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Top Asian News 4:37 a.m. GMT

December 19, 2022 GMT

Thai navy ship sinks, rescue underway for sailors in water

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai navy ship sunk in the Gulf of Thailand and ships and helicopters were working Monday to rescue sailors from the water. As of midmorning, 75 sailors had been rescued and 31 were still in the water, the navy said. Strong winds blew seawater onto the HTMS Sukhothai corvette and knocked out its electrical system Sunday evening. The Royal Thai Navy dispatched three frigates and two helicopters with mobile pumping machines to try to assist the disabled ship by removing the seawater but it couldn’t do so because of the strong winds. The loss of power allowed more seawater to flow into the vessel, causing it to list and sink.

2 COVID-19 deaths reported in Beijing as virus surges

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese health authorities on Monday announced two additional COVID-19 deaths, both in the capital Beijing, that were the first reported in weeks and come during an expected surge of illnesses after the nation eased its strict “zero-COVID” approach. China had not reported a death from COVID-19 since Dec. 4, even though unofficial reports of a new wave of cases are widespread. With the latest reported deaths, 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 — numbers that are much lower than in other major countries but also based on statistics and information-gathering methods that have come into question.


North Korea says latest launches tested 1st spy satellite

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Monday it fired a test satellite in an important final-stage test for the development of its first spy satellite, a key military capability coveted by its leader Kim Jong Un along with other high-tech weapons systems. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency also released low-resolution, black-and-white photos showing a space view of the South Korean capital and Incheon, a city just west of Seoul, in an apparent attempt to show the North is pushing to acquire a surveillance tool to monitor its rival. The rocket carrying the test satellite was launched Sunday to assess the satellite’s photography and data transmission systems, KCNA said.


Australia’s foreign minister to meet counterpart in China

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said Monday she will meet with her counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing this week as Australia and China mark 50 years of diplomatic relations. Her trip signals a continued thaw in the relationship between the two nations since Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese won an election victory in May, replacing the more conservative Scott Morrison in the top role. Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping met on the sidelines of the G20 summit last month in Bali, the first such formal meeting between the leaders of the two nations in six years.

Governments move closer to deal at biodiversity conference

MONTREAL (AP) — There were signs Sunday that negotiators were closing in on a historic deal at a U.N. conference that would be the most significant effort to protect the world’s land and oceans and provide a critical infusion of money to save biodiversity in the developing world. China, which holds the presidency at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, or COP15, released a draft framework Sunday morning that calls for restoring 30% of land and water considered important for biodiversity be conserved by 2030. Currently, 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas are protected. It also calls for a redoubling of efforts to conserve threatened species, minimize the impacts of climate change and reduce pollution.


Vote counting finishes in Fiji election with no clear winner

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Vote counting finished in Fiji’s general election Sunday but there was no clear winner, and various political parties are now negotiating to form a coalition government. The election had pitted two former coup leaders against each other. Sitiveni Rabuka, who led a 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. Rabuka’s People’s Alliance Party and allies the National Federation Party won about 45% of the vote combined. Bainimarama’s Fiji’s First party, meanwhile, won about 43%.


Militants kill 4 in attack on police station in NW Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Four Pakistani police officers were killed and another four critically wounded Sunday when suspected militants attacked a police station in the country’s volatile northwest, police said. The suspects used grenades and automatic weapons on the station in Lakki Marwat district before fleeing the scene overnight, said Nawaz Khan, an officer of the targeted police station. Khan said police on duty retaliated and called for reinforcement before the attackers, their ammunition apparently exhausted, fled the scene before help arrived. Police were searching for the attackers. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but previous attacks on police in the district have been claimed by Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP.


Fuel tanker tunnel blast kills at least 19 in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least 19 people were killed and 32 injured when a fuel tanker exploded in a tunnel north of the Afghan capital Kabul, a local official said Sunday. The Salang Tunnel, which is around 80 miles north of Kabul, was originally built in the 1960s to assist the Soviet invasion. It is a key link between the country’s north and south. A spokesman for Parwan province, Said Himatullah Shamim, said Saturday night’s tunnel explosion killed at least 19 people, including women and children. He said survivors remain trapped under rubble and that the number of casualties could rise.

EXPLAINER: Why Japan is boosting its arms capability, budget

TOKYO (AP) — Japan this week adopted a new national security strategy that includes determination to possess “counterstrike” capability to preempt enemy attacks and double its spending to gain a more offensive footing and improve its resilience to protect itself from growing risks from China, North Korea and Russia. The new strategy marks a historic change to Japan’s exclusively self-defense policy since the end of World War II. Here is a look at Japan’s new security and defense strategies and how they will change the country’s defense posture. ___ COUNTERSTRIKE CAPABILITY The biggest change in the National Security Strategy is possession of “counterstrike capability” that Japan calls “indispensable.” Japan aims to achieve capabilities ”to disrupt and defeat invasions against its nation much earlier and at a further distance” within about 10 years.

India’s visa temples attract devotees aspiring to go abroad

CHENNAI, India (AP) — Arjun Viswanathan stood on the street, his hands folded, eyes fixed on the idol of the Hindu deity Ganesh. On a humid morning, the information technology professional was waiting outside the temple, the size of a small closet – barely enough room for the lone priest to stand and perform puja or rituals for the beloved elephant-headed deity, believed to be the remover of obstacles. Viswanathan was among about a dozen visitors, most of them there for the same purpose: To offer prayers so their U.S. visa interviews would go smoothly and successfully. Viswanathan came the day before his interview for an employment visa.