Top Asian News 3:58 a.m. GMT
BEIJING (AP) — China’s foreign minister met Wednesday with a delegation of high-level Taliban officials as ties between them warm ahead of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan. A photo posted on the ministry’s website showed Wang Yi posing with senior Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and his delegation in the city of Tianjin, then sitting down to talks. The highly conspicuous show of friendliness had the appearance of a diplomatic mission at a time when the Taliban are craving legitimacy. Wang said China respects Afghan sovereign independence and territorial integrity and always adheres to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. He said the hasty withdrawal of the U.S.
NEW DELHI (AP) — The top diplomats of India and the United States pledged Wednesday to expand their multilateral security partnership, underscoring the deepening of ties between two countries concerned over China’s growing influence in the region. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met in New Delhi and sought to strengthen a regional front against Beijing’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific and their cooperation in Afghanistan. They also lauded each country’s help in fighting the coronavirus and said their vaccine partnership is an effort to end the pandemic. Blinken also announced a $25 million fund to support India’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
HONG KONG (AP) — A lawyer for the first person convicted under Hong Kong’s national security law asked Thursday for no more than 10 years in prison instead of the possible life sentence faced by the former restaurant waiter in a closely watched case as China tries to crush a pro-democracy movement. Tong Ying-kit was convicted Tuesday of inciting secession and terrorism for driving his motorcycle into a group of police officers during a July 1, 2020, pro-democracy rally while carrying a flag bearing the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” Tong, 24, will be sentenced Friday, the Hong Kong High Court announced.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Emerging gingerly from their homes in a nation under curfew, Fijians cheered, sang hymns and danced in the streets Wednesday to celebrate the victory of their rugby sevens team at the Tokyo Olympics. Fiji is battling a severe COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 25,000 cases and 200 deaths among a population of just over 900,000. With its health system under strain, officials have imposed a 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew in a attempt to curb the rapid spread of the virus. Fiji’s second consecutive gold medal in rugby sevens, following its success in the sport’s inaugural Olympic tournament at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, provoked a spontaneous outpouring of joy in the nation’s cities and villages.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The rewards, the citations and the nationwide parties are going to have to wait, for a week or so anyway. Philippine weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, fresh from winning her country’s first Olympic gold medal in nearly a century at the Tokyo Games, arrived in Manila on Wednesday and was whisked off to a hotel for seven days of quarantine. “Gold at last!” read a banner at the airport as military personnel waved Philippine flags and applauded when Diaz landed. But not even her historic medal can eclipse coronavirus protocols in a country grappling with continuing virus outbreaks and an economic crisis.
TOKYO (AP) — North Korea isn’t at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. And therein lies a tale — one of sports and viruses, but most of all a tale of complex politics. While it’s not making headlines here, the North’s absence is noteworthy, especially among those who watch the intersection of sports and diplomacy — and the way North Korea’s propaganda machine uses international attention to advance its needs. The no-show is especially striking when contrasted with the last Games. Perhaps the hottest story of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was the North Korean delegation, which included 22 athletes, hundreds of cheerleaders and leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister.
TOKYO (AP) — As Olympics host Tokyo saw another record number of coronavirus cases Wednesday, Japan’s vaccination minister said the speed of the country’s inoculation campaign is less urgent than getting shots to young adults, whom some health experts are blaming for the current surge in infections. Taro Kono told The Associated Press that Japan is “overshooting” its goal of a million shots a day, so “speed doesn’t matter anymore.” He said Japan is averaging about 10 million shots a week after a late start that critics have blamed on extra red tape. “Even if we slow down a little bit, I’m OK.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is seeking to bolster ties with Vietnam, one of the Southeast Asian nations embroiled in a territorial rift with China, during a two-day visit starting Wednesday. In a speech in Singapore, his first stop in the region he is visiting for the first time as a member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, Austin said Tuesday he was committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army. But he repeated that Beijing’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea “has no basis in international law” and “treads on the sovereignty of states in the region.” He said the U.S.
PAPEETE, French Polynesia (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron has reasserted his nation’s presence in the Pacific on a visit to French Polynesia, a trip aimed at countering growing Chinese dominance in the region. The trip was also designed to underline the French government’s support for Polynesians and heal wounds over French nuclear testing on the former colony’s atolls, half a planet away from Paris. Macron stopped short of apologizing Tuesday, but acknowledged France’s “debt” to Polynesians over the underground and atmospheric tests, which ran from 1966-1996. Polynesian demonstrators welcomed his words, but said they’re waiting to see if he follows up with actions.
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 was sentenced Thursday to 18 years in prison on charges of organizing an attack on officials and other offenses. Sun Dawu, chairman of Dawu Agriculture Group, was among 20 defendants who stood 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 also was fined 3.1 million yuan ($480,000), the People’s Court of Gaobeidian said in a statement.