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Top Asian News 4:06 a.m. GMT

May 22, 2021 GMT

Biden, South Korea’s Moon ‘deeply concerned’ about NKorea

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday said he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in remain “deeply concerned” about the situation with North Korea, and announced he will deploy a new special envoy to the region to help refocus efforts on pressing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Moon, meanwhile, welcomed “America’s return” to the world stage and said both leaders pledged in their meeting to work closely toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Biden told a joint news conference with Moon that he was dispatching career diplomat Sung Kim, who previously served as ambassador to South Korea, to serve as the special envoy to the region.

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At least 3 dead, 27 hurt as quake shakes southwest China

BEIJING (AP) — A strong, shallow quake shook southwestern China near the border with Myanmar, killing at least three people and injuring more than two dozen as authorities rushed relief goods including tents to the area. A second, 7.3-magnitude quake hit early Saturday the southern part of Qinghai province in central China, about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) north of the first quake. While there were no reports of casualties, roads were damaged in Maduo county. Aftershocks continued into Saturday morning, with multiple smaller temblors recorded by China’s earthquake administration. U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Jonathan Tytell said the two quakes were not related.

Nepal president dissolves Parliament; elections in November

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KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Nepal’s president dissolved Parliament and announced fresh elections on Saturday after the prime minister, who was heading a minority government and was unlikely to secure a vote of confidence in the chamber, recommended the move. A notice issued by President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s office set the elections for Nov. 12 and 19. Nepal has been grappling with a political crisis at the same time it’s struggling with a coronavirus surge and record numbers of daily infections and deaths, amid acute shortages of hospital beds, medication and oxygen. Last year, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli dissolved Parliament on his own due to feuds within his ruling Nepal Communist Party.

‘Like hell:’ As Olympics loom, Japan health care in turmoil

TOKYO (AP) — As she struggled to breathe, Shizue Akita had to wait more than six hours while paramedics searched for a hospital in Osaka that would treat her worsening COVID-19. When she finally got to one that wasn’t overwhelmed with other patients, doctors diagnosed severe pneumonia and organ failure and sedated her. Akita, 87, was dead two weeks later. “Osaka’s medical systems have collapsed,” said her son, Kazuyuki Akita. He has watched from his home north of Tokyo as three other family members in Osaka have dealt with the virus, and with inadequate health care. “It’s like hell.” Hospitals in Osaka, Japan’s third-biggest city and only 2 1/2 hours by bullet train from Summer Olympics host Tokyo, are overflowing with coronavirus patients.

Myanmar election chief considers dissolving Suu Kyi’s party

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) — The head of Myanmar’s military-appointed state election commission said Friday that his agency will consider dissolving Aung San Suu Kyi’s former ruling party for alleged involvement in electoral fraud and having its leaders charged with treason. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy came to power after a landslide 2015 election victory, and won an even greater majority in last November’s general election. It was set to start a second term in February when the military seized power in a coup, arresting her and dozens of top government officials and party members. Junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing cited electoral fraud as the reason for the army’s takeover, saying “there was terrible fraud in the voter lists.” The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party, which suffered unexpectedly heavy losses in the election, made similar allegations.

Japan expands state of emergency, approves 2 more vaccines

TOKYO (AP) — Japan on Friday expanded a coronavirus state of emergency hours after it approved the use of two more vaccines in an effort to contain a worrying surge in infections nine weeks ahead of the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. Although there’s no forced lockdown, the state of emergency allows prefectural governors to demand that shops and public establishments close or shorten their hours. It has expanded from the hotspots of Osaka and Tokyo in late April to other regions earlier this month, currently covering 42% of Japan’s population. On Friday, the government announced a decision to add Okinawa, a southern archipelago that hosts most of the U.S.

Bomb targeting Islamist leader’s car kills 7 in Pakistan

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A powerful roadside bomb that went off on Friday near a vehicle carrying a local leader of an Islamist political party in southwestern Pakistan killed seven people, police and a government spokesman said. It was unclear who was behind the attack in Chaman, a town in Baluchistan province. Local police chief Abdul Bashir said the attack took place when Abdul Qadir, a local leader of a faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, was on his way to attend a pro-Palestinian rally. Along with the seven killed, at least 15 people were wounded, he said. No one claimed responsibility for the attack and police said they were still investigating.

Sniffing Labrador retrievers join Thai coronavirus fight

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand has started deploying a canine virus-detecting squad in hopes of quickly identifying people with COVID-19 as the country faces a surge in cases, with clusters at construction sites, crowded slum communities and large markets. Angel, Bobby and Bravo are among six Labrador retrievers that have been trained by researchers at the veterinary faculty of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University to sniff out a unique odor that people with COVID-19 produce in their sweat, the researchers say. Since May 10, the three have tested more than 1,000 samples from college staff, students and people outside the university. The results so far are impressive.

New detector finds gamma rays from surprising cosmic sources

HAIZI MOUNTAIN, China (AP) — Astrophysicist Cao Zhen opens a steel hatch on a windswept Tibetan Plateau and climbs down a ladder into inky darkness. His flashlight picks out a boat floating on a pool of purified water above thousands of glittering orbs the size of beachballs. He’s inside a $175 million observatory that isn’t technically complete but has already discovered something tantalizing: bursts of gamma rays from outer space that may someday help explain how matter is created and distributed across the universe. The Large High Altitude Air Shower Observatory, the biggest device of its kind, has detected a dozen sources of ultra high-energy gamma rays, according to a study in the journal Nature, from what Cao calls “many hot spots,” in our Milky Way galaxy.

Japan reporter freed from Myanmar says inmates were abused

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese journalist who was freed from a Myanmar prison said Friday that military and police interrogators repeatedly asked him about his friends, clients and made-up allegations. Yuki Kitazumi, a freelance journalist and a former reporter for Japan’s Nikkei business news, also said other inmates told him about abuses they suffered at the hands of authorities, including repeated beatings during nonstop, dayslong interrogations. Kitazumi was detained at Yangon’s notorious Insein prison for a month before his release and return to Japan last week. He was arrested by authorities while in the country covering the aftermath of the February’s military coup and accused of offenses including violating the terms of his visa.