Top Asian News 4:56 a.m. GMT
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday dismissed as “malicious disparaging” and “dog barking” the outside assessments that cast doubt on its developmental spy satellite and other military capabilities. North Korea earlier claimed its rocket launches Sunday were tests of its first military reconnaissance satellite and on Monday its state media released two low-resolution photos of South Korean cities as viewed from space. Some civilian experts in South Korea and elsewhere said the photos were too crude for a surveillance purpose and that the launches were likely a cover for North Korea’s missile technology.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been chosen as the nation’s next ambassador to the United States. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the appointment Tuesday, citing Rudd’s roles as leader and foreign minister as well as his academic background as a China scholar and previous work in the U.S. Albanese said Rudd would begin early next year. “Dr. Rudd brings unmatched experience to the role,” Albanese said. In a statement, Rudd said he was greatly honored to be chosen. He said Australia faces the most challenging security and diplomatic environment it has in decades. Rudd served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010 and again briefly in 2013 before his center-left Labor party lost a general election.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea threatened Tuesday to take “bold and decisive military steps” against Japan as it slammed Tokyo’s adoption of a national security strategy as an attempt to turn the country into an aggressive military power. The North’s statement came four days after Japan announced a security strategy that reflects its determination to possess “counterstrike” capability and double its military spending to gain a more offensive footing against threats from China and North Korea. The North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Japan’s push to acquire counterstrike capability has nothing to do with self-defense but is a clear attempt to acquire “pre-emptive attack capability meant to launch strikes on other countries’ territories.” “Japan’s foolish attempt to satiate its black-hearted greed -- the building up of its military invasion capability with the pretext of a legitimate exercise of self-defense rights -- cannot be justified and tolerated,” an unidentified ministry spokesperson said in a statement carried by state media.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai navy ships and helicopters searched Monday for more than 30 sailors still missing 24 hours after their warship sank in rough seas in the Gulf of Thailand. Survivors described chaotic scenes as they struggled to survive while the ship went down, and the navy commander confirmed there were not enough life jackets for everyone on board. As of Monday night, 75 sailors from the HTMS Sukhothai corvette had been rescued and 31 were still missing, the navy said. The high waves that caused the accident had lessened since Sunday night’s sinking, but were still high enough to endanger small boats, the navy said.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong leader John Lee said on Tuesday he will meet China’s President Xi Jinping to report on the city’s political, economic and COVID-19 situations during his maiden duty visit in Beijing this week. Lee will depart for a four-day trip on Wednesday afternoon, he said at a news briefing. Macau chief executive Ho Iat Seng will visit during the same period to explain his administration’s work over the past year and its policy focuses next year, the government there said. Lee promised to reflect Hong Kongers’ hopes to reopen the border with mainland China, but he did not say when that will happen.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim cruised through a vote of confidence Monday, cementing his leadership after a general election last month produced no clear winner. Anwar, whose coalition led the Nov. 19 election with 82 seats, subsequently formed a unity government with several smaller rival parties. But former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Malay-centric opposition alliance, which has 74 parliamentary seats, questioned his legitimacy. The vote, called by Anwar’s government at the start of a two-day special parliamentary session, was a show of strength intended to remove doubts over his authority to govern and the stability of his administration.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The first visit by an Australian foreign minister to China in four years is raising hopes that Australia will make progress on ending trade sanctions and freeing two Australian citizens detained in China. But Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong cautioned on Tuesday before leaving that some of the thorny issues between the countries will take time to resolve. Still, diplomacy experts welcomed the visit as a positive move following years of frosty relations. Wong will meet with her counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing this week as Australia and China mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. The visit will include a new round of talks on foreign and strategic issues after the talks were suspended in 2018.
BEIJING (AP) — China says Chinese-Russian naval drills beginning Wednesday aim to “further deepen” cooperation between the sides whose unofficial anti-Western alliance has gained strength since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The drills will be held off the coast of Zhejiang province south of Shanghai through next Tuesday, according to a brief notice posted Monday by China’s Eastern Theater Command under the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. “This joint exercise is directed at demonstrating the determination and capability of the two sides to jointly respond to maritime security threats ... and further deepen the China-Russia comprehensive new-era strategic partnership of coordination,” the notice said.
BEIJING (AP) — China’s health authorities on Monday announced two COVID-19 deaths — the country’s first reported fatalities in weeks — amid an expected surge of illnesses after it eased its strict “zero-COVID” approach. Unofficial reports point to a widespread wave of new coronavirus cases, and relatives of victims and people who work in the funeral business said deaths tied to COVID-19 were increasing. Those people spoke on condition of not being identified for fear of retribution. Before Monday’s two reported deaths — both in Beijing — China had not reported a death from COVID-19 since Dec. 4. With those fatalities, the National Health Commission raised China’s total to 5,237 deaths from COVID-19 in the past three years, out of 380,453 cases of illness.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Several Pakistani Taliban detainees overpowered their guards at a counter-terrorism center in northwestern Pakistan overnight, snatching police weapons, taking hostages and seizing control of the facility, officials said Monday. The incident erupted late Sunday and quickly evolved into a standoff. Pakistani officials later confirmed that one counter-terrorism officer was killed during the takeover at the detention center in Bannu, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and part of a former tribal region. Police and the military scrambled to deploy troops and special forces to the area but by Monday evening, some 20 hours later, the hostage crisis was still ongoing.