Top Asian News 3:49 a.m. GMT
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.
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.
LONDON (AP) — A Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer for the Reuters news service was killed Friday as he chronicled fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban near a strategic border crossing amid the continuing withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops. Danish Siddiqui, 38, had been embedded with Afghan special forces for the past few days and was killed as the commando unit battled for control of the Spin Boldak crossing on the border between southern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Siddiqui was part of a team that won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography for their coverage of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. More recently, he had captured searing images of India’s struggle against COVID-19 and protests against new farming laws.
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.
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.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s national security police on Friday raided the office of a university student union after student leaders last week commemorated a man who killed himself after stabbing a police officer. Police raided the office at the University of Hong Kong and cordoned off the area around it. No students were in the office at the time. It was not clear if any arrests were made. Police confirmed that they are investigating the student union with cooperation from the university and that they collected evidence Friday under a search warrant. They did not release any further details.
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP) — America’s hasty retreat from Afghanistan has destabilized the region and worsened the terrorist threat, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a conference of world powers and Afghanistan’s neighbors Friday as they sought a common path toward resolving the country’s escalating violence. Participants gathering in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent traded stinging criticisms and finger-pointing over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Taliban forces have surged in recent weeks, capturing dozens of districts and key border region from the faltering Afghan security forces and military as the U.S. and NATO complete their withdrawal. The conference had originally been intended to discuss building better transportation links across Central and South Asia, but that agenda was trumped by the Taliban advances.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday he believes Afghan forces can secure the country as the U.S. withdraws, but success will depend on whether they have the will to put up a fierce fight against the Taliban. Thousands of Afghans have fled the country in recent days as Taliban forces have surged through northern Afghanistan. In an interview with the Associated Press, Pompeo said he is confident Afghan forces can repel the Taliban, but it’s “a matter of will.” “I saw on TV the other day, I saw some 22, 23-year-old Afghan males say, ‘It’s really dangerous here, I want to get out,’” the former secretary of state said.
HIROSHIMA, Japan (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach got a mixed reception in his visit on Friday to Hiroshima to mark the first day of the so-called Olympic Truce. Such a one-day visit by a dignitary would ordinarily be routine, but the Olympics are set to open next week with Tokyo under a state of emergency and with a substantial part of the population opposed to the Games being held during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bach’s vice president John Coates also appeared Friday in Nagasaki, the second city that was hit by an American atomic bomb in 1945. Bach and Coates have been meeting daily with Japanese officials from Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, repeating their message that the Olympics will be “safe and secure.” He was accompanied to Hiroshima by Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee.
BANGKOK (AP) — A homemade bomb exploded at an office of Myanmar’s state electricity provider on Friday, injuring at least seven people in the latest example of opponents of the military-installed government turning to violence after their peaceful protests were suppressed with deadly force. State television MRTV reported that four employees of the Electric Power Corp. in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, and three other people were injured. Reports from independent media gave slightly different casualty counts and said the injured included customers who had come to pay their bills. Offices and staff of EPC have been targeted since earlier this month when the government decided to crack down on customers who are not paying their bills by cutting off their service.