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Top Asian News 3:11 a.m. GMT

September 18, 2021 GMT

Australia: France’s recall of ambassador over subs regretful

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia said Saturday it was noting with regret France’s recall of its ambassador over the surprise cancellation of a submarine contract in favor of a U.S. deal. France recalled its ambassadors to Australia and the United States on Friday in an unprecedented show of anger over a deal among the United States, Australia and Britain to provide Australia with a fleet of at least eight nuclear-power submarines. The deal scraps a 90 billion Australian dollar ($66 billion) contract with French majority state-owned Naval Group, signed in 2016, to build 12 conventional diesel-electric submarines. Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s office said in a statement: “We note with regret France’s decision to recall its Ambassador to Australia for consultations following the decision on the Attack Class project.” “Australia understands France’s deep disappointment with our decision, which was taken in accordance with our clear and communicated national security interests,” the statement said.

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Pentagon reverses itself, calls deadly Kabul strike an error

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon retreated from its defense of a drone strike that killed multiple civilians in Afghanistan last month, announcing Friday that a review revealed that only civilians were killed in the attack, not an Islamic State extremist as first believed. “The strike was a tragic mistake,” Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told a Pentagon news conference. McKenzie apologized for the error and said the United States is considering making reparation payments to the family of the victims. He said the decision to strike a white Toyota Corolla sedan, after having tracked it for about eight hours, was made in an “earnest belief” — based on a standard of “reasonable certainty” — that it posed an imminent threat to American forces at Kabul airport.

US envoy: Qatar plane takes more Americans from Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Qatar Airways flight on Friday took more Americans out of Afghanistan, according to Washington’s peace envoy, the third such airlift by the Mideast carrier since the Taliban takeover and the frantic U.S. troop pullout from the country. The development came amid rising concerns over the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban. The country’s new Islamic rulers on Friday ordered that boys but not girls from grades six to 12, and male teachers but no women teachers return to school and resume classes, starting Saturday. The statement, posted on the Facebook page of the now Taliban-run education ministry, underscored fears that the Taliban might again impose restrictions on girls and women.

Inquiry puts ex-World Bank officials under scrutiny on China

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former officials of the World Bank are under pressure after an investigation found that they pressured staff members of the bank to alter data on global business conditions in order to favor China and some other governments. The World Bank said it would discontinue its “Doing Business” report in the wake of the investigation, which was conducted by the law firm WilmerHale after internal questions involving “data irregularities” in the 2018 and 2020 editions of the report and possible “ethical matters” involving bank staff. WilmerHale’s report concluded that Kristalina Georgieva, then the chief executive of the World Bank, and the office of Jim Yong Kim, then the bank’s president, pressured staff members to change data on China to support Beijing’s ranking in the “Doing Business” report.

EXPLAINER: Why World Bank is under fire over set of rankings

WASHINGTON (AP) — Under fire for allegations that it bowed to pressure from China and other governments, the World Bank has dropped a popular report that ranked countries by how welcoming they are to businesses. The report is important to many companies and investors around the world: They use the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report to help decide where to invest money, open manufacturing plants or sell products. Eager to attract investment, countries around the world, especially developing economies, have sought to improve their rankings in the World Bank’s report. Sometimes, nations would pursue substantive policy changes — by, for example, making it easier for businesses to pay taxes, obtain loans or enforce contracts.

EXPLAINER: Japanese ruling party race to determine next PM

TOKYO (AP) — Official election campaigning started Friday for the next head of Japan’s governing Liberal Democratic Party. The winner will almost certainly become leader of the world’s No. 3 economy, shaping key political, military and security roles in the region. Two men and, unusually for Japan, two women are competing in the Sept. 29 vote to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Their policies focus on anti-coronavirus measures, an economy hobbled by the pandemic and how to deal with, from Tokyo’s perspective, China’s increasingly menacing role in regional affairs. The Associated Press explains who these politicians are, their policies and the importance of the election for both Japan and Asia.

Cambodian leader boasts he barged into opposition video call

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has boasted of barging uninvited into a video conference call hosted by his political opponents. An enthusiastic user of social media, Hun Sen said Friday he intruded into the Zoom call to warn his opponents that he and his spies were keeping a close eye on them. The Sept. 9 call was held by former members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which a court dissolved in 2017. Cambodia’s courts are widely seen as doing the bidding of Hun Sen’s government, in this case eliminating the sole credible opposition party ahead of the 2018 election.

Lawsuit over eggs tests China’s policies on unmarried women

BEIJING (AP) — After almost two years, an unmarried woman suing for the right to freeze her eggs in Beijing is getting her case heard in court Friday in a rare legal challenge against the country’s restrictions on unmarried women in reproductive health. Teresa Xu has been waiting since December 2019 for her second hearing at the Chaoyang People’s Court in Beijing. She is suing Beijing Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital at Capital Medical University, a public hospital that forbid her from freezing her eggs, citing national law. Xu’s victory could mark an important step for unmarried women in China who want to access public benefits.

Myanmar court sets Oct. 1 for Suu Kyi corruption trial

BANGKOK (AP) — A trial of Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi on corruption charges is set to begin on Oct. 1, a member of her legal team said Friday. Lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said a judge declared the trial would be held at the Special Court in the capital Naypyitaw on every other Friday. He announced the decision after presentations in the court by Suu Kyi’s lawyers and prosecutors from the central city of Mandalay, where the charges were originally lodged. Suu Kyi, whose elected government was overthrown by an army takeover in February, is currently being tried on other charges by the Special Court.

Indian opposition party holds street protest demanding jobs

NEW DELHI (AP) — Youth members of India’s main opposition Congress party clashed with police during a street protest Friday demanding jobs as the country’s economy recovers from a coronavirus lockdown last year that triggered massive unemployment. They also urged people not to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 71st birthday on Friday. About 150 Congress supporters marching behind a large banner reading “Government, Give Jobs to Youth” tried to jump police barricades blocking them from marching to government offices in New Delhi. Police seized some protesters and took them away in a bus. They were expected to be released later Friday.