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Asian News Digest, AS

Asian News Digest, AS



SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's president pledges to disband the coast guard amid mounting criticism of its failure to save hundreds of passengers trapped last month in a sinking ferry. Critics said President Park Geun-hye was trying to shift attention from her mishandling of one of South Korea's deadliest disasters in decades. The move to abolish an independent coast guard in a country surrounded on three sides by water caught many by surprise, but the agency has faced withering criticism that it acted slowly and unprofessionally in botched rescue and search efforts. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 930 words, photos.


JINDO, South Korea -- Park Si-chan had trouble sleeping the night before the biggest trip of his young life, a four-day journey with his entire junior high school class to a lush volcanic island known here as the "Hawaii of Korea." His father gave him some advice: If anything happens, "just do what those in charge say." That's exactly what the kids and other passengers did, and many died as a result when the five-story-high Sewol ferry turned upside down and sank in just a few hours on April 16. The tragedy has prompted Koreans to question the very foundations of their society. By Todd Pitman. SENT: 2,360 words, photos; abridged version of 1,100 words.


SEOUL, South Korea -- An electrical problem causes an explosion at a South Korean subway station that lightly injured 11 people, an emergency official says. By Hyung-jin Kim. SENT: 200 words.


VUNG ANG, Vietnam -- Watched over by riot police, hundreds of Chinese workers leave Vietnam on ships chartered by their government after deadly unrest broke out last week amid a dispute over sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. The decision to evacuate workers by sea will play well in China, where the government is under pressure to look after its citizens abroad. By Hau Dinh and Chris Brummitt. SENT: 630 words, photos.

-- CHINA-VIETNAM-ASEAN -- China criticizes the top official of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations for saying Beijing intruded in Vietnamese territory, and a Chinese official demands the group stay out of the dispute. SENT: 120 words.


CANBERRA, Australia -- Malaysia's defense minister on Monday defended his military's failure to scramble a fighter jet to follow a Malaysian airliner when it veered off course and vanished two months ago, saying it wasn't seen as a hostile object. Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 became invisible to civilian radar when its transponder stopped transmitting during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. But the plane was tracked by Malaysian military radar after it turned in a westerly direction across Peninsular Malaysia. By Rod McGuirk. SENTL: 630 words, photos.


BEIJING -- China says it has launched an international manhunt for the alleged mastermind behind an attack at a train station last month blamed on extremists from the Muslim Turkic Uighur ethnic group. The official China Daily newspaper and other state media say a request has been submitted to Interpol for the arrest of Ismail Yusup and an unspecified number of associates. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 700 words, photos.


JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian presidential favorite Joko Widodo chooses former Vice President Jusuf Kalla as his running mate, making up a formidable ticket in July's elections in Southeast Asia's largest economy. Opinion polls show a Widodo-Kalla partnership coming out comfortably on top in elections scheduled for July 9. The pair is supported by a strong and relatively small coalition of political parties, raising the prospect of stable and efficient government that might be able to push through economic reforms and tackle corruption. By Niniek Karmini. SENT: 490 words, photos.


BANGKOK -- Thailand's acting prime minister discusses the country's ongoing political crisis with a group of senators and insists his government will not resign. Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan told representatives of the Senate that the Cabinet is willing to cooperate with the upper house but will not step down because that might violate the constitution, says Sen. Wanchai Sornsiri, the spokesman of the Senate's coordinating panel. SENT: 410 words, photos.


CANBERRA, Australia -- Prime Minister Tony Abbott shrugs off opinion polls showing his government's popularity has plummeted since the release of its first budget. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 420 words.


BANGKOK -- The bodies of three top officials from Laos who died in a plane crash over the weekend lay in state ahead of funerals in the secretive Southeast Asian nation. At least five people have been confirmed dead so far, including Defense Minister Douangchay Phichit. About 18 people were believed to have been on board the Ukrainian-made AN-74TK-300 transport aircraft when it went down Saturday in Xiangkhoung province. SENT: 230 words.


PYONGYANG, North Korea -- The wild world of professional wrestling is heading to North Korea. The authoritarian nation locked in a long standoff with its neighbors and the United States over its nuclear bomb ambitions announces plans for an international pro-wrestling match in the capital, Pyongyang, in late August. SENT: 240 words.


YANGON, Myanmar -- Two Chinese workers at a copper mine in Myanmar have been kidnapped by activists who are demanding the project be halted, the company and villagers say. The Wanbao Mining company released a statement condemning the "unprovoked act" and demanding the immediate release of the two 23-year-old contractors. They were abducted Sunday as they were carrying out a land survey by a group calling itself "Student Activists from Mandalay," the company said. SENT: 250 words.


TOKYO -- A popular manga comic is setting off a public debate in Japan about the health effects of radiation following the Fukushima nuclear disaster -- so much so the publisher issued a special edition Monday. The April 28 issue of "Oishinbo," by Tetsu Kariya, depicted a character getting a nosebleed after visiting Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Three of its reactors sank into meltdowns after the March 2011 tsunami, and radiation contaminates nearby towns. SENT: 700 words.



BANGKOK -- Thailand's economy contracted by 2.1 percent in the first quarter, slammed by a protracted political crisis that is likely to slow growth for the rest of the year. The National Economic and Social Development Board says consumer confidence declined as a result of the political unrest, reducing domestic demand compared with the fourth quarter of last year. SENT: 340 words, photos.



BELGRADE, Serbia -- Belgrade braces for a river surge that threatens to inundate Serbia's main power plant and cause major power cuts in the crisis-stricken country as the Balkans struggle with the worst flooding in southeastern Europe in more than a century. At least 17 people died in Serbia in five days of flooding, and at least another 17 in Bosnia, but the death toll is expected to rise as floodwaters recede in some locations, laying bare the full scale of the damage. By Dusan Stojanovic. SENT: 520 words, photos, video.


MOSCOW -- Russian President Vladimir Putin orders troops deployed near Ukraine to return to their home bases, while fighting continues in the eastern parts of the country. The order appears to go further than a similar statement by the Russian leader two weeks ago that troops were being pulled back from the border to shooting ranges. The West said they saw no sign of a pullout after Putin's earlier claim of a withdrawal and NATO on Monday says it didn't see any immediate movements to validate the latest assertions. By Vladimir Isachenkov. SENT: 830 words, photos, interactive.


LOS ANGELES -- Priming itself for the age of Internet-delivered video, AT&T Inc. says it will buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion in cash and stock, or $95 per share. While DirecTV doesn't help the telecom company compete in the online video space immediately, cost savings from the merger and the extra cash flow will improve its ability to compete with the cable giant that would be formed by Comcast Corp.'s proposed $45 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable. By Business Writer Ryan Nakashima. SENT: 380 words, photos.


TRIPOLI, Libya -- Libya's army chief orders the deployment of Islamist-led militias to the capital, a day after the storming of the parliament building in Tripoli by a renegade general's troops. The development paves way for a possible showdown between the militias, which hail from Libya's western and central regions, and the anti-Islamist troops allied with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, who staged the parliament attack in a struggle against the Islamist-dominated house, blaming it for empowering Islamic extremists. By Essam Mohamed and Maamoun Youssef. SENT: 610 words, photos.


LONDON -- The board of AstraZeneca rejects the improved $119 billion takeover offer from U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, a decision that leads to a sharp slide in the British company's share price as investors think it effectively brings an end to the protracted and increasingly bitter takeover saga. By Gregory Katz and Linda A. Johnson. SENT: 1,000 words, photo.


ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkish news reports say sensors pointed to high levels of toxic gas inside a coal mine days before Turkey's worst mining disaster, but company officials took no action. On Monday, prosecutors formally arrested two more people over the fire in the mine in the western town of Soma that killed 301, raising the number of suspects facing charges of negligent death to five. By Berza Simsek and Suzan Fraser. SENT: 320 words, photo.


BEIRUT -- He began as a local hero on the soccer field, playing for the most popular team of his home city Homs and rising toward national stardom across Syria. But when the uprising against President Bashar Assad began, Abdelbasit Sarout left all of it to lead peaceful protests, rallying thousands to demand Assad leave power. Sarout's path traces the arc of Syria's conflict, which has spiraled into an all-out civil war that has laid waste to large parts of the country, killed more than 150,000 and driven more than a third of the population from their homes. By Barbara Surk. SENT: 1,300 words, photos.


WASHINGTON -- While the U.S. economy has improved since the end of the recession five years ago, substantial numbers of the new jobs are being filled by part-time and contract workers. Economists predict contract workers will play an even larger role in the years ahead. They range from janitors, security officers, home-care and food-service workers to computer programmers, freelance photographers and illustrators. By Tom Raum. SENT: 700 words, photo.


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is drawing attention to foreign investments in the United States, convening business leaders at the White House this week to advertise success stories in the face of continuing public anxieties over the economy. Yet as he promotes the influx of overseas cash, his administration and key members of Congress are also fretting over dozens of U.S. companies heading in the other direction. By Jim Kuhnhenn. SENT: 720 words, photo.


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Same-sex marriages could begin in Oregon as soon as Monday afternoon, depending on a judge's ruling. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane says he'll issue his ruling at noon on a constitutional challenge to the state's gay-marriage ban. Officials in the state's largest county, Multnomah, say they'll begin issuing marriage licenses immediately if his ruling allows it. By Jonathan J. Cooper. SENT: 340 words, photos, interactive.


The King of Pop and a likely successor, Justin Timberlake, rule the Billboard Music Awards -- though Michael Jackson makes a splash via hologram and Timberlake accepts his awards via video from overseas while on tour. By Mesfin Fekadu. SENT: 450 words, photos.


-- OBIT-JERRY VALE -- 1950s crooner Jerry Vale dies at his California home at age 83. SENT: 120 words, photo.

-- BOX OFFICE -- "Godzilla" stomps to $93 million debut, making it largest May opening for Warner Bros. SENT: 800 words, photos.

-- OBIT-BRABHAM -- Three-time Formula One champion and race car pioneer Jack Brabham dies at age 88. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.


YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is David Thurber. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at

The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.

Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.