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Top Asian News 3:48 a.m. GMT

August 24, 2021 GMT

Deadly gunfire at airport; Taliban insist on US pullout date

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A firefight outside Kabul’s international airport killed an Afghan soldier early Monday, highlighting the perils of evacuation efforts as the Taliban warned that any attempt by U.S. troops to delay their withdrawal to give people more time to flee would “provoke a reaction.” The shooting came as the Taliban moved to shore up their position and eliminate pockets of armed resistance to their lightning takeover earlier this month. The Taliban said they retook three districts north of the capital seized by opponents the day before and had surrounded Panjshir, the last province that remains out of their control.

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For Afghan refugees in India, hopes dim for returning home

NEW DELHI (AP) — Her memory of the assassination attempt is hazy. What she does know is that her father asked the Taliban to do it. A former Afghan policewoman, Khatera Hashmi was shot multiple times on her way home from work last October in the capital of Ghazni province, south of Kabul. As she slumped over, one of the attackers grabbed her by the hair, pulled a knife and gouged out her eyes. Five months pregnant at the time, Hashmi survived the gruesome attack, as did her unborn child. Hashmi’s father had vehemently opposed her decision to join the police force, and although she didn’t elaborate on her father’s involvement, she told The Associated Press that the police had arrested and imprisoned him.

Harris rebukes China in major speech on Indo-Pacific

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SINGAPORE (AP) — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a sharp rebuke to China for its incursions in the South China Sea, warning its actions there amount to “coercion” and “intimidation” and affirming that the U.S. will support its allies in the region against Beijing’s advances. “We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea,” she said in a major foreign policy speech Tuesday in Singapore in which she laid out the Biden administration’s vision for the Indo-Pacific. “Beijing’s actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations.”

The Latest: Australia, New Zealand evacuate hundreds

US VP Harris: Focus must stay on Afghan evacuation

SINGAPORE (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris asserted Monday that the U.S. must maintain its focus on evacuating Americans and vulnerable Afghans and shouldn’t get distracted by questions over what went wrong in the chaotic U.S. exit from Afghanistan. Speaking at a news conference in Singapore, Harris repeatedly declined to engage when asked what she felt should have been done differently in the withdrawal. “There’s no question there will be and should be a robust analysis of what has happened, but right now there’s no question that our focus has to be on evacuating American citizens, Afghans who worked with us and vulnerable Afghans, including women and children,” she said.

Vietnam tightens virus lockdown ahead of Harris visit

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam’s largest metropolis, Ho Chi Minh City, went into a tightened lockdown Monday to battle its worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, just a day ahead of the arrival of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on a state visit. The city has mobilized police and army troops to enforce the lockdown and to deliver food as well as necessities to each household, city authorities announced. Under the stricter measures imposed for at least two weeks, people in “high risk” districts are not allowed to leave their homes. “People must absolutely stay put, isolate from each other, from house to house, from community to community,” Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said when the new restrictions were announced last week.

When the music stops: Afghan ‘happy place’ falls silent

A few years after the Taliban were ousted in 2001, and with Afghanistan still in ruins, Ahmad Sarmast left his home in Melbourne, Australia, on a mission: to revive music in the country of his birth. The school he founded was a unique experiment in inclusiveness for the war-ravaged nation — with orphans and street kids in the student body, it sought to bring a measure of joy back to Kabul. The Taliban had notoriously banned music. Last week, he watched in horror from his home in Melbourne images of the Taliban taking over the Afghan capital, capping a lightning offensive that restored the religious militia to power and stunned the world.

Biden’s special envoy urges North Korea to return to talks

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea said Monday he’s ready to meet his North Korean counterparts “anywhere and at any time” as he held discussions with South Korean officials over stalled nuclear talks with the North. Sung Kim’s visit to Seoul comes amid declining expectations for a quick resumption of talks and new tensions over ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises. North Korea has described the exercises as a rehearsal for an invasion and has threatened unspecified countermeasures that would cause a “security crisis” for the U.S. and South Korea. After meeting with senior South Korean diplomat Noh Kyu-duk, Kim reiterated that the Biden administration has no hostile intent toward North Korea and that the joint drills are routine and defensive in nature.

Taiwan’s president receives domestically developed vaccine

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen received her first dose of the island’s domestically developed coronavirus vaccine on Monday, launching its rollout to the public. The vaccine, made by Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp., was given emergency approval by regulators in July using a shortcut that prompted fierce opposition from parts of Taiwan’s medical and scientific community. Taiwanese regulators bypassed the large-scale, longer term studies that are typically used to approve vaccines. Instead, they compared the level of antibodies that Medigen’s vaccine was able to generate with that of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been approved by many governments and has undergone the full three stages of clinical trials.

US troops surge evacuations out of Kabul but threats persist

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military pulled off its biggest day of evacuation flights out of Afghanistan by far on Monday, but deadly violence that has blocked many desperate evacuees from entering Kabul’s airport persisted, and the Taliban signaled they might soon seek to shut down the airlifts. Twenty-eight U.S. military flights ferried about 10,400 people to safety out of Taliban-held Afghanistan over 24 hours that ended early Monday morning, and 15 C-17 flights over the next 12 hours brought out another 6,660, White House officials said. The chief Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, said the faster pace of evacuation was due in part to coordination with Taliban commanders on getting evacuees into the airport.