development that could allow him to possess a more mobile, harder-to-detect arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can reach the mainland U.S. Thursday’s “static firing test” of a missile engine at the country’s northwest rocket launch facility was the first of its kind in North Korea, the official Korean Central News Agency reported. It said that the test provided “a sure sci-tech guarantee for the development of another new-type strategic weapon system.”
TOKYO (AP) — In a major break from its strictly self-defense-only postwar principle, Japan adopted a national security strategy Friday declaring plans to possess preemptive strike capability and cruise missiles within years to give itself more offensive footing against threats from neighboring China and North Korea. With China, North Korea and Russia directly to its west and north, Japan “faces the severest and most complicated national security environment since the end of the war,” the strategy said, referring to World War II. It named China as “the biggest strategic challenge” — before North Korea and Russia — to Japan’s effort toward ensuring the peace, safety and stability for itself and the international society.
BEIJING (AP) — A squadron of Chinese Navy ships sailed through straits near Japan into the Western Pacific this week, while Beijing on Friday blasted Tokyo’s adoption of a new national security strategy putting itself on a more offensive footing — largely as a result of the perceived threat from China. The destroyers Lhasa and Kaifeng, and a replenishment ship, sailed through the Osumi Strait in southern Japan, while a Dongdiao-class surveillance ship with the hull number 796 sailed through the Miyako Strait south of Okinawa, all arriving in the Western Pacific by Thursday. Japan’s Defense Ministry said the craft were closely shadowed by Japanese ships and planes throughout.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Violent protests erupted Friday in a town in Indian-controlled Kashmir after two civilians were killed and another wounded in what the Indian army called a “firing incident by unidentified terrorists.” But locals in southern Rajouri district said the men were shot by soldiers at the entrance of a military base. Two men died on the spot while the third was critically injured and later hospitalized. The three men worked as laborers at the military base in Rajouri, a town close to the highly militarized Line of Control that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan.
RAPA NUI, Chile (AP) — The hillside of Rano Raraku volcano on Rapa Nui feels like a place that froze in time. Embedded in grass and volcanic rock, almost 400 moai – the monolithic human figures carved centuries ago by this remote Pacific island’s Rapanui people -- remained untouched until recently. Some are buried from the neck down, the heads seemingly observing their surroundings from the underground. Around them, there has been a pervasive smell of smoke from still-smoldering vegetation – the vestige of a wildfire that broke out in early October. More than 100 moai were damaged by the flames, many of them blackened by soot, though the impact on the stone remains undetermined.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An international group that monitored Fiji’s general election this week said Friday it didn’t observe any voting irregularities and the process was transparent and credible. The group’s comments came after five of the political parties that contested the election said they were launching a nationwide petition because they had no faith in the integrity of election officials. The election dispute threatens to destabilize the Pacific nation’s fragile democracy, which has been marred by four military coups in the past 35 years. This year’s election has pitted two former coup leaders against each other. Sitiveni Rabuka, who led the first coup back in 1987 and later served as an elected prime minister in the 1990s, emerged as the main challenger to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who has held power for the past 16 years.
MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. is poised to ban the lucrative trade in shark fins, a move conservationists hope will help protect millions of sharks that are butchered every year to satisfy demand in China and other parts of Asia. The practice of shark finning, whereby sharks are caught for their fins and their carcasses then dumped back into the ocean, has been banned in U.S. waters for decades. But the U.S. remains a major hub for the brisk trade where the fins of as many as 73 million sharks are cut off around the world each year. The House and Senate passed identical versions of the proposed ban as part of a broader defense spending bill that President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law.