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Top Asian News 3:53 a.m. GMT

August 2, 2021 GMT

South Korea seeks to improve ties despite North’s threat

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea said Monday it’ll keep pushing to improve ties and resume talks with rival North Korea, despite the North’s threat to rekindle animosities if Seoul holds its summertime military drills with the United States. On Sunday night, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned the drills would seriously undermine efforts to restore mutual trust between the Koreas and becloud prospects for better ties if the training is launched as scheduled this month. Her statement raised a question about the sincerity of North Korea’s recent decision to reopen long-stalled communication channels with South Korea.

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Myanmar military extends emergency, promises vote in 2 years

BANGKOK (AP) — Six months after seizing power from the elected government, Myanmar’s military leader on Sunday declared himself prime minister and said he would lead the country under the extended state of emergency until elections are held in about two years. “We must create conditions to hold a free and fair multiparty general election,” Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said during a recorded televised address. “We have to make preparations. I pledge to hold the multiparty general election without fail.” He said the state of emergency will achieve its objectives by August 2023. In a separate announcement, the military government named itself “the caretaker government” and Min Aung Hlaing the prime minister.

New Zealand apologizes for historic raids on Pacific people

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sat motionless Sunday as members of the Pacific Island community pulled a large white mat over her head, completely covering her. Moments later they removed it and embraced her. It was part of a emotional ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall during which Ardern formally apologized for a racially charged part of the nation’s history known as the Dawn Raids. It’s when Pasifika people were targeted for deportation in the mid-1970s during aggressive home raids by authorities to find, convict and deport visa overstayers. The raids often took place very early in the morning or late at night.

Olympic volunteers strive to tell their earthquake stories

RIFU, Japan (AP) — Atsushi Muramatsu’s handmade flyers are the size of a business card, written in several languages. “Welcome to Miyagi Stadium,” one reads. “The gymnasium next door was the largest morgue for tsunami victims.” Over a decade after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan, the Tokyo Games were supposed to offer a chance to showcase how much has been rebuilt. They were even billed as the “Recovery and Reconstruction Games,” and the Olympic torch relay started from Fukushima prefecture, the heart of the nuclear disaster area. But the coronavirus pandemic means few spectators are coming to any of the Olympic events, including soccer and baseball, being held here.

Kim’s sister warns S. Korea-US drills will rekindle tensions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Sunday that next month’s annual military drills between South Korean and U.S. troops will undermine prospects for better ties between the Koreas, just days after the rivals reopened their long-dormant communication channels. Kim Yo Jong’s statement carried by state media targets only South Korea, and this could add credence to a theory that North Korea’s decision to restore the communication lines is mainly aimed at pushing Seoul to convince Washington to make concessions while nuclear diplomacy remains deadlocked. “For some days I have been hearing an unpleasant story that joint military exercises between the South Korean army and the U.S.

A pandemic Olympics, without all the crowds: What gets lost?

TOKYO (AP) — Any sporting event is, at its heart, a show. It has the actors on center stage, performing for the rest of us. It has the spectators, sitting in their seats watching raptly. And — in modern times, at least — it has the “home” audience, which in the past half century of growing video viewership has far outpaced the numbers of those actually in attendance. At their halfway point, the Tokyo Olympics are still grappling with the fact that in that equation, the middle group — those spectators on the scene who cheer, gin up enthusiasm and add texture to the proceedings — couldn’t come.

For US teen Buddhist lama, it’s faith, school, football

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. (AP) — In most ways, Jalue Dorje is a typical American teen — he grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, loving football, Pokémon and rap music. Yet a few years from now, he’s expecting to say goodbye to his family and homeland and join a monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas — from an early age, he was recognized by the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders as a reincarnated lama. Since that recognition, he’s spent much of his life training to become a monk, memorizing sacred scriptures (often rewarded by his dad with Pokémon cards), practicing calligraphy and learning the teachings of Buddha.

2 rare Sumatran tigers recovering after catching COVID-19

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Two rare Sumatran tigers at the zoo in the Indonesian capital are recovering after being infected with COVID-19. Nine-year-old Tino became ill with shortness of breath, sneezing, and a runny nose on July 9. He also lost his appetite. Two days later, 12-year-old Hari was showing the same symptoms. Swabs were taken and results came back positive for COVID-19, Suzi Marsitawati from the Jakarta Parks and Forestry Agency said in a statement on Sunday. The tigers were immediately treated with antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatory drugs and multivitamins. They were getting better after 10-12 days, and have now recovered under close observation at Jakarta’s Ragunan Zoo.

EXPLAINER: How gymnastics evolved from ‘exercising naked’

TOKYO (AP) — The word gymnastics is derived from the ancient Greek “gymnazein,” meaning “to exercise naked.” The sport, now among the Olympics’ most beloved events, was born millennia ago, as young men trained for war in the buff. Throughout human history, in all corners of the globe, people have flipped and spun and twisted to explore the limits of the human body. Egyptian hieroglyphs depict backbends, according to Britannica, and stone engravings from ancient China illustrate acrobats. In arenas today, gymnasts compete on a series of what are called apparatuses: both men and women do a tumbling routine, called a floor exercise, and launch themselves off a vault.

Afghan official: mortar attack in Kandahar kills 5 people

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A mortar shell struck a taxi in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province on Sunday, killing at least five civilians including two children, an Afghan official said. Provincial police spokesman Jamal Naser Barekzai blamed the Taliban for the attack, although the militants denied responsibility. Both the Taliban and the government routinely blame each other for attacks on civilians in the capital Kabul and elsewhere. The perpetrators are rarely identified, and the public is seldom informed of the results of investigations into the violence. The war between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s national security and defense forces has intensified over the past few months, as U.S.