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Top Asian News 3:57 a.m. GMT

October 31, 2021 GMT

Army shelling in Myanmar blamed for setting 160 homes ablaze

BANGKOK (AP) — More than 160 buildings in a town in northwestern Myanmar, including at least two churches, have been destroyed by fires caused by shelling by government troops, local media and activists reported Saturday. The destruction of parts of the town of Thantlang in Chin state appeared to be another escalation in the ongoing struggle between Myanmar’s military-installed government and forces opposed to it. The army seized power in February from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, but has failed to quell the widespread resistance. A government spokesman denied “nonsense allegations being reported in the country-destroying media,” and blamed insurgents for instigating the fighting and setting the fires.

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Japan votes in national election, 1st key test for Kishida

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese voters are casting ballots in national elections Sunday, a first big test for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to determine if he has a large enough mandate to tackle a coronavirus-battered economy, a fast-aging and dwindling population and security challenges from China and North Korea. Up for grabs are 465 seats in the lower house, the more powerful of the two-chamber Japanese Diet, or parliament. Kishida’s governing Liberal Democratic Party is expected to lose some seats from pre-election levels, but maintain a comfortable majority together with its junior coalition partner Komeito. Kishida, 64, was elected prime minister on Oct.

S Koreans send off former President Roh in small funeral

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Dozens of relatives and dignitaries gathered in South Korea’s capital on Saturday to pay their final respects to former President Roh Tae-woo, a key participant in a 1979 military coup who later won a landmark democratic election before his political career ended with imprisonment for corruption and treason. Pandemic restrictions limited the size of funeral services for Roh, who died Tuesday at age 88 from complications from various illnesses. Doctors said his condition worsened in recent years because of a degenerative disorder. President Moon Jae-in’s decision to hold a state funeral for Roh was controversial because of his links to the coup and a bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980 that killed around 200 people and injured hundreds of others.

India’s Modi invites pope to visit after 2017 plan collapsed

ROME (AP) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday invited Pope Francis to visit the country, extending an official opening after plans for a 2017 papal visit fell apart. “I would like to see you in India,” Modi told Francis as he bade him farewell after an unusually long, 55-minute audience at the Vatican. “On my part, it would be an honor to receive you there.” Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the invitation was to come visit “at an early date” and “was accepted with pleasure.” Modi is in Rome for the Group of 20 summit, and his visit to the Vatican marked the first time in more than 20 years that an Indian leader has met a pope.

Moon tells pope a visit to North would help peace in Koreas

VATICAN CITY (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave Pope Francis a statue of a cross made with barbed wire from the demilitarized zone separating the Koreas and told him Friday that a papal visit to the North would help create “momentum for peace” on the peninsula, officials said. Moon, a Catholic, called on Francis before the start of the Group of 20 summit in Rome. The Vatican, which didn’t allow independent media in the audience, said the talks touched on the role of the Catholic Church in promoting dialogue and said “hopes were shared that joint effort and good will may favor peace and development in the Korean Peninsula, supported by solidarity and by fraternity.” Ahead of the visit, South Korean presidential officials said they expected Moon and Francis would discuss a possible papal visit to the officially atheist North, since Francis had previously expressed a desire to visit if it becomes possible.

UN aid chief urges G20: prevent mass starving in Afghanistan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. humanitarian chief had a dire message for leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies meeting this weekend: Worry about Afghanistan because its economy is collapsing and half the population risks not having enough food to eat as the snows have already started to fall. Martin Griffiths said in an interview Friday with The Associated Press that “the needs in Afghanistan are skyrocketing.” Half the Afghan children under age five are at risk of acute malnutrition and there is an outbreak of measles in every single province which is “a red light” and “the canary in the mine” for what’s happening in society, he said.

‘Everything is at stake’ as world gathers for climate talks

More than one world leader says humanity’s future, even survival, hangs in the balance when international officials meet in Scotland to try to accelerate efforts to curb climate change. Temperatures, tempers and hyperbole have all ratcheted up ahead of the U.N. summit. And the risk of failure looms large for all participants at the 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference, known as COP26, which begins Sunday and runs until Nov. 12. Six years ago, nearly 200 countries agreed to individual plans to fight global warming in the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement. Now leaders will converge in Glasgow for two weeks starting Sunday to take the next step dictated by that pact: Do more and do it faster.

Japanese parliamentary elections crucial for new PM’s rule

TOKYO (AP) — In his first big test as Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida’s ruling party is expected to lose seats in Sunday’s national parliamentary elections, while still maintaining a majority. Just how many parliament seats are lost will determine whether Kishida is destined to be a short-term leader or if he’ll have enough allies to tackle a coronavirus-battered economy and worries over climate change, gender inequity, a fast-aging and dwindling population and China’s aggressive moves in a region Japan has long dominated. Kishida, 64, was elected prime minister on Oct. 4 after winning the governing Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race.

Bollywood superstar’s son walks out from jail in drugs case

NEW DELHI (AP) — Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan’s son walked out of jail on Saturday and was greeted with dancing and firecrackers, over three weeks after his arrest during a drug raid on a cruise ship party in Mumbai, the country’s financial and entertainment capital. The Bombay High Court granted bail to 23-year-old Aryan Khan on Thursday but he spent two more nights in the city’s Arthur Road jail because his papers did not reach the prison authorities by the deadline of 5:30 p.m. Friday. Hundreds of fans of Shah Rukh Khan, who found himself at the center of a boycott campaign on social media due to the high profile drug case, lined up to greet Khan as he arrived at his home in Mumbai.

State Dept. urges investigation of Myanmar military torture

SYDNEY (AP) — The U.S. State Department expressed outrage and demanded an investigation on Friday after The Associated Press reported that Myanmar’s military has been torturing detainees in a systemic way across the country. The United Nations’ top expert on human rights in Myanmar also called for strong international pressure on the military. And lawmakers in Washington urged Congress to act in the wake of AP’s investigation, which was based on interviews with 28 people, including women and children, imprisoned and released since the military took control of the government in February. “We are outraged and disturbed by ongoing reports of the Burmese military regime’s use of ‘systematic torture’ across the country,” the State Department said, using Myanmar’s other name, Burma.