Top Asian News 2:55 a.m. GMT
WASHINGTON (AP) — It took only two months for U.S. invaders to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, a seemingly tidy success against a government that had given refuge to 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. Twenty years later, the United States is withdrawing — visions of victory long vanished and an ascendant Taliban arguably within reach of restoring their rule. Afghanistan proved to be a lesson in the limits of America’s military power. It demonstrated the seeming paradox that it is possible to win the battles and still lose the war. Or at least that a technologically superior force can kill more efficiently than its enemy yet fail to achieve a final result resembling victory.
TOKYO (AP) — Struggling businesses forced to temporarily shut down around Olympics venues. Olympic visitors ordered to install invasive apps and allow GPS tracking. Minders staking out hotels to keep participants from coming into contact with ordinary Japanese or visiting restaurants to sample the sushi. Japan’s massive security apparatus has raised complaints that the nation, during the weeks of the Games, will look more like authoritarian North Korea or China than one of the world’s most powerful, vibrant democracies. The worry for many here, however, isn’t too much Big Brother. It’s that all the increased precautions won’t be nearly enough to stop the estimated 85,000 athletes, officials, journalists and other workers coming into Japan from introducing fast-spreading coronavirus variants to a largely unvaccinated population already struggling with mounting cases.
TOKYO (AP) — Keigo Oyamada, a Japanese composer whose music is part of the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, has apologized for bullying a classmate during his childhood. The reports of his abusing a child with disabilities, which surfaced online recently and got covered in Japanese media, are sparking a backlash on social media, demanding his resignation. Oyamada, a well-known rock musician, had boasted about the abuse in detail in Japanese magazine interviews he gave in the 1990s. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart, of course to the classmate himself whom I have hurt, and all my fans, friends and other people involved,” Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, said in a July 16 statement on his site.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand has tightened coronavirus restrictions and warned of further measures as daily cases surpassed 10,000 and the death toll hit a record 141 on Saturday despite an overnight curfew in Bangkok and several other provinces. The surge since April has overwhelmed hospitals, strained the economy and thrown tourism recovery plans in doubt. The vaccine rollout, hindered by supply problems, is slugging with some 5% of the population fully vaccinated and 15% only partially. “I would like everyone to realize our necessity to impose stricter measures soon. We all may get affected and be inconvenienced in many ways,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wrote on his Facebook page late on Friday.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Olympic committee said Saturday it removed banners at the Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo that referred to a 16th-century war between Korea and Japan after the International Olympic Committee ruled they were provocative. In agreeing to take down the banners, the South Koreans said they received a promise from the IOC that the displaying of the Japanese “rising sun” flag will be banned at stadiums and other Olympic venues. The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is resented by many people in South Korea and other parts of Asia who see it as a symbol of Japan’s wartime past.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan was abducted in the middle of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, held for several hours and brutally attacked, officials in both countries said Saturday. No one has been arrested in connection with Friday’s assault on Silsila Alikhil, 26. The Afghan foreign ministry issued a statement demanding a quick investigation, saying she was “severely tortured.” A hospital medical report, seen by The Associated Press, said she suffered blows to her head, had rope marks on her wrists and legs and was badly beaten. There was a suspicion that she had several broken bones and X-rays were ordered, the report said.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration issued a blanket warning Friday to U.S. firms about the risks of doing business in Hong Kong as China continues to clamp down on political and economic freedoms in the territory. Four Cabinet agencies — the departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security — released the nine-page advisory that alerts companies about the shifting legal landscape in Hong Kong and the possibility that engaging with Hong Kong business could incur reputational and legal damages. At the same time, Treasury announced sanctions against seven Chinese officials for violating the terms of the 2020 Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which calls for asset freezes and other penalties against those who participate in the crackdown.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghan government forces battled Friday to retake a border crossing with Pakistan from Taliban insurgents, and the Reuters news agency said one of its photographers was killed in the area. The Taliban had overrun the Spin Boldak crossing earlier in the week. On Friday, witnesses on the Pakistan side of the border said they saw intense fighting and reported seeing bodies. Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian later tweeted that the government had retaken control of Spin Boldak. Reuters said Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Danish Siddiqui, who was embedded with the Afghan special forces, was killed as the commando unit sought to recapture Spin Boldak.
Leaders of Asian Pacific nations agreed on Friday to step up COVID-19 vaccination sharing as China said it has pledged $3 billion in international aid to support coronavirus response efforts in developing countries. The virtual retreat for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, Chinese Prime Minister Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Russian President Vladimir Putin was held as the delta variant is spurring a spike in infections around the globe. “There were two things that came through very strongly from the leaders. One was that this pandemic has a while to run and that there is significant work by all of us to be done, and it needs to look beyond our domestic borders,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who hosted the informal retreat.