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Top Asian News 3:06 a.m. GMT

March 8, 2022 GMT

Meet the candidates dueling to be S. Korea’s next president

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — An unusually bitter election season in South Korea culminates on Wednesday when tens of millions of voters pick their next president. The winner, who will be sworn into office in May and serve one five-year term, will face crucial challenges as the leader of a fast-aging nation that’s grappling with economic inequalities, soaring debt and a growing North Korean nuclear threat. Here’s a look at the two main candidates ahead of the vote: ___ LEE JAE-MYUNG The ruling Democratic Party’s hopes for producing back-to-back presidents lie with a firebrand former governor who promises universal basic income and engagement with rival North Korea.

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What to know about South Korea’s presidential election

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Whoever wins South Korea’s presidential election Wednesday will face a host of major issues, including skyrocketing housing prices, threats from nuclear-armed North Korea and a debate about how to heal a nation sharply split along ideological, generational and gender lines. Here’s what to know about the election for leader of the world’s 10th-largest economy. ___ WHAT’S AT STAKE The winner will take office on May 10 for a single five-year term. Current liberal President Moon Jae-in is barred by law from seeking reelection. The candidate who receives the most votes is declared the winner, even if that person fails to achieve majority support.

AP PHOTOS: Scenes from Hong Kong’s COVID-19 crisis

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HONG KONG (AP) — The fast-spreading omicron variant is overwhelming Hong Kong, prompting mass testing, quarantines, supermarket panic-buying and a shortage of hospital beds. Even the morgues are overflowing, forcing authorities to store bodies in refrigerated shipping containers. As the global death toll from the coronavirus topped 6 million this week, the semi-autonomous Chinese city has been recording about 150 deaths per day, giving it the world’s highest death rate per 1 million people, according to the Our World in Data website. More than 2,000 people have died in less than three months in Hong Kong since Dec. 31. By comparison, the city of 7.4 million people had lost just 213 people to COVID-19 previously.

China calls Russia its chief ‘strategic partner’ despite war

BEIJING (AP) — China’s foreign minister on Monday called Russia his country’s “most important strategic partner” as Beijing continues to refuse to condemn the invasion of Ukraine despite growing pressure from the U.S. and European Union to use its influence to rein Moscow in. Wang Yi said Chinese ties with Moscow constitute “one of the most crucial bilateral relationships in the world.” China has broken with the U.S., Europe and others that have imposed sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Beijing has said sanctions create new issues and threaten a political settlement of the conflict. “No matter how perilous the international landscape, we will maintain our strategic focus and promote the development of a comprehensive China-Russia partnership in the new era,” Wang said at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s ceremonial parliament.

Former Pakistani President Rafiq Tarar dies at 92

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Rafiq Tarar, a former Pakistani judge who served as the country’s President from 1997 to 2001, died on Monday in the eastern city of Lahore after a prolonged illness at the age of 92. Tarar’s grandson, Azam Tarar, announced on Twitter that his grandfather had died. Pakistan’s President Arif Ali, Prime Minister Imran Khan and prominent politicians expressed their grief, along with the country’s military chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. Tarar was elected the country’s president after the party of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif backed him in the presidential election in 1997. Tarar was a close friend of Sharif, who won the parliamentary elections in 1997.

China seeing new surge in cases despite ‘zero tolerance’

BEIJING (AP) — China is seeing a new surge in COVID-19 cases across the vast country, despite its draconian “zero tolerance” approach to dealing with outbreaks. The mainland on Monday reported 214 new cases of infection over the previous 24 hours, with the most, 69, in the southern province of Guangdong bordering on Hong Kong, which has been recording tens of thousands of cases per day. Another 54 cases were reported in the Jilin province, more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) to the north, and 46 in the eastern province Shandong. In his annual report to the national legislature Saturday, Premier Li Keqiang said China needs to “constantly refine epidemic containment” but gave no indication Beijing might ease the highly touted “zero tolerance” strategy.

Death toll surpasses 6 million for pandemic now in 3rd year

BANGKOK (AP) — The official global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 6 million on Monday — underscoring that the pandemic, now entering its third year, is far from over. The milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe. Remote Pacific islands, whose isolation had protected them for more than two years, are just now grappling with their first outbreaks and deaths, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant. Hong Kong, which is seeing deaths soar, is testing its entire population of 7.5 million three times this month as it clings to mainland China’s “zero-COVID” strategy.

US and 10 countries condemn North Korean missile launch

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and 10 other countries on Monday condemned North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch and urged the U.N. Security Council to respond, saying its inaction erodes the credibility of the U.N.’s most powerful body and undermines global efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield read a statement from the 11 countries after a closed Security Council briefing on North Korea’s 11th ballistic missile launch since the beginning of the year on Saturday, which was detected by its neighbors. Experts say the launches are an attempt to add new weapons systems to the North’s arsenal and pressure the United States into making concessions amid stalled diplomacy.

South Korean ruling party leader attacked during rally

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The chairman of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party was assaulted on Monday by a man wielding a hammer-like object during a rally for presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, days ahead of the country’s elections. Song Young-gil was being treated for stitches at a nearby hospital in the capital Seoul, but appeared to have avoided serious injury. Lee Jin-woo, an official from the Seoul Metropolitan Policy Agency, said officers were questioning the unidentified attacker in his 70s who was detained at the scene. Videos taken by witnesses and posted on social media show the elderly man – wearing a brimmed hat and traditional Korean hanbok garb – sneaking up behind Song and hitting him several times with what appeared to be a hammer wrapped in a plastic bag before being tackled by people nearby.

Thai autopsy says cricket star Warne died of natural causes

BANGKOK (AP) — Police in Thailand said Monday that an autopsy conducted on the body of Australian cricket star Shane Warne has concluded that he died of natural causes, ruling out foul play. A police statement said the opinion issued by the doctor who carried out the autopsy has been conveyed to Warne’s family and the Australian Embassy. It said the family did not have any doubt that the 52-year-old cricketer, widely considered one of the sport’s greatest spin bowlers, died of natural causes. A senior police officer explained the findings at a news conference held after the statement was issued.