Top Asian News 4:39 a.m. GMT


NOUMEA, New Caledonia (AP) — Voters in New Caledonia are deciding whether the French territory in the South Pacific should break free from the European country that claimed it in the mid-19th century. The polls opened Sunday morning in a referendum that’s a milestone in the process of the archipelago’s three-decade-long decolonization — one that will help define New Caledonia’s future as an independent country or as a continuing part of France. More than 174,000 registered voters are invited to answer the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?” Observers expect a majority to favor remaining a part of France, based on opinion polls and previous election results.

NORTH OGDEN, Utah (AP) — The mayor of a Utah city was killed during an attack in Afghanistan while he was serving with the state’s National Guard, the Salt Lake Tribune and other media reported. North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor died Saturday in an apparent “insider attack” in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, the Tribune reported. Another U.S. service member is being treated for wounds sustained in the attack, American military officials said. The Utah National Guard has identified the service member killed as a member of the Guard. The Guard member’s name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — An Australian nun who angered the Philippine president by joining anti-government protests used her final hours in the country to call on Filipinos to unite and fight human rights abuses. Sister Patricia Anne Fox left the Philippines for Australia on Saturday night. The Bureau of Immigration ordered her deported in July, put her on a blacklist and then downgraded her missionary visa to a temporary visitor’s visa, which expired Saturday. President Rodrigo Duterte has bristled at criticism of his leadership, particularly by foreigners like Fox, who he says have no right to meddle in Philippine domestic affairs.

BEIJING (AP) — Facing a blizzard of trade complaints, China is throwing an “open for business” import fair hosted by President Xi Jinping to rebrand itself as a welcoming market and positive global force. More than 3,000 companies from 130 countries selling everything from Egyptian dates to factory machinery are attending the China International Import Expo , opening Monday in the commercial hub of Shanghai. Its VIP guest list includes prime ministers and other leaders from Russia, Pakistan and Vietnam. The United States, fighting a tariff war with Beijing, has no plans to send a high-level envoy. Xi’s government is emphasizing the promise of China’s growing consumer market to help defuse complaints Beijing abuses the global trading system by reneging on promises to open its industries.

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in China say at least 14 people have been killed and 27 injured in a highway pile-up. The accident Saturday night happened after a heavy truck lost control and crashed into a line of vehicles waiting at a toll station in the northwestern province of Gansu. Last week, 15 people were killed after a bus to plunged off a high bridge into China’s Yangtze River in the western city of Chongqing. In that previous crash, an eight-second surveillance video released by police showed the driver and a passenger arguing and grappling with each other in the moments before the bus suddenly veered across oncoming traffic and off the bridge.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea has warned it could revive a state policy aimed at strengthening its nuclear arsenal if the United States does not lift economic sanctions against the country. The statement released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday evening said North Korea could bring back its “pyongjin” policy of simultaneously advancing its nuclear force and economic development if the United States doesn’t change its stance. The North sopped short of threatening to abandon ongoing nuclear negotiations with Washington. Still, it accused Washington of derailing commitments made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump at their June summit in Singapore to work toward a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Divers reported seeing the fuselage and engines of the crashed Lion Air jet on the seafloor and a ping locator has detected a signal that may be from the cockpit voice recorder, Indonesia’s search and rescue chief said Saturday. Speaking on the sixth day of the search, Muhammad Syaugi said that two engines and more landing gear had been found. The plane crashed in waters 30 meters (98 feet) deep but strong currents have hampered the search. “I haven’t seen it myself but I got information from some divers that they have seen the fuselage,” he said at a news conference at a Jakarta port where body bags, debris and passenger belongings are first taken.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An ethnic minority Tamil party in Sri Lanka said Saturday that it will support a no-confidence motion to be brought against the country’s former strongman whose controversial appointment as prime minister has plunged the country into a political crisis. The Tamil National Alliance’s announcement comes as divergent political parties in Parliament try to thwart Mahinda Rajapaksa from strengthening his position as prime minister. The party said in its statement that Rajapaksa’s appointment and President Maithripala Sirisena’s suspension of Parliament was undemocratic. In the statement, the party accused Rajapaksa’s government of offering money and ministerial posts to “induce” opposition lawmakers to cross over.

BEIJING (AP) — Close ally China said Saturday it was willing to offer assistance to Pakistan to help it weather its current fiscal woes but that terms of such aid are still being discussed. That followed a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, who met the previous day with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Pakistan’s growing fiscal crisis has raised questions about its ability to repay Chinese loans granted as part of Beiing’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. Pakistan has taken out billions of dollars in loans from China in recent years, the terms of which remain largely undisclosed.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The lawyer for a Christian woman acquitted of blasphemy charges after spending eight years on death row in Pakistan has fled the country, fearing for his safety, her brother said Saturday. James Masih said Asia Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, left Pakistan, without providing further details. Malook’s phone was switched off. Pakistan’s top court acquitted Bibi on Wednesday and ordered her release in a move that infuriated the country’s hard-line Islamists, who have held nationwide protests demanding her execution. The government reached deal with the Islamists overnight in which it agreed to impose a travel ban on Bibi while the case is reviewed.

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