Top Asian News 3:20 a.m. GMT
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden, his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin are among Pacific Rim leaders gathering virtually to discuss strategies to help economies rebound from a resurgent COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will chair the special leaders’ meeting Friday of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. But the pandemic and vaccine diplomacy have proved to be divisive issues among members of a forum that says its primary goal is to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. Biden spoke by phone with Ardern on Friday ahead of the leaders’ retreat and discussed U.S.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — As many Asian countries battle their worst surge of COVID-19 infections, the slow flow of vaccine doses from around the world is finally picking up speed, giving hope that inoculation rates can increase and help blunt the effect of the rapidly spreading delta variant. With many vaccine pledges still unfulfilled and rates of infection spiking across multiple countries, however, experts say more needs to be done to help nations struggling with the overflow of patients and shortages of oxygen and other critical supplies. Some 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine arrived Thursday afternoon in Indonesia, which has become a dominant hot spot with record high infections and deaths.
BANGKOK (AP) — Production of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a factory in Thailand has fallen short of its target, likely delaying the country’s plan to acquire a total of 61 million doses until next May, a government official said Thursday. The projected supply shortfall will complicate plans to inoculate at least 70% of the country’s 69 million people this year as Thailand battles record-high daily increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Cases have risen with the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the virus. Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pitutacha said in an interview with MCOT Television that AstraZeneca had asked for the extension until next May to complete delivery, and that while the timeframe is flexible, the government will still negotiate for as much monthly supply as possible.
BERLIN (AP) — The head of the World Health Organization acknowledged it was premature to rule out a potential link between the COVID-19 pandemic and a laboratory leak, and he said Thursday he is asking China to be more transparent as scientists search for the origins of the coronavirus. In a rare departure from his usual deference to powerful member countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said getting access to raw data had been a challenge for the international team that traveled to China earlier this year to investigate the source of COVID-19. The first human cases were identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
TOKYO (AP) — New coronavirus cases surged to 1,308 in Tokyo on Thursday, a six-month high, as fears rise of a possible dramatic increase that could flood hospitals during the Olympics that start in eight days. Tokyo is under a fourth state of emergency, which began Monday and requires restaurants and bars to close early and not serve alcohol through the Olympics, which start July 23. Thursday’s tally is the highest since 1,485 were recorded on Jan. 21, when Japan was under an earlier state of emergency, and is also a jump from Wednesday’s 1,149. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike noted that the largest increase in serious cases and hospitalizations was among people in their 50s and younger who are largely unvaccinated.
NEW DELHI (AP) — It began in February with a tweet by pop star Rihanna that sparked widespread condemnation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of massive farmer protests near the capital, souring an already troubled relationship between the government and Twitter. Moving to contain the backlash, officials hit Twitter with multiple injunctions to block hundreds of tweets critical of the government. Twitter complied with some and resisted others. Relations between Twitter and Modi’s government have gone downhill ever since. At the heart of the standoff is a sweeping internet law that puts digital platforms like Twitter and Facebook under direct government oversight.
BANGKOK (AP) — An American journalist detained in Myanmar told his lawyer he believes he has COVID-19, but prison authorities deny he is infected. Danny Fenster was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to go to the Detroit area in the United States to see his family. He is the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, an independent online news outlet based in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Fenster has been charged with incitement for which he could be sentenced to up to three years’ imprisonment. The military-installed government that took power in February has tried to silence independent news media by withdrawing their licenses and by arresting dozens of journalists.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Those looking for definitive answers about Naomi Osaka and how she copes with the demands of her career and fame shouldn’t expect to find them in a new Netflix docuseries about the four-time Grand Slam champion. It’s the tennis star’s unresolved questions that are the heart of “Naomi Osaka,” director-producer Garrett Bradley said of the series that was taped over a two-year period starting with the 2019 U.S. Open. Production concluded in early 2021 before Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open. The three-part series debuting Friday is a contemplative, intimate look at a young athlete finding her way.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is expected to issue a blanket warning to U.S. firms about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong as China continues to clamp down on political and economic freedoms in the territory. U.S. officials say the advisory could be issued as soon as this week. President Joe Biden told reporters Thursday that the alert would point out deteriorating free market conditions in Hong Kong, which was once one of Asia’s main financial hubs, and the potential for further erosion. “The situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating, and the Chinese government is not keeping its commitment that it made, how it would deal with Hong Kong,” Biden said.
BEIJING (AP) — A prominent Chinese pig farmer who was detained after praising lawyers during a crackdown on legal activists by President Xi Jinping’s government went on trial Thursday on charges including fighting with police and organizing a protest, defense lawyers said. Sun Dawu, chairman of Dawu Agriculture Group, is among 20 defendants on trial in Gaobeidian, southwest of Beijing in Hebei province. They were detained after Dawu employees in August 2020 tried to stop a state-owned enterprise from demolishing a company building. Sun said he is innocent, according to a written statement by defense lawyers. It said there were “great disputes” between them and prosecutors over evidence and the law but gave no details.