Top Asian News 4:54 a.m. GMT
TOKYO (AP) — Japan announced Monday it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors from around the world as a new coronavirus variant spreads. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the measure will take effect Tuesday. The decision means Japan will restore border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers. Over the weekend, Japan tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period at government-designated facilities. Many countries have moved to tighten their borders after the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was found in a number of nations.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian authorities announced on Monday a third case of the omicron COVID-19 variant as government leaders reconsidered plans to relax border restrictions this week. A South African man in his 30s who flew from Johannesburg to the northern Australian city of Darwin last Thursday tested positive for the new variant at Australia’s most secure quarantine facility at Howard Springs, Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles said. New South Wales state authorities reported on Sunday that two travelers from South Africa to Sydney had become Australia’s first omicron cases. Both were fully vaccinated, showed no symptoms and were in quarantine in Sydney.
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The leaders of several Asian countries called for boosting their economic ties and pledged to provide assistance to Afghanistan during a summit in Turkmenistan on Sunday. The countries, which are part of the 10-member Economic Cooperation Organization that includes Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and six ex-Soviet nations, called for removing trade barriers and developing new transport corridors across the region. They also voiced concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, which has been taken over by the Taliban, and promised to help stabilize the country. Speaking at the summit, Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi pointed at the threat of Afghanistan’s economic and financial collapse, saying the Islamic world needs to pool efforts to help avert a “catastrophe that could foment chaos and conflict.” He said countries in the region need to move quickly to help rebuild the Afghan economy, shore up the country’s health care and education systems and offer humanitarian assistance.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Lawmakers from all three Baltic states met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday in a sign of further cooperation between European Union nations and Taiwan. It is the first joint visit to Taiwan by members of parliament from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Tsai said. She welcomed the lawmakers, who are attending the 2021 Open Parliament Forum, hosted by Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. China claims Taiwan is its own territory and rejects any attempts by the self-ruled island to participate in international forums or establish diplomatic relations with other countries that would give it international recognition.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan said 27 Chinese aircraft entered its air defense buffer zone on Sunday, the latest in a long series of incursions as part of Beijing’s pressure on the self-ruled island. The Defense Ministry said Taiwan scrambled combat aircraft to “warn” the Chinese planes to leave. It also deployed missile systems to monitor them. Sunday’s incursion included 18 fighter jets and five H-6 bombers, as well as a Y-20 aerial refueling aircraft, according to Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. The Chinese aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone near the southern part of the island and out into the Pacific Ocean before returning to China, according to a map by Taiwan authorities.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, blasted Sen. Ted Cruz for suggesting that Fauci be investigated for statements he made about COVID-19 and said the criticism by the Texas Republican was an attack on science. “I should be prosecuted? What happened on Jan. 6, senator?” Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” It was a reference to the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump that was stoked as Cruz helped lead GOP objections to Congress’ certifying the 2020 election results.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Ranariddh, former prime minister and the son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, died Sunday in France, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith announced on his Facebook page. He was 77. Khieu Kanharith, who said he learned of the death from Um Daravuth, a minor member of Cambodia’s royal family, did not give the cause of death. Ranariddh had been in ill-health since an auto accident in Cambodia in 2018. An aide to Ranariddh, who spoke on condition of anonymity because who was not authorized to speak to the media, said he went to Paris in late 2019 for medical treatment of a broken pelvis.
MOSCOW (AP) — Kyrgyzstan held a parliamentary election Sunday just over a year after a forceful change of government in the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation and voters backed parties supporting the country’s new president, according to early results. President Sadyr Zhaparov, who was elected in January following protests that ousted his predecessor, had expected that Sunday’s ballot would further cement his grip on power. With over 97% of precincts counted, three blocs all supporting Zhaparov emerged as the top vote-getters. Some opposition parties quickly challenged the results, accusing authorities of vote-rigging. Kyrgyzstan, a mountainous landlocked nation of 6.5 million people that borders China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, is a member of Russia-dominated economic and security alliances.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants targeted a Pakistani military post in the northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border, killing two soldiers in a firefight, the army said in a statement. The Pakistani army’s media wing said late Saturday that militants attacked a post in the Datta Khel area of the district of North Waziristan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The area is a former militant stronghold. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. During an intense exchange of gunfire two soldiers were killed, the military said, adding that a search of the area was being carried out to find the militants.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban prime minister defended the group’s rule in a public address Saturday, saying it was not to blame for a worsening economic crisis and is working to repair the corruption of the ousted government. He also dismissed international pressure for the formation of a more inclusive Cabinet. The half-hour audio played on state-run media was the first such public address by Mohammed Hassan Akhund since the Taliban captured Kabul and secured their rule over the country three months ago. The Taliban takeover led to a shut-off of international aid to the government and the blocking of billions of dollars in Afghan assets held abroad, worsening an already crumbling economy.