Top Asian News 4:56 a.m. GMT

February 7, 2022 GMT

Peng Shuai says allegation was “enormous misunderstanding”

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai has told a French newspaper that international concern over her well-being is based on “an enormous misunderstanding” and she denied having accused a high-ranking Chinese official of sexual assault. The interview with L’Equipe was held under controlled conditions in Beijing and failed to answer some key questions about Peng’s initial accusations of sexual assault and whether she has since been in trouble with China’s authoritarian government. L’Equipe, which specializes in sports news, published the interview Monday. The publication said it spoke to the tennis player a day earlier in a Beijing hotel in an hour-long interview organized through China’s Olympic committee.

Omicron forces S. Korea to end GPS monitoring, some checkups

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea will no longer use GPS monitoring to enforce quarantines and will also end daily checkup calls to low-risk coronavirus patients as a fast-developing omicron surge overwhelms health and government workers. The speed of transmissions has made it impossible to maintain a tight and proactive medical response, Jeong Eun-kyeong, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said Monday. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 38,691 new cases of the virus, a nine-fold increase from the levels seen in mid-January, when omicron became the country’s dominant strain. Jeong said the country may see daily jumps of 130,000 or 170,000 by late February.

Australia to open borders to vaccinated travelers on Feb. 21

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from Feb. 21 in a further relaxation of pandemic restrictions announced Monday. Australia imposed some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 home. When the border restrictions were relaxed in November in response to an increasing vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were prioritized over tourists in being welcomed back to Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his senior ministers agreed on Monday that the border would reopen to all vaccinated visas holders from Feb.

Xi meets Poland, Pakistan leaders in Olympic diplomacy

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping met Sunday with leaders from Poland and Pakistan in a flurry of diplomacy on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Xi told President Andrzej Duda that China seeks to further improve ties with Poland, whose warm relationship with Beijing has not sat well with main rival the United States. Poland was the only European Union nation to send an elected leader to the Games despite a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott. The meeting also comes amid concerns over a potential Russian attack on Ukraine, with which NATO member Poland shares a lengthy border. Xi, who has not left China since 2019, has met a range of world leaders over recent days, including President Vladimir Putin of Russia, with which China is building a closer informal alliance.

UN experts: North Korea stealing millions in cyber attacks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korea is continuing to steal hundreds of millions of dollars from financial institutions and cryptocurrency firms and exchanges, illicit money that is an important source of funding for its nuclear and missile programs, U.N. experts said in a report quoting cyber specialists. The panel of experts said that according to an unnamed government, North Korean “cyber-actors stole more than $50 million between 2020 and mid-2021 from at least three cryptocurrency exchanges in North America, Europe and Asia, probably reflecting a shift to diversify its cybercrime operations.” And the experts said in the report’s section on cyber activities obtained Sunday by The Associated Press that an unidentified cybersecurity firm reported that in 2021 the North’s “cyber-actors stole a total of $400 million worth of cryptocurrency through seven intrusions into cryptocurrency exchanges and investment firms.” These cyberattacks “made use of phishing lures, code exploits, malware, and advanced social engineering to siphon funds out of these organizations’ internet-connected ‘hot’ wallets into DPRK-controlled addresses,” the panel said, using the initials of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Schools in Nepal demand reopening as virus cases decline

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Schools in Nepal on Sunday demanded the government open up physical classes that were shut down for weeks as the number of COVID-19 cases began to decline. Teachers say online education was limited to only a small part of the population living in the urban parts of the Himalayan country while a majority of students were being deprived of their chance to learn. The number of coronavirus cases fueled by the omicron variant has peaked in the past weeks but was declining in the last few days. “We are ready to open the schools, students are eager to get back, guardians are willing to send their children and the number of virus cases are on the decline so there is no reason for the government to continue the ban on schools,” said Tika Ram Puri, president of the Private and Boarding Schools Organization Nepal.

Lata Mangeshkar, legendary Indian singer, dies at 92

NEW DELHI (AP) — Lata Mangeshkar, a legendary Indian singer with a prolific, groundbreaking catalog and a voice recognized by more than a billion people in South Asia, has died. She was 92. The iconic singer died Sunday morning of multiple organ failure at Breach Candy hospital in Mumbai, her physician, Dr. Pratit Samdani, told reporters. She was hospitalized on Jan. 11 after contracting COVID-19. She was taken off the ventilator after her condition improved in late January but her health deteriorated on Saturday and was put back on life support. Mangeshkar received a state funeral and Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew in from New Delhi to pay his last respects.

Pakistan: Areas cleared after militant attacks kill 9 troops

QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan’s military said security forces cleared two areas in a southwestern province of separatist militants after they attacked two army camps, leaving nine soldiers dead and six others wounded. Twenty militants were killed in intense, hours-long firefights and follow-up operations, it said. The military statement issued late Saturday said militants attacked security forces camps in Baluchistan province in the districts of Naushki and Panjgur late Wednesday and both attacks were eventually repulsed. A recently formed separatist group, the Baluchistan Nationalist Army, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a Twitter post. The military said nine attackers were killed in Naushki, while four troops, including an officer, were killed.

Xi says China, Egypt hold ‘similar visions and strategies’

BEIJING (AP) — China and Egypt “share similar visions and strategies in defending their own interests,” Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Saturday in a meeting with Egypt’s authoritarian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. The Egyptian leader was one of a half-dozen heads of state who met with Xi after attending the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, seeking closer ties with China while shunning Western criticism of their heavy-handed rule. Xi “hailed enhanced political trust” between the countries, citing cooperation in fighting the pandemic. Their comprehensive strategic partnership is a model of “China-Arab, China-Africa and China-developing world solidarity,” Xi said, according to CGTN, the international arm of state broadcaster CCTV.

GLIMPSES: Connections forged in shared chills at Olympics

BEIJING (AP) — She was standing alone, bundled against the cold, as the bus doors swung open at the remotest mountain site of the Beijing Olympics. Her job was to point visiting journalists where to go — not that they had many options in these locked-down games. All you could see behind the mask were her eyes and gold-tinted hair, and then only barely. The plastic face shield she wore to protect against the coronavirus had fogged up and frosted over in the frigid air of Zhangjiakou. Foreign visitors at these Olympics are strictly segregated from the public under China’s zero-tolerance virus containment strategy.