Top Asian News 3:18 a.m. GMT
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The U.S. has agreed to provide humanitarian aid to a desperately poor Afghanistan on the brink of an economic disaster, while refusing to give political recognition to the country’s new Taliban rulers, the Taliban said Sunday. The statement came at the end of the first direct talks between the former foes since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of August. The U.S. statement was less definitive, saying only that the two sides “discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people.” The Taliban said the talks held in Doha, Qatar, “went well,” with Washington freeing up humanitarian aid to Afghanistan after agreeing not to link such assistance to formal recognition of the Taliban.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Sydney hairdressers, gyms, cafés and bars reopened to fully vaccinated customers on Monday for the first time in more than 100 days after Australia’s largest city achieved a vaccination benchmark. Sydney planned to reopen on the Monday after 70% of the New South Wales state population aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated. By Monday, 73.5% of the target population was fully vaccinated and more than 90% have received at least one dose. Some businesses opened at midnight due to demand from people impatient to enjoy their freedom. More pandemic restrictions will be removed at the 80% benchmark, and New South Wales residents will be free to travel overseas for the first time since March last year.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Monday leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to overcome a “grim situation” facing the country and make stronger efforts to improve the food and living conditions of his people. But state media didn’t mention any specific comments toward Washington and Seoul while reporting on Kim’s speech marking the 76th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party’s founding. Nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled for more than two years over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling U.S.-led sanctions against North Korea and the North’s denuclearization steps. The country has ramped up its missile testing activity in recent weeks while making conditional peace offers to Seoul, reviving a pattern of pressuring South Korea to get what it wants from the United States.
DHAKA,Bangladesh (AP) — The United Nations and Bangladesh’s government have signed an agreement to work together to help Rohingya refugees on an island in the Bay of Bengal where thousands have been relocated from crammed camps near the Myanmar border. More than 19,000 Rohingya have already been moved to the Bhasan Char island by the government, and the U.N. said one of the key reasons to sign the agreement was to start serving that population. Bangladesh plans to relocate 100,000 Rohingya to the island in phases from the crowded refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district. The agreement came as a paradigm shift after the U.N.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian and Chinese army commanders have discussed steps to disengage troops from key friction areas along their disputed border to ease a 17-month standoff that has sometimes led to deadly clashes, an Indian army spokesman said. The commanders met Sunday after a gap of two months at Moldo on the Chinese side in the Ladakh area, said Col. Sudhir Chamoli, the army spokesman. No details were immediately available. A written statement Monday from a Chinese military spokesperson said “the Indian side sticks to unreasonable and unrealistic demands, adding difficulties to the negotiations.” Since February, both India and China have withdrawn troops from some face-off sites on the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso, Gogra and Galwan Valley, but they continue to maintain extra troops as part of a multi-tier deployment.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s president on Sunday vowed to defend the island from China’s rising pressure for reunification, after a week of unprecedented tensions with Beijing. Speaking at the island’s National Day celebrations, a rare show of Taiwanese defense capabilities in the annual parade underlined Tsai Ing-wen’s promise to resist Chinese military threats. “We will do our utmost to prevent the status quo from being unilaterally altered,” President Tsai said. “We will continue to bolster our national defense and demonstrate our determination to defend ourselves in order to ensure that nobody can force Taiwan to take the path China has laid out for us,” the Taiwanese leader added.
XINJIANG, China (AP) — The razor wire that once ringed public buildings in China’s far northwestern Xinjiang region is nearly all gone. Gone, too, are the middle school uniforms in military camouflage and the armored personnel carriers rumbling around the homeland of the Uyghurs. Gone are many of the surveillance cameras that once glared down like birds from overhead poles, and the eerie eternal wail of sirens in the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. Uyghur teenage boys, once a rare sight, now flirt with girls over pounding dance music at rollerblading rinks. One cab driver blasted Shakira as she raced through the streets.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s ruling liberal party on Sunday nominated its candidate for next year’s presidential elections, selecting a maverick politician known for his outspoken views who is currently the race’s front-runner. Lee Jae-myung’s nomination as the Democratic Party presidential candidate comes despite his rivals’ efforts to depict him as a dangerous populist and link him to a snowballing real estate scandal. Lee has vowed to fight economic inequality, introduce a universal basic income and resume reconciliation projects with North Korea. In his acceptance speech, Lee bowed deeply several times and said he’d want to carry out what he called a public call to “root out unfairness, inequality and corruption” and carry out other sweeping reform steps.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces have detained at least 500 people in a sweeping crackdown in Indian-controlled Kashmir, local officials said Sunday, following a string of suspected militant attacks and targeted killings in the disputed region. Assailants fatally shot three Hindus and a Sikh person in the region’s main city of Srinagar this week in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned. Local police blamed the spate of killings on militants fighting against Indian rule in the region for decades. Officials said they had detained in the last three days over 500 people across the Kashmir Valley for questioning, with the majority of detainees from the main city of Srinagar.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Abdul Qadeer Khan, a controversial figure known as the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb, died Sunday of COVID-19 following a lengthy illness, his family said. He was 85. Khan, who launched Pakistan on the path to becoming a nuclear weapons power in the early 1970s, died in a hospital in the capital Islamabad, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said. Thousands of people attended a state funeral at the massive white-marble Faisal Mosque in the capital. His body was carried by an honor guard and military and political dignitaries offered funeral prayers. Flags in Pakistan flew at half-staff. Khan was mired in controversy that began even before he returned to Pakistan from the Netherlands in the 1970s, where he had worked at a nuclear research facility.