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Top Asian News 6:29 a.m. GMT

April 13, 2021 GMT

India reels amid virus surge, affecting world vaccine supply

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian city of Pune is running out of ventilators as gasping coronavirus patients crowd its hospitals. Social media is full of people searching for beds, while relatives throng pharmacies looking for antiviral medicines that hospitals ran out of long ago. The surge, which can be seen across India, is particularly alarming because the country is a major vaccine producer and a critical supplier to the U.N.-backed COVAX initiative. That program aims to bring shots to some of the world’s poorest countries. Already the rise in cases has forced India to focus on satisfying its domestic demand — and delay deliveries to COVAX and elsewhere, including the United Kingdom and Canada.

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Muslims open Ramadan with social distanced prayers, vaccines

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Muslims began marking Ramadan with communal prayers Tuesday in a socially distanced contrast to the empty mosques of a year ago when Islam’s holiest month coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 cases are spiking in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, but vaccines are being administered and the government is loosening restrictions. Mosques were allowed to open for Ramadan prayers with strict health protocols in place, and with malls and cafes open, passers-by could again see curtains shielding the sight of food from people fasting. Neighboring Muslim-majority Malaysia also eased its restrictions, including last year’s ban on “taraweeh” nighttime prayers and allowing popular open-air bazaars selling food, drinks and clothes to open.

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Japan to start releasing Fukushima water into sea in 2 years

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s government decided Tuesday to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean in two years — an option fiercely opposed by fishermen, residents and Japan’s neighbors. The decision, long speculated but delayed for years due to safety concerns and protests, came at a meeting of Cabinet ministers who endorsed the ocean release as the best option. The accumulating water has been stored in tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant since 2011, when a massive earthquake and tsunami damaged its reactors and their cooling water became contaminated and began leaking. The plant’s storage capacity will be full late next year.

3 killed in Pakistan in clashes between police, Islamists

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Two demonstrators and a policeman were killed Tuesday in violent clashes between Islamists and police in Pakistan, hours after authorities arrested the head of an Islamist party in the eastern city of Lahore, a senior official and local media reported. The policeman was killed in overnight clashes with the supporters of Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan who was arrested on Monday, a senior police officer Ghulam Mohammad Dogar said. Ten policemen were also wounded in these clashes in the town of Shahadra near Lahore. Two Islamists were reportedly killed in the eastern Punjab province.

Taiwan launches shipbuilding program amid China threats

KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan launched an amphibious transport ship Tuesday that’s the first from its new naval shipbuilding program begun as China escalates its threats to use military force to annex the island it claims is its territory. President Tsai Ing-wen presided over the launching ceremony at a shipyard in the southern port city of Kaohsiung for the first in the series of ships intended as a defense against any Chinese invasion. The ship is “designed and built in accordance with the needs of national defense combat training,” Tsai said. She also called the launch of the new line of 10,000-ton amphibious transport ships an “important milestone for the national shipbuilding in our country.” Taiwan has been boosting its domestic military industries, including building ships and submarines, and is upgrading facilities on the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea that are also claimed by China.

Australia rules out adding J&J vaccine to inoculation plan

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Australian government said Tuesday it had decided against buying the single-dose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine and identified a second case of a rare blood clot likely linked to the AstraZeneca shot. The government had been in talks with the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant, which had asked the Australian regulator, Therapeutic Goods Administration, for provisional registration. But Health Minister Greg Hunt ruled out a J&J contract because its vaccine was similar to the AstraZeneca product, which Australia had already contracted for 53.8 million doses. Hunt said the government was following the advice of Australia’s scientific and technical advisory group.

UN chief: 52 armies and groups suspected of sexual violence

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic led to a spike in gender-based violence last year and combatants continued to use sexual violence “as a cruel tactic of war” and political repression in a number of countries, the U.N. chief said in a report circulated Monday. The report focused on 18 countries where the U.N. said it has obtained verified information. It lists 52 parties “credibly suspected” of responsibility “for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence” in conflicts on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council. Over 70% of the listed parties “are persistent perpetrators,” it said.

AP Photos: Things starting to stir at Tokyo Olympic venues

TOKYO (AP) — The Tokyo Olympics are getting closer and things are starting to stir around the venues, though not as much as you might expect. Many preparations are still up in the air as organizers try to figure out how to hold the postponed games in the middle of a pandemic. Much of the city will be watching Wednesday as the countdown clocks around town hit the 100-days-to-go mark. The new national stadium in the heart of Tokyo exemplifies the state of preparations. Kengo Kuma’s $1.4 billion venue is still largely sealed off to outsiders by a white wall that circles the stadium.

Late president’s book outlines vision for Japan’s Nintendo

TOKYO (AP) — Nintendo’s late president Satoru Iwata oversaw the video-game maker’s global growth as Super Mario and Pokemon became household names. “Ask Iwata” was published after his death from cancer in 2015 at age 55. This month, VIZ Media is publishing the English translation of the book, which came out in Japanese in 2019. “On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer,” Iwata once said, one of many quotes that stand out in the book. Throughout the book, Iwata outlines his vision for Nintendo Co., which was to offer entertainment that everyone in the family could enjoy, regardless of age, gender and game playing skills.

Altered photos of Cambodian torture victims stir controversy

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodians on Monday continued to condemn an Irish photo restorer for altering photographs of victims of their country’s 1970s genocide to show them smiling, saying his decision and that of an international media group to publish them showed horrible judgement. Vice on Friday published an interview with Matt Loughrey, who had colorized photos taken of prisoners of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, where an estimated 17,000 people suspected of being enemies of the communist regime were jailed and tortured before being executed. Vice has since taken the article off its website and released a statement saying it was investigating the issue.