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Top Asian News 3:59 a.m. GMT

August 22, 2021 GMT

IS threat forces US changes to evacuations at Kabul airport

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Potential Islamic State threats against Americans in Afghanistan are forcing the U.S. military to develop new ways to get evacuees to the airport in Kabul, a senior U.S. official said Saturday, adding a new complication to the already chaotic efforts to get people out of the country after its swift fall to the Taliban. The official said that small groups of Americans and possibly other civilians will be given specific instructions on what to do, including movement to transit points where they can be gathered up by the military. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

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The Latest: India evacuates 168 people on flight from Kabul

NEW DELHI — An Indian official says an air force transport plane has left Kabul for New Delhi carrying 168 people on board. Arindam Bagchi, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, says the plane took off from Kabul on Sunday morning and the passengers include 107 Indian nationals. He didn’t give the nationalities of 61 others evacuated from the Afghan capital. Meanwhile, another group of 87 Indians who were evacuated from Kabul to Tajikistan on Saturday in an Indian air force plane are being flown to New Delhi on Sunday, Bagchi said in a tweet. Two Nepalese nationals also were evacuated on that flight.

China allows couples third child amid demographic crisis

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BEIJING (AP) — China will now allow couples to legally have a third child as it seeks to hold off a demographic crisis that could threaten its hopes of increased prosperity and global influence. The ceremonial legislature on Friday amended the Population and Family Planning Law as part of a decades-long effort by the ruling Communist Party to dictate the size of families in keeping with political directives. It comes just six years after the last change. From the 1980s, China strictly limited most couples to one child, a policy enforced with threats of fines or loss of jobs, leading to abuses including forced abortions.

Europe fears Afghan refugee crisis after Taliban takeover

HANGEDIGI, Turkey (AP) — From above, the new border wall separating Turkey from Iran looks like a white snake winding through the barren hills. So far it only covers a third of the 540-kilometer (335-mile) border, leaving plenty of gaps for migrants to slip across in the dead of night. Traffic on this key migration route from central Asia to Europe has remained relatively stable compared to previous years. But European countries, as well as Turkey, fear the sudden return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan could change that. Haunted by a 2015 migration crisis fueled by the Syrian war, European leaders desperately want to avoid another large-scale influx of refugees and migrants from Afghanistan.

Malaysia new PM faces tall task in uniting polarized society

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in Saturday, bringing back the rule of the country’s longest-governing political party, but he faces a tall task in uniting a polarized society and reviving a slumping economy amid a worsening pandemic. Ismail was the deputy prime minister under the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned Monday after less than 18 months in office as infighting in his coalition cost him majority support. Ismail obtained the backing of 114 lawmakers for a slender majority that brought Muhyiddin’s alliance back to power. It also returned the premiership to Ismail’s United Malays National Organization, which had led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957 but was ousted in 2018 elections amid a multibillion-dollar financial scandal.

US envoy arrives in Seoul amid N Korean anger over drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea arrived in South Korea on Saturday for discussions over stalled nuclear diplomacy with Pyongyang. Sung Kim’s visit comes amid fresh tensions over ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which the North has described as an invasion rehearsal and led to it threatening unspecified countermeasures that would leave the allies facing a “security crisis.” Kim will meet his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu-duk on Monday and also plans to hold separate talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, who also arrived in Seoul on Saturday. South Korea’s Foreign Ministry and the U.S.

Hundreds arrested, fined during Australia lockdown protests

SYDNEY (AP) — More than 250 people who were protesting coronavirus lockdowns in Australia were arrested Saturday and many faced fines for defying health orders, authorities said. At least seven police officers were treated for injuries after skirmishes broke out at some of the protests, which took place in multiple cities nationwide. The largest and most violent protest was in Melbourne. Many were organized by people in encrypted online chat groups. Sydney has been in lockdown for two months, while Melbourne and the capital, Canberra, went into lockdown earlier this month. Under the rules of the lockdown, people are mostly confined to their homes and have limits placed on their social interactions.

Vietnam calls on army for food delivery ahead of lockdown

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s government said it is sending troops to Ho Chi Minh City to help deliver food and aid to households as it further tightens restrictions on people’s movements amid a worsening surge of the coronavirus. The army personnel will be deployed to help with logistics as the city of 10 million people asks residents to “stay put” for two weeks starting from Monday, a report on the government website said Friday. The move comes as Vietnam, which weathered much the pandemic with very few cases, recorded more than 10,000 new infections and 390 deaths on Friday. Ho Chi Minh City accounted for 3,500 of those infections.

China’s Mars rover soldiers on after completing program

BEIJING (AP) — China’s Zhurong Mars rover is soldiering on after completing its initial program to explore the red planet and search for frozen water that could provide clues as to whether it once supported life. China’s National Space Administration said on its website Friday that Zhurong completed its 90-day program on Aug. 15 and was in excellent technical condition and fully charged. It said it would continue to explore the area known as Utopia Planitia where it landed on May 14. Zhurong has been consistently sending back photos and data via the Tianwen-1 orbiter that crosses over it once a day.

EU warns Taliban it has not recognized their regime

MADRID (AP) — The European Union’s top officials warned the Taliban on Saturday that the current conversations being held to secure the exit of as many Afghan evacuees as possible do not mean the bloc is prepared to recognize the new regime. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged the necessity of continuing to engage with the Taliban during her visit, along with EU Council President Charles Michel, to a reception center for evacuees established by Spain near Madrid. “We do have operational contacts with the Taliban in this moment of crisis, because we need to discuss in these difficult times how we can facilitate it for people in Kabul to come to the airport,” the EU leader said.