Top Asian News at 3:00 a.m. GMT
(Associated Press Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) North Korea declares rocket launch a successSEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ North Korea fired a long-range rocket Wednesday morning in its second launch under its new leader, defying warnings from the U.N. and Washington only days before South Korean presidential elections. North Korea declared the launch of a rocket and satellite a success, and state television planned a special broadcast about the launch at noon (0300 GMT).
Tokyo protests North Korean rocket launchTOKYO (AP) _ Japan protested North Korea's launch of a rocket Wednesday and was convening its security council to analyze the situation but urging calm. Government spokesman Osamu Fujimura said the rocket was fired at 9:49 a.m. (0049GMT) and that debris landed in seas off the Korean Peninsula and the Philippines.
Chronology of NKorea's nuclear, missile programsDevelopments in North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs: _ Aug. 31, 1998: North Korea fires suspected missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, calling it a satellite.
Taliban popular where US fought biggest battleMARJAH, Afghanistan (AP) _ Nearly three years after U.S.-led forces launched the biggest operation of the war to clear insurgents, foster economic growth and set a model for the rest of Afghanistan, angry residents of Helmand province say they are too afraid to go out after dark because of marauding bands of thieves. And during the day, they say corrupt police and government officials bully them into paying bribes. After 11 years of war, many here long for a return of the Taliban. They say that under the Taliban, who routinely punished thieves by cutting off a hand, they were at least safe from crime and corruption.
Meeting delay a sign of cooling US-Vietnam tiesHANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ The U.S. and Vietnam, former enemies who share concerns about China's rise, are finding that one issue _ human rights _ is keeping them from becoming closer friends. Stress between the nations is clear from a delay in an annual meeting between Washington and Hanoi on human-rights concerns. Such consultations have been held every year since 2006, but the last ones in November 2011 produced little, and a senior State Department official said the two sides were still working to "set the parameters" of the next round so it would yield progress.
Crashes raise concern about Pakistani air forceISLAMABAD (AP) _ Over a dozen Pakistani air force planes have crashed in roughly the past 18 months, raising concerns about the health of an aging fleet that officials are struggling to upgrade because of a lack of funds. A significant number of the air force's combat aircraft are nearly half a century old and have been called on in recent years to help the army fight a domestic Taliban insurgency that has killed thousands of people. This has added to the strain on a force that has historically focused on countering the threat from Pakistan's neighbor and archenemy, India.
UN: Despite law, Afghan women still suffer abuseKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Afghan women are frequent victims of abuse, despite some success by authorities in prosecuting rape cases, forced marriages and domestic violence under a 3-year-old law, according to a report issued Tuesday by the United Nations. The report came out a day after gunmen shot and killed the head of the women's affairs department for eastern Laghman province. Afghan officials said Najia Sediqi, who took the job after her predecessor was killed in a bomb attack in July, was on her way to her office when she was shot dead.
Kazakh border guard convicted of killing comradesTALDYKORGAN, Kazakhstan (AP) _ The crime was grisly, the trial was bizarre and the defendant's confession was widely doubted _ but border guard Vladislav Chelakh was convicted Tuesday of killing 14 of his comrades along with a park ranger and sentenced to life in prison. On the surface, the case against Chelakh appeared strong. Days after the killings in May at a remote outpost along the Chinese border, Chelakh was found hiding in a cave, wearing civilian clothes and carrying a pistol. Authorities said Chelakh soon confessed.
iSolated: Bad Apple Maps directions lead to desertSYDNEY (AP) _ The city of Mildura is not at the end of a dirt road in the Australian bush, in tire-choking desert sand far from food and water. Unfortunately, Apple's much-maligned mapping application thinks it is. More than two months after Apple's CEO apologized for errors in its Maps service, Australian police say the app is "potentially life threatening" because of the bad directions it has given to the southern city. On Tuesday, a police official said Apple had "sort of half-fixed" the problem.
Experts: Station's royal hoax call may be illegalSYDNEY (AP) _ The Australian radio station behind a hoax phone call to the London hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was being treated could face criminal charges for airing the conversation, legal experts said Tuesday. Last week's prank was widely condemned days after it aired, after the still-unexplained death of a nurse who answered the phone and helped two DJs get confidential information about the former Kate Middleton's health. But when it comes to a potential criminal case, the question is not about the death; it's whether a private conversation was broadcast without the permission of the participants.
Baby among 7 dead in southern Thailand attacksPATTANI, Thailand (AP) _ A baby girl was among seven people killed Tuesday by suspected Islamist separatists, police said, as a nearly 9-year-old insurgency in southern Thailand that has killed thousands of people shows no signs of letting up. Five people were killed and another four wounded in a drive-by shooting at a tea shop in Narathiwat province's Ra-ngae district, said local police chief Col. Jiradej Prasawang. The dead included 11-month-old Efahni Samoh, while the wounded included a 10-month-old boy, Muhammad Yaena.
US: Afghans resisting efforts to track cash exodusKABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ A U.S. watchdog agency said Tuesday that Afghan officials were resisting U.S. efforts to help track billions of dollars being flown out of Kabul airport every year, some likely linked to crime and drugs. The U.S. and other nations have long expressed concern about the amount of cash being flown out of the country _ an estimated $4.5 billion last year, according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service. Afghanistan has a cash-based economy and moving large bundles of cash is common, yet it raises the risk of money laundering and cash smuggling to finance terrorist, narcotics and other illicit activities.
Bangladesh war crimes judge resignsDHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ The presiding judge of a Bangladeshi war crimes tribunal resigned Tuesday amid criticism of his conduct. Mohammed Nizamul Huq cited personal reasons and said he had sent a resignation letter to the law ministry.
Mine protesters in Myanmar freed on bailYANGON, Myanmar (AP) _ Eight demonstrators arrested for peacefully protesting in Myanmar's largest city against a mining project have been freed on bail. Aung Thein, the lawyer for two of the activists arrested in the last week of November, says all eight were freed Tuesday but face trial Dec. 24 on charges of inciting unrest. They were originally denied bail on the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment.
US defends $1.9B deal with British banking giantNEW YORK (AP) _ American authorities on Tuesday cited "astonishing" dysfunction at the British bank HSBC and said that it had helped Mexican drug traffickers, Iran, Libya and others under U.S. suspicion or sanction to move money around the world. HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion, the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank.
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