Top Asian News 6:31 a.m. GMT
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A tiny young woman crouches just outside the airport, crying softly into her thin shawl. It’s cold out, but her sleeping toddler is heavy and warm in her arms. Travelers swarm around: Himalayan trekkers load up expedition backpacks. A Chinese tour group boards a bus. A dozen flight attendants in crisp blue suits and heels click by. Saro Kumari Mandal, 26, covers her head completely, a bundle of grief. Hundreds of young Nepali men excitedly wave final goodbyes to friends and family. On this day 1,500 will fly out of the Kathmandu airport bound for jobs mostly in Malaysia, Qatar or Saudi Arabia — jobs that are urgently needed by the people of this desperately poor country.
BEIJING (AP) — Taiwan on Wednesday condemned the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe’s “abrupt” move to break their diplomatic ties, while rival China welcomed the defection of one of the self-governing island’s small number of allies. Just 21 countries and governments now have official ties with Taiwan. Most of the world and the United Nations do not formally recognize the island as a condition of maintaining relations with China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory. Beijing and Taipei have competed for allies for much of the nearly seven decades since the end of China’s civil war in 1949, when the defeated Nationalist government fled across the Taiwan Strait.
TANGERANG, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police said three suspected militants who were planning a holiday season suicide bombing were killed in a raid Wednesday on the outskirts of Jakarta in the second imminent attack to be foiled in less than two weeks. A residential neighborhood has been evacuated after several bombs were found in a house used by the men. Jakarta police chief Mochamad Iriawan said explosive experts had defused two bombs and were still in the house. The men planned to stage their attack on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, Iriawan said in a televised interview from the neighborhood.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — James Taylor has canceled his February concert in Manila, saying reports of summary executions of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines without judicial proceedings are “deeply concerning and unacceptable.” The American singer-songwriter tweeted Wednesday that he had been looking forward to performing in Manila and that it saddened him to cancel the concert. He apologized to his Filipino fans and said all tickets sold for the Feb. 25 performance at Manila’s Mall of Asia Arena would be fully refunded. Taylor said his scheduled concerts in Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand would not be affected. Since taking office in June, President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen a crackdown on illegal drugs that has left more than 6,000 people dead, alarming Western governments and human rights watchdogs.
SYDNEY (AP) — Ten Chinese nationals were charged on Tuesday with drug smuggling in Australia after officials said they found a stash of cocaine worth more than 60 million Australian dollars ($44 million) on their ship. Last week, the Australian Defense Force intercepted the 50-meter (160-foot) former research vessel off the island state of Tasmania, and escorted the boat to the state capital, Hobart. During a subsequent search, police found 186 kilograms (410 pounds) of cocaine on board, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said in a statement. The 10 crew members, all men aged between 23 and 50, were charged with attempting to import a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan has decided to shut down an experimental fast-breeder nuclear reactor that drained government finances for years without living up to hopes it would be a savior for the resource-poor country’s energy needs. Government ministers decided Wednesday to scrap the trouble-plagued “Monju” reactor. It has cost Japan about 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) while operating only 250 days since it started up 22 years ago. The so-called “dream reactor” was designed to burn a plutonium-uranium mix, while producing more plutonium in the process that could be converted into more nuclear fuel. It costs 20 billion yen a year to maintain Monju, and would have required costly upgrades to meet new safety standards introduced after meltdowns at a nuclear plant in Fukushima that was flooded by a tsunami in 2011.
SYDNEY (AP) — For two years, a handful of ships have diligently combed a remote patch of the Indian Ocean west of Australia in a $160 million bid to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. On Tuesday, investigators made what was surely a painful admission: They have probably been looking in the wrong place. The latest analysis by a team of international investigators concluded the vanished Boeing 777 is highly unlikely to be in the current search zone and may instead be in a region farther north. But though crews are expected to finish their deep-sea sonar hunt of the current search area next month, the possibility of extending the search to the north appeared doubtful, with Australia’s transport minister suggesting the analysis wasn’t specific enough to justify continuing the hunt.
SYDNEY (AP) — A look at the progressive searches for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which are the most challenging and expensive undertaken in aviation history. FIRST SEARCH: On March 8, 2014, an air and sea search begins in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea on the assumption that the plane crashed on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing. Malaysia reveals two weeks later that its military radar had tracked the plane flying far off course to the west. SECOND SEARCH: Analysis of satellite signals emitted by the plane in its final hours suggests that it crashed west of Australia.
BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday handed back to the United States an underwater drone it had seized last week in an incident that raised tensions in a relationship that has been tested by President-elect Donald Trump’s signals of a tougher policy toward Beijing. Trump has riled the Chinese leadership by saying he might reconsider U.S. policy toward Taiwan, the self-ruled island the mainland claims as its territory. The Chinese navy vessel that seized the drone returned it near where it was seized, and it was received by the USS Mustin about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Subic Bay in the Philippines, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.
BEIJING (AP) — Thick, gray smog fell over Beijing on Tuesday, choking China’s capital in a haze that spurred authorities to cancel flights and close some highways in emergency measures to cut down on air pollution. Beijing and much of industrial northern China are in the midst of a “red alert,” the highest level in China’s four-tiered pollution warning system. The alert has affected 460 million people, according to Greenpeace East Asia, which calculated that about 200 million people were living in areas that had experienced levels of air pollution more than 10 times above the guideline set by the World Health Organization.