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Top Asian News 3:34 a.m. GMT

July 12, 2021 GMT

Biden backs Trump rejection of China’s South China Sea claim

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Sunday upheld a Trump-era rejection of nearly all of China’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea. The administration also warned China that any attack on the Philippines in the flashpoint region would draw a U.S. response under a mutual defense treaty. The stern message from Secretary of State Antony Blinken came in a statement released ahead of this week’s fifth anniversary of an international tribunal’s ruling in favor of the Philippines, against China’s maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighboring reefs and shoals. China rejects the ruling. Ahead of the fourth anniversary of the ruling last year, the Trump administration came out in favor of the ruling but also said it regarded as illegitimate virtually all Chinese maritime claims in the South China Sea outside China’s internationally recognized waters.

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Myanmar caught off guard as cases surge, oxygen dwindles

BANGKOK (AP) — Soe Win stood in line at a plant to buy oxygen for his grandmother, who is struggling with COVID-19 symptoms. “I have been waiting since 5 in the morning until 12 noon but I’m still in line. Oxygen is scarcer than money,” said the resident of Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon. Consumed by a bitter and violent political struggle since the military seized power in February, Myanmar has been slow to wake up to a devastating surge in cases since mid-May. It has left many of the sick like Soe Win’s grandmother to suffer at home if they cannot find a bed at an army hospital, or prefer not to trust their care to the widely disliked government.

Leaders of North Korea, China vow to strengthen ties

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The North Korean and Chinese leaders expressed their desire Sunday to further strengthen their ties as they exchanged messages marking the 60th anniversary of their countries’ defense treaty. In a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said it is “the fixed stand” of his government to “ceaselessly develop the friendly and cooperative relations” between the countries, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Xi said in his message that China and North Korea have “unswervingly supported each other,” according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency. “The world has recently seen accelerating changes unprecedented over the past century,” Xi said.

China vows retaliation after US blacklists companies

BEIJING (AP) — China on Sunday said it will take “necessary measures” to respond to the U.S. blacklisting of Chinese companies over their alleged role in abuses of Uyghur people and other Muslim ethnic minorities. The Commerce Ministry said the U.S. move constituted an “unreasonable suppression of Chinese enterprises and a serious breach of international economic and trade rules.” China will “take necessary measures to firmly safeguard Chinese companies’ legitimate rights and interests,” the ministry’s statement said. No details were given, but China has denied allegations of arbitrary detention and forced labor in the far western region of Xinjiang and increasingly responded to sanctions against companies and officials with its own bans on visas and financial links.

2 suspected IS-linked militants killed in central Indonesia

PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian security forces on Sunday killed two suspected militants with ties to the Islamic State group who were believed to be connected to the killing of Christian farmers on Sulawesi island, the country’s military said. The two men, identified as Rukli and Ahmad Gazali, were fatally shot during a pre-dawn raid by a five-man team of military and police in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district, said Maj. Gen. Richard Tampubolon, who heads the joint operation. Parigi Moutong borders Poso district, considered an extremist hotbed in the province. Security operations in Central Sulawesi have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, particularly targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader and Indonesia’s most wanted militant.

Osaka returns to spotlight on red carpet at The ESPYS

Naomi Osaka returned to the spotlight for the first time since withdrawing from the French Open in May and skipping Wimbledon, posing on the red carpet at The ESPYS on Saturday night. The world’s highest-paid female athlete faced a slew of photographers in New York, with one being heard urging her, “Nice smile” as cameras clicked furiously. Osaka offered a faint closed-mouth smile in response. Osaka won trophies as the best athlete in women’s sports and best women’s tennis player at the annual show honoring the year’s top athletes and sports moments. It was moved from Los Angeles to New York for an outdoor, socially distanced show this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unopened Super Mario 64 game from 1996 sells for $1.56M

DALLAS (AP) — An unopened copy of Nintendo’s Super Mario 64 has sold at auction for $1.56 million. Heritage Auctions in Dallas said that the 1996 game sold Sunday, breaking its previous record price for the sale of a single video game. A spokesman did not immediately respond to an inquiry about who purchased the game. Super Mario 64 was the best-selling game on the Nintendo 64 and the first to feature the Mario character in 3D, the auction house said in a statement. The sale follows an unopened copy of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda selling at auction Friday for $870,000.

Police arrest Bangladesh factory owners after fire kills 52

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Police in Bangladesh arrested eight people Saturday on murder charges in connection with a factory fire that killed at least 52 people, many of whom were trapped inside by an illegally locked door, a senior police official said. The blaze began Thursday night at the five-story Hashem Foods Ltd. factory in Rupganj, just outside the capital Dhaka, sending huge clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. Police discovered piles of bodies Friday afternoon after the fire was extinguished. “We have arrested them for murder charges,” Jayedul Alam, police superintendent for Narayanganj district, told The Associated Press by phone.

Hong Kong pro-democracy group downsizes amid crackdown

HONG KONG (AP) — One of Hong Kong’s most established pro-democracy civic organizations said it is letting go its paid staff and halving the size of its steering committee after Beijing stepped up its crackdown on opposition activity in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China is best known for organizing an annual rally and candlelight vigil remembering those killed in the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The group said in a statement Saturday that seven of its 14 remaining steering committee members had decided to step down in the face of “growing political and legal risks.” Of the seven members remaining, three are currently in jail for protest-related activities — chairman Lee Cheuk-yan as well as vice chairmen Albert Ho Chun-yan and Chow Hang-tung.

Indonesia short on oxygen, seeks help as virus cases soar

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Just two months ago, Indonesia was coming to a gasping India’s aid with thousands of tanks of oxygen. Today, the Southeast Asia country is running out of oxygen as it endures a devastating wave of coronavirus cases and the government is seeking emergency supplies from other countries, including Singapore and China. A shipment of more than 1,000 oxygen cylinders, concentrators, ventilators and other health devices arrived from Singapore on Friday, followed by another 1,000 ventilators from Australia, said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response. Beside those donations, Indonesia plans to buy 36,000 tons of oxygen and 10,000 concentrators — devices that generate oxygen — from neighboring Singapore, Pandjaitan said.