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Top Asian News 4:40 a.m. GMT

December 22, 2022 GMT

UN council adopts resolution urging end to Myanmar violence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council approved its first-ever resolution on Myanmar on Wednesday, demanding an immediate end to violence in the Southeast Asian nation and urging its military rulers to release all “arbitrarily detained” prisoners including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and to restore democratic institutions. The resolution reiterated the call by the 15-member council for the country’s opposing parties to pursue dialogue and reconciliation and urged all sides “to respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.” The council vote was 12-0 with three abstentions, China, Russia and India. Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, whose country sponsored the resolution, said it is the first adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body since the country, formerly known as Burma, joined the United Nations in 1948.


China limits how it defines COVID deaths in official count

ZHUOZHOU, China (AP) — China only counts deaths from pneumonia or respiratory failure in its official COVID-19 death toll, a Chinese health official said, a narrow definition that limits the number of deaths being reported as the virus surges following the easing of pandemic-related restrictions. Deaths that occur in patients with pre-existing illnesses are not counted as COVID-19 deaths, said Wang Guiqiang, the head of infectious disease at Peking University’s No. 1 Hospital. China has always been conservative in how it counts illnesses, whether the flu or COVID-19. In most countries, including the United States, guidelines stipulate that any death in which COVID-19 is a factor or contributor is counted as a COVID-19-related death.

Ardern, rival turn her hot-mic vulgarity into charity’s win

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was caught on a hot mic using a vulgarity against a rival politician last week, it seemed the nation’s political discourse could be taking an ugly turn heading into an election year. But Ardern and her target, lawmaker David Seymour, agreed on a plan to make good. They both signed an official parliamentary transcript of Ardern’s comment and auctioned it for charity. The auction closed Thursday with a top bid of just over 100,000 New Zealand dollars ($63,000). “Can’t say I expected this,” Ardern wrote on Facebook. “A faux pas with the old mic in parliament has turned into $100,100 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.


French serial killer Charles Sobhraj to leave Nepal prison

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Confessed French serial killer Charles Sobhraj, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in Nepal, was ordered Wednesday to be released because of poor health, good behavior and having already served most of his sentence. The Supreme Court ruling also said he had to leave the country within the next 15 days but did not specify to where. He was serving two life sentences in Nepal for the murders of American and Canadian backpackers. Life sentences in Nepal are 20 years. The court document said he had already served more than 75% of his sentence, making him eligible for release, and he has heart disease.


WTO rejects US ‘Made in China’ labeling on Hong Kong goods

GENEVA (AP) — World Trade Organization arbitrators concluded Wednesday that the United States was out of line in requiring that products from Hong Kong be labeled as “Made in China,” a move that was part of Washington’s response to a crackdown on pro-democracy protests there in 2019-2020. A WTO dispute panel found the U.S. violated its obligations under the trade body’s rules and rejected Washington’s argument that U.S. “essential security interests” allowed for such labeling. The panel said the situation did not pose an “emergency” that would justify such an exemption under the trade body’s rules. The United States or Hong Kong could appeal the ruling to the WTO’s appeals court.

Afghan women weep as Taliban fighters enforce university ban


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban security forces in the Afghan capital on Wednesday enforced a higher education ban for women by blocking their access to universities, with video obtained by The Associated Press showing women weeping and consoling each other outside one campus in Kabul. The country’s Taliban rulers a day earlier ordered women nationwide to stop attending private and public universities effective immediately and until further notice. The Taliban-led administration has not given a reason for the ban or reacted to the fierce and swift global condemnation of it. Journalists saw Taliban forces outside four Kabul universities Wednesday. The forces stopped some women from entering, while allowing others to go in and finish their work.

China sends 39 warplanes, 3 ships toward Taiwan in 24 hours

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — China’s military sent 39 planes and three ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island, Taiwan’s defense ministry said Thursday. 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. Wednesday and 6 a.m. Thursday, 30 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.


Australia-China foreign ministers meet in bid to repair ties

BEIJING (AP) — The foreign ministers of Australia and China met in Beijing on Wednesday in a bid to restore high-level political contacts and return stability to the countries’ tense relationship. The visit by Penny Wong was the first visit by an Australian foreign minister to China in four years and came on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic relations between the nations. Both sides said they hoped the occasion would help improve economic and political ties. “We’ve continued to put the view that we are able to grow our bilateral relationship and uphold our respective national interests if we navigate our differences wisely,” the Australian Associated Press news agency quoted Wong as saying after meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Pakistan’s premier urges global aid for 20M flood victims

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s prime minister on Wednesday urged the international community to give his country desperately needed aid to help 20 million flood victims survive the harsh winter, as the country struggles to cope with the humanitarian aftermath of vast floods earlier in the year. Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif made the emotional appeal for help in arranging food, tents and other essential items for the millions of people the deadly floods had displaced ahead of an international donors conference in Geneva on Jan. 9, 2023. “Even today, 20 million victims of the floods need urgent humanitarian assistance,” Sharif said in televised comments during a visit to Kot Diji in the southern province of Sindh, an area widely devastated by the inundations.

Myanmar authorities arrest alleged traffickers of Rohingya

BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities in military-run Myanmar have arrested 12 people accused of illegally transporting members of the Muslim Rohingya minority across the country for travel to Malaysia, including 13 who apparently died from suffocation while being hidden in a fuel tanker truck. The state-run Mirror Daily newspaper reported Wednesday that the alleged members of a human trafficking gang were accused of arranging to smuggle 255 Rohingya from refugee camps in southeast Bangladesh to Malaysia, more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) away by road. It said security forces arrested the accused traffickers on Dec. 9 and 16 and seized six vehicles, including a fuel tanker used in the trafficking operation.