SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and warned of "merciless strikes" against its enemies as allies Seoul and Washington launched annual military drills Pyongyang claims are preparation for a northward invasion. North Korea regularly conducts such test firings of missiles, rockets and artillery, and they are often timed to express the country's dissatisfaction with actions by Washington and Seoul. Monday was the start of military drills that will run until the end of April. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 460 words.
BEIJING -- Prince William presented China's president with a large envelope containing an invitation from the queen to visit Britain this year, as he began the first official visit to mainland China by a senior British royal in a generation. President Xi Jinping told the prince that he thanked Queen Elizabeth II for the invitation. "I look forward to meeting her majesty and other British leaders during the visit and to jointly plan out the future of Sino-British relations," Xi said during the meeting in the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's legislature. "The British royal family has great influence, not just in Britain but across the world." SENT: 640 words, photos.
FLIGHT 370 ANNIVERSARY-MALAYSIA TOURISM
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA -- Two airplane catastrophes put Malaysia on the map in a bad way in 2014. But it didn't hurt the country's tourism, and the higher visibility may even have helped: visitor numbers had their strongest growth in years. By Eileen Ng. UPCOMING: 900 words by 700 GMT, photos.
LETPADAN, Myanmar -- Truckloads of police have prevented hundreds of student protesters from marching to Myanmar's biggest city to push for educational reform. Students have been marching from Myanmar's second-largest city of Mandalay to Yangon, the old capital, since January, demanding changes to an education law that they say inhibits academic freedom. SENT: 130 words, photos.
HONG KONG -- Hong Kong police arrest nearly three dozen people after scuffles broke out in the latest protest against the growing influx of mainland Chinese shoppers. Police officers drew batons and used pepper spray on the crowds after the demonstration in a border town turned unruly. The protesters clashed with crowds of residents opposed to the event who taunted them along the route. By Kelvin Chan. SENT: 690 words, photos.
KATHMANDU, Nepal -- A Canadian tourist with several previous child sex convictions has been sentenced to seven years in prison in Nepal for sexually abusing a minor boy. SENT: 210 words.
BEIJING -- China's manufacturing activity improves in February for the first time in four months but export demand weakened, a survey released Monday showed. HSBC's manufacturing index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers rose to 50.7 from January's 49.7. It uses a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 show activity increasing. SENT.
US & INTERNATIONAL
MOSCOW -- For the tens of thousands bearing flowers and tying black ribbons to railings to honor slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, their solemn march through the Moscow drizzle was a time for silence, not political slogans. While Nemtsov's killing has shaken the Russian opposition, it is unclear whether it will be enough to invigorate the beleaguered and marginalized movement whose numbers have dwindled significantly in recent years. By Laura Mills. SENT: 1,000 words, photos, video.
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry tries to calm tensions with Israel before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's congressional address, yet insists the Obama administration's diplomatic record with Iran entitles the U.S. to "the benefit of the doubt" as negotiators work toward a long-term nuclear deal. By Bradley Klapper. SENT: 630 words, photos.
JIHADI JOHN UNMASKED
LONDON -- As "Jihadi John," he was a terrifying figure, his identity completely obscured by dark clothes and a black face mask, his threatening tone backed up by his oversize, serrated knife and his willingness to use it in the name of Islamic State militants. Now that he has been unmasked as Mohammed Emwazi, the tall man with the London accent is just one more well-educated, furious middle class jihadi. His unmasking may well have reduced his usefulness to the cause. By Gregory Katz. SENT: 900 words, photo.
-- IRAQ -- Iraq's prime minister calls on Sunni tribal fighters to abandon the Islamic State group, ahead of a promised offensive to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown from the extremists. SENT: 550 words.
-- ISLAMIC STATE -- Activists say Islamic State releases 19 Syrian Christians. SENT: 500 words, photos.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Sierra Leone's vice president puts himself in quarantine following the death from Ebola of one of his security guards, only hours before he was to become acting president while the current leader travels to Belgium for a conference on the disease. The news highlights the rise of new cases of the disease in Sierra Leone, as the death toll of this outbreak in West Africa approaches 10,000. By Clarence Roy-Macaulay. SENT: 530 words, photos.
BARLONYO, Uganda -- Eleven years after more than 120 civilians were slain in a Ugandan refugee camp, the International Criminal Court is preparing to try a senior insurgent commander for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But some survivors of the attack say Dominic Ongwen should be pardoned if he comes to Uganda to confess his crimes and seek forgiveness in a ritual ceremony. By Rodney Muhumuza. SENT: 1,350 words, photos.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA. By Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn. SENT: 500 words, photos.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Gaza residents fear growing isolation and more hardships after an Egyptian court declared the territory's ruling Hamas a terrorist organization. Some blamed Hamas while others said Egypt is being unreasonable. By Fares Akram. SENT: 500 words, photos.
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Conservative U.S. politicians banned from traveling to Venezuela by socialist President Nicolas Maduro are taking the restriction as a badge of honor. Maduro has laid out a series of measures against U.S. diplomats and tourists, including a promise to limit the size of the embassy here and impose a tourist visa requirement. By Hannah Dreier. SENT: 510 words, photos.
WASHINGTON -- For President Barack Obama, it's a week to invoke America's civil rights struggles from past to present. The nation's first black president plans a speech Saturday from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site of one of the movement's stirring moments, and will refocus on last year's fatal shooting by a white police officer of a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. By Nedra Pickler. SENT: 610 words, photo.
ALSO GETTING ATTENTION
-- FINLAND-EUROVISION-PUNK -- Four punk rockers with learning disabilities will compete for Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest. SENT: 100 words.
-- OLDEST MARRIED COUPLE -- A husband and wife thought to be one of the oldest married couples in New York celebrate their birthdays: He is 108 and his wife will be 104 in May. SENT: 100 words.
-- NIGERIA-BOKO HARAM -- Crowd kills girl suspected of wanting to be a suicide bomber in Nigeria. SENT: 400 words.
-- POLAR PLUNGE-CHICAGO -- Lady Gaga and Vince Vaughn plunge into the icy waters of Chicago's Lake Michigan at a fundraiser for Special Olympics. SENT: 130 words.
YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is Scott McDonald. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at email@example.com.
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