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Top Asian News 2:36 p.m. GMT

by December 17, 2016 General

BEIJING (AP) — China said Saturday that its military seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider in the South China Sea to ensure the “safe navigation of passing ships,” in one of the most serious incidents between the two militaries in years. The Chinese navy on Thursday seized the drone, which the Pentagon said was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research. The U.S. said it issued a formal diplomatic complaint over the seizure and demanded the drone’s return. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement late Saturday saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday.

China says its navy seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider to ensure the “safe navigation of passing ships.” Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement late Saturday saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday. It said, “In order to prevent this device from posing a danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese lifeboat adopted a professional and responsible attitude in investigating and verifying the device.” The statement said that after verifying that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, “China decided to transfer it to the U.S.

TOKYO (AP) — It’s been five years since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took power following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, whose demise was observed at monuments and on city center plazas across the nation Saturday. Here’s a look at five ways the country that has now been ruled by three generations of Kim — starting with grandfather Kim Il Sung — has changed since the ascension of its 30-something “respected marshal.” ___ THE MAN HIMSELF Kim Jong Un is in some ways a lot more like his charismatic and gregarious, albeit brutal and megalomaniacal, grandfather than Kim Jong Il.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — President Rodrigo Duterte threatened Saturday to terminate a pact that allows U.S. troops to visit the Philippines, saying “bye-bye America” as he reacted with rage to what he thought was a U.S. decision to scrap a major aid package over human rights concerns. A U.S. government aid agency, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, said earlier in the week that its board deferred a vote on a renewal of the development assistance package for the Philippines “subject to a further review of concerns around rule of law and civil liberties.” The agency has clearly not voted to scrap or approve the aid package, but Duterte unleashed an expletives-laden tirade upon his arrival in his southern hometown of Davao after back-to-back visits to Cambodia and Singapore.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine president said Saturday he would “set aside” a ruling by an international arbitration tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s claims to most of the busy South China Sea, because he doesn’t want to impose on China. President Rodrigo Duterte made the remarks when asked in a news conference if a U.S. think tank report that China apparently installed anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons on its new artificial islands in the disputed waters would affect his perception of Beijing. The Philippines claims the reefs that were turned by China into man-made islands. Duterte, who took office in June, has taken steps to mend relations with China that grew hostile during the time of his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, over the long-unresolved territorial disputes.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Supporters of impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye clashed with anti-Park protesters Saturday, as large crowds of demonstrators again gathered in Seoul to demand the scandal-ridden leader’s immediate ouster. The historically large weekend protests over an explosive corruption scandal pushed South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament to vote this month to impeach Park. The impeachment suspended Park’s powers until the Constitutional Court decides whether she should permanently step down or be reinstated. While polls measure Park’s popularity in the low single digits, her impeachment has become a rallying point for her conservative supporters, who turned out in the tens of thousands on Saturday.

SYDNEY (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck off the coast of Papua New Guinea on Saturday, generating a small tsunami and knocking out power in parts of the Pacific island nation. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The magnitude-7.9 quake struck 46 kilometers (29 miles) east of Taron in Papua New Guinea, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was deep, at 103 kilometers (61 miles). Deeper earthquakes tend to cause less damage than shallow ones. The USGS initially said the quake’s magnitude was 8.0, but later downgraded the strength. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was a threat of a tsunami in Papua New Guinea and nearby areas.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar government forces have started launching attacks on the headquarters of the military wing of one of the country’s ethnic rebel groups, the group said Saturday. Tang San, a battalion commander for the Kachin Independence Army, said government forces have been using “fighter jets and heavy weapons continuously” on the headquarters in northeastern Mynamar since early Friday. Ethnic rebel groups in the northeast have been waging attacks on government forces since last month. They have said that the attacks are in response to military pressure, but that they are still interested in peace talks to try to end decades of fighting between the government and ethnic minority groups.

BEIJING (AP) — China’s capital and other northern cities have banned half of all vehicles from city streets and ordered factories, schools and construction sites closed in response to a five-day smog red alert. The emergency steps enacted Friday night significantly reduced traffic in Beijing on Saturday, although it wasn’t clear what effect it was having on air pollution. By midday, the capital was enveloped in a smothering layer of smog, with concentrations of microscopic PM2.5 — small, inhalable particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and are considered a reliable gauge of air quality — rising to more than 10 times the level considered safe by the World Health Organization.

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (AP) — Vietnamese comedian Minh Beo has been sentenced to 18 months in state prison for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in California. Orange County prosecutors said Friday the 38-year-old must also register as a sex offender. The comedian, whose real name is Minh Quang Hong, pleaded guilty in August to oral copulation of a minor and attempting to commit a lewd act on a child under the age of 14. The second charge stemmed from a meeting he arranged with a police officer posing as a 13-year-old boy. He is known in Vietnam as Minh Beo, meaning “Fat Minh.” He has been popular in stage, TV and movie comic roles and has his own theater in Ho Chi Minh City.