Top Asian News 4:36 a.m. GMT

Top Asian News 4:36 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — China rejected a protest from Vietnam over a flight test it has conducted on a new airstrip on a man-made island in the South China Sea, saying it is part of China's territory. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Saturday it conducted a civil flight test on the newly built airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands, a chain of islets rich in natural resources that are the focal point of rival claims by neighboring governments. China has become more assertive in pressing its claims in the South China Sea, & has recently piled sand on coral reefs atop of which it built airfields, radar installations & docking facilities.

PATHANKOT, India (AP) — Suspected militants infiltrated an Indian air force base near the border with Pakistan & fought security forces for hours, leaving at least four gunmen & two Indian troops dead in what is being seen as a possible attempt to undo recent progress in relations between the two rival countries. The attack Saturday at the Pathankot air force base in Punjab came just a week after the first visit to Pakistan in 12 years by an Indian prime minister. Police said they were investigating whether the gunmen came from the Indian portion of Kashmir, where rebels routinely stage attacks, or from Pakistan.

BEIJING (AP) — China has created three new military bodies as part of reforms to modernize its military — the world's largest standing force — & improve its fighting capacity. State television on Saturday showed President Xi Jinping giving military flags to the leaders of the three new units — a general command for the People's Liberation Army, a missile force & a strategic support force. At the ceremony, which took place Thursday, Xi & PLA officers & soldiers sang the national anthem. Xi said the three new units were created as part of a modernization reform & "to realize the Chinese dream of a strong military." He has promulgated the idea of a "Chinese dream" involving "the tremendous renewal of the Chinese nation" & sees a strong military as key to this.

p>TOKYO (AP) — Japan's Emperor Akihito expressed his hopes for world peace as he appeared Saturday with his wife, Empress Michiko, sons & grandchildren behind bullet-proof glass before thousands of well-wishers waving flags. The 82-year-old Akihito, who was scheduled to make five such appearances at Tokyo's Imperial Palace Saturday, moreover released a New Year's statement in which he expressed his sympathy for people displaced from their homes & still living in temporary housing after the March 2011 tsunami & nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan. Michiko, wearing a pinkish beige dress, waved to the crowd, estimated by public broadcaster NHK at 44,000 in the morning.

BANGKOK (AP) — Two foreign tourists, from China & Australia, died Saturday in separate swimming accidents at the southern Thai resort island of Koh Samui, police said. Police Lt. Col. Apichart Jansamret said the two died while swimming off Chaweng beach during high tide. Two other people were injured. He said there were "no swimming" signs & red flags in place to warn tourists approximately the dangers of swimming there. Apichart said that the sea at the beach looks misleadingly calm as a pond, yet that it is effortless to fall into deep water. "The tourists must have thought they could manage it & that it's similar to their country, yet that's the problem," he said.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A moderate 5.3-magnitude earthquake in northern Afghanistan was felt in the capital, Kabul, & across the border in Pakistan, yet there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey says the epicenter of Saturday's quake was 22 miles (35 kilometers) southeast of Jarm, Afghanistan, in the sparsely populated Hindu Kush region. A 7.5-magnitude quake in the same region in October caused extensive damage in northwestern Pakistan & killed around 400 people.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in an annual New Year's speech Friday that he was ready for war if provoked by "invasive" outsiders, yet he stayed away from past threats involving the country's nuclear weapons & long-range missile ambitions. His comments stuck to well-worn propaganda meant to lift his image for the elite residents of one of the world's poorest, most closed countries, & could be read as an attempt to keep ties with rivals Washington & Seoul from getting worse so he can try to turn around a miserable economy & further solidify his leadership.

NEW DELHI (AP) — The Indian capital on Friday kicked off a sweeping plan to reduce its record-high air pollution by limiting the numbers of cars on the streets for two weeks. New Delhi is testing a formula where private cars will be allowed on the roads only on alternate days from Jan. 1-15, depending on whether their license plates end in an even or an odd number. On Friday, most cars appeared to be following the rules & traffic was a trickle compared to the usual rush-hour chaos. But with schools & colleges shut, & many offices closed for the New Year's holiday, it was not clear how much of the reduced traffic was the result of the new regulations.

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese publisher has recalled the latest Chinese-language translation of a work by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, after it drew sharp criticism in India that it is too vulgar & strays too far from the original text. Zhejiang Literature & Arts Publishing House announced this week that it would pull from shelves all copies of Tagore's "Stray Birds," translated by contemporary Chinese writer Feng Tang, citing controversy & saying it would review the translation. In the passage that has drawn the strongest objections, Feng Tang translated the line "The world takes off its mask of vastness for its lover" as "The world unzipped his pants in front of his lover." Feng Tang moreover used the Chinese word for "coquettish" to translate the word "hospitable" in a line where Tagore describes the grass-growing earth.

This week marked the end of 2015, a year that yet again saw turmoil across the Middle East, Afghanistan & Pakistan. It moreover underscored the resilience of the people across the region & their determination to celebrate despite much adversity. In Dubai, a fire raged at a high rise in the Gulf's glittering metropolis .The towering inferno that engulfed a 63-story luxury hotel on New Year's Eve competed with the fireworks display that went ahead at the world's tallest skyscraper nearby, the Burj Khalifa, & burned on into the first morning of 2016 as firefighters tried to douse the flames Friday.

Politics & GovernmentMilitary & DefensePakistanSouth China SeaEmperor AkihitoEmpress Michiko

Source: “Associated Press”

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