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Top Asian News 4:22 a.m. GMT

November 18, 2021 GMT

China coast guard uses water cannon against Philippine boats

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Chinese coast guard ships blocked and used water cannons on two Philippine supply boats heading to a disputed shoal occupied by Filipino marines in the South China Sea, provoking an angry protest to China and a warning from the Philippine government that its vessels are covered under a mutual defense treaty with the United States, Manila’s top diplomat said Thursday. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said no one was hurt in the incident in the disputed waters on Tuesday, but the two supply ships had to abort their mission to provide food supplies to Filipino forces occupying the Second Thomas Shoal, which lies off western Palawan province in the Philippines’ internationally recognized exclusive economic zone.

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China, US to ease restrictions on each other’s journalists

BEIJING (AP) — China and the U.S. have agreed to ease restrictions on each other’s journalists amid a slight relaxation of tensions between the two sides. The official China Daily newspaper on Wednesday said the agreement was reached ahead of Tuesday’s virtual summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden. The agreement represents a degree of progress on an issue that has long aggravated relations, but details remain to be ironed out. COVID-19 travel restrictions and long-standing obstacles faced by foreign media within China are also factors standing in the way of a major breakthrough in media relations.

Schools close as smog-laden India capital considers lockdown

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Authorities closed schools indefinitely and shut down some coal-burning power plants Wednesday to reduce air pollution in India’s smog-shrouded capital and neighboring states, as the country weighs an unprecedented and more far-reaching step: a lockdown in New Delhi. The dirty-air crisis in the city of more than 20 million people has underscored India’s heavy dependence on coal, which accounts for 70% of the country’s power. The New Delhi state government said it is open to the idea of a weekend lockdown to reduce automobile traffic and potentially other air-polluting activity in the city, and it is awaiting the go-ahead from India’s Supreme Court.

EXPLAINER: Why India has repeated air pollution problems

WASHINGTON (AP) — New Delhi struggles with pollution year-round, but the problem becomes acute during fall and winter months. On Wednesday, the concentration of tiny pollution particles was nearly 30 times above the level deemed safe over a 24-hour period by the World Health Organization. Around the world, researchers closely track levels of airborne particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter — known as PM 2.5 — because it can lodge in the lungs and other organs, causing long-term health damage. In 2020, 13 of the 15 cities with the most polluted air were in India. In northern India, “the autumn spike in air pollution relates in part to the annual burning of crop residue in fields,” said Deborah Seligsohn, an Asia air pollution expert at Villanova University.

South Korea pushes booster shots as COVID-19 spread worsens

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea on Wednesday reported 3,187 new cases of the coronavirus, nearly matching a one-day record set in September, a worrisome development in a country that eased social distancing rules in recent weeks to lessen the pandemic’s economic impact. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said more than 2,550 of the new cases came from the greater capital area, including a record 1,436 in Seoul. The country’s death toll is now 3,137, after 21 deaths were reported on Wednesday, the 16th consecutive day of double-digit fatalities, including a record 32 on Saturday. The delta-driven spread has raised questions about whether the country was too quick to ease pandemic restrictions at the start of November in what officials described as a first step toward restoring some pre-pandemic normalcy.

Filipino martial law victims challenge Marcos’ election bid

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipino activists who were jailed, abused and tortured during late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law asked the Commission on Elections Wednesday to disqualify his son and namesake from running for president next year, saying he may “whitewash” history and make it nearly impossible to recover plundered wealth. At least 18 petitioners also expressed fears that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would make it hard for victims of his father’s dictatorship, who have not been compensated like thousands of others under reparation arrangements, to seek claims. The new petition cites the same grounds as an initial complaint filed by rights groups this month, which argued that Marcos Jr.

Journalist Maria Ressa reflects on Nobel Peace Prize win

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — Maria Ressa says much still remains uncertain about her life in the month since she became the first ever Filipino and the first working journalist in more than 80 years to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Will her battle against a libel suit in the Philippines lead to jail time? Will she be able to travel to Norway to accept her prestigious award next month? When is the next time she’ll be able to see her family? “You know the painting ‘The Scream?’” Ressa said Tuesday evening, holding her hands to her face and mock-bellowing into the existential void like the famed Edvard Munch work.

Remains of Korean War soldier from NY ID’ed after 71 years

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The remains of a 19-year-old soldier from upstate New York killed during the Korean War have been identified more than seven decades after he was reported missing in action, defense officials announced Wednesday. Army Sgt. Howard R. Belden of Hague, near the Vermont border, was accounted for on Oct. 14 and will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery at a date that has yet to be determined, according to the The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Belden was reported missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950, after his unit was attacked near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.

A decade after New Zealand mine explosion, bodies are found

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — More than a decade after a methane explosion killed 29 workers at a New Zealand coal mine, police said Wednesday they have finally found at least two of the bodies thanks to new camera images. But authorities say the main part of the Pike River mine remains too dangerous to enter so they will not be able to recover the remains. Police have been investigating the disaster for years, with some family members of the miners hoping they will eventually file criminal charges. Police Detective Superintendent Peter Read said they had located at least two bodies and possibly a third after a camera was sent down a newly dug hole.

Pakistan’s parliament passes bill to allow electronic voting

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s parliament on Wednesday passed a controversial bill allowing the use of electronic machines for voting. The opposition said the policy is an attempt to rig the next elections. Lawmakers also passed a bill to grant the right to vote to expats. The bills still must be signed into law by President Arif Alvi, a formality. The opposition wants elections to continue under a decades-old system that features paper ballots and manual vote-counting. In his speech before the bills were passed, the opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif said Prime Minister Imran Khan was trying to manipulate results of the next parliamentary elections, in 2023.