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Top Asian News 6:59 a.m. GMT

April 28, 2020 GMT

A look at pass disappearances of NKorean leaders, officials

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — While Kim Jong Un’s two-week absence has inspired speculation and rumors that he is gravely ill, he is not the first member of North Korean’s ruling elite to disappear from public view. Some absences were caused by real trouble, including deaths, illness or purges. But frequently the so-called disappearances have simply shown the disconnect between insatiable curiosity about what’s happening inside the isolated, nuclear-armed nation and the thick cloak of secrecy surrounding its leadership. A look at past cases of missing North Korean officials and when reports about the demise of leaders were premature: __ KIM IL SUNG Before his death in 1994, there was arguably no person South Koreans hated and feared more than North Korea’s state founder Kim Il Sung.

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Virus tamed in New Zealand, while Brazil emerges as hot spot

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Surfers in New Zealand hit the waves at dawn, builders returned to construction sites and baristas fired up their espresso machines as the nation eased a strict lockdown Tuesday amid hopeful signs the coronavirus has been all but vanquished Down Under — at least for now. But elsewhere, Brazil was emerging as a potential new hot spot for infections, and fresh doubts were raised over whether Japan would be able to host the already postponed Olympic Games next year. Europe and some U.S. states were also continuing to gradually ease limits on movement and commerce as they tried to restart their economies.

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Asia Today: Surfers back in the water in New Zealand, Bondi

BANGKOK (AP) — Surfers greeted a spectacular sunrise in Christchurch, construction workers purchased their favorite espresso coffees and some lawmakers returned to Parliament in the capital Wellington on Tuesday as aspects of New Zealand life began returning to normal. The country had been in a strict lockdown for over a month to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but those conditions were eased a little from midnight Monday to allow some parts of the economy to restart as new infections wane. Among those places to reopen were construction sites, and cafes and restaurants that sell takeaway coffees and food. People are still required to work from home if they can and maintain social distancing.

Russian doctors, nurses face more risks as virus cases grow

MOSCOW (AP) — A patient who had routine surgery at a hospital in St. Petersburg suddenly developed a fever after an operation. Doctors insisted on testing him for coronavirus and results showed that he had it. And so did the Russian doctors, nurses and other patients who had unwittingly come in contact with him. “It just snowballed from there,” said Dr. Dmitry Ptashnikov, head of the spinal surgery ward at the Vreden Institute for Traumatology and Orthopedics and one of the many medical workers who became infected. More than half of its staff and patients — dozens in all — eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

Asian celebs work to combat racist attacks amid pandemic

NEW YORK (AP) — Actress Olivia Cheng was recently volunteering in Vancouver when she says she witnessed a man drive up to an elderly Chinese woman, roll down his window and yell, “This is your fault!” before throwing trash at her. The incident enraged Cheng, and also served as another reason why she feels it’s so important for celebrities of Asian descent to use their voices and speak up against anti-Asian attacks, which authorities say are increasing during the coronavirus pandemic. “I don’t think we can pretend that this isn’t happening,” Cheng, who stars in “The Stand” on CBS All Access, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

AP PHOTOS: Surfers catch waves again in New Zealand, Bondi

At Sydney’s famed Bondi Beach, hundreds of swimmers and surfers braved cool autumn weather to return to the water. Police had closed the beach five weeks ago because of thousands of people congregating there in defiance of social distancing regulations to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The beach was reopened for exercise only. Visitors were being counted to ensure social distancing and they couldn’t linger on the sand. A virus testing tent is nearby since the local municipality has a high rate of infections, particularly among backpackers who often live in crowded conditions. In Christchurch, New Zealand, surfers greeted a spectacular sunrise as they returned to the waves.

UN report notes drop in number of Afghan civilians killed

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A report by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan on Monday noted a drop in the number of civilians killed in violence in the first three months of this year, compared to the same time last year, but underscored the still heavy toll the conflict continues to inflict on the civilian population. The report said 533 people, including 152 children, died due to the fighting in the war-torn country in the first quarter of 2020, and hundreds more were wounded. That represented a 29% decrease, compared to the same period in 2019, and the lowest death toll figure for a first quarter of a year since 2012.

Pakistan’s army says Indian troops kill woman in Kashmir

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Cross-border fire from Indian troops along the disputed border with Kashmir killed one woman and wounded an eight-year-old girl, Pakistan’s military said on Monday. The military said in a statement that a combination of mortars and heavy fire hit the villages of Jandrot and Khuiratta in the Pakistani-held part of Kashmir. It accused Indian forces of “deliberately targeting” civilians. There was no immediate comment from New Delhi. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said it summoned an Indian diplomat to lodge a protest over what it called the latest in a string of ceasefire violations by India. Pakistan and India often trade accusations of violating the ceasefire in Kashmir.

Recent developments surrounding the South China Sea

BEIJING (AP) — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons. The waters are a major shipping route for global commerce and are rich in fish and possible oil and gas reserves. ___ US NAVY SAYS ALL SAILORS ABOARD CARRIER SIDELINED IN GUAM HAVE BEEN TESTED FOR VIRUS The U.S. Navy says that after weeks of work, all of the roughly 4,800 sailors on the coronavirus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier have been tested for the virus. The ship has been sidelined in Guam since March 27, moving sailors ashore, testing them and isolating them for nearly a month.

Questions over Kim’s health highlight intelligence limits

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s prolonged public absence has led to rumors of ill health and worries about how it could influence the future of what one analyst calls Northeast Asia’s “Achilles’ heel,” a reference to the North’s belligerence and unpredictable nature. But there’s a basic question debated by the media and government intelligence services: Are the rumors even true? The exact state of Kim’s health matters because it could determine the stability of the dynastic government in Pyongyang and the security of nuclear weapons that the nation has repeatedly threatened to use on its neighbors and the United States.

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