Top Asian News 3:08 a.m. GMT

Top Asian News 3:08 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — An all-female band formed by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un canceled its concerts in Beijing & abruptly left the Chinese capital due to unspecified communication issues, possibly further cooling relations between the traditional allies. The Moranbong Band had been scheduled to hold three concerts in Beijing beginning Saturday night in what was viewed as a visit to cultivate ties between the countries. The performance "cannot be staged as scheduled due to communication issues at the working level," the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing a news release from unnamed "relevant departments." Band members arrived at Beijing's airport in North Korean Embassy vehicles on Saturday afternoon, & departed aboard a North Korean Air Koryo jet shortly after 4 p.m.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Two cities. Two very polluted cities. And two very different ways of dealing with twin public health crises. When Beijing's air was forecast to reach hazardous levels for three straight days earlier in December, the government issued a smog red alert. The result: Half the city's cars were off the roads within hours, schools were closed & construction sites shut down. Less than three days later, pollution levels had dropped by 30 percent. When New Delhi's winter air grew so offensive that a high court warned that "it seems like we are living in a gas chamber," the city's top official declared that cars would be restricted starting Jan.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Two days of high-level talks between North & South Korea ended Saturday with no breakthroughs, South Korean officials said, leaving mixed signals approximately reconciliation efforts the rivals have made since stepping away from a military standoff in August. The meeting of vice-ministerial officials in the North Korean border town of Kaesong was not expected to produce any substantial results, yet it was still considered a sign that the rivals were working to keep alive an atmosphere of dialogue — something they've often failed to do in the wake of conflict. After the talks stretched into the evening on Saturday, as they had done on Friday, they ended without any statement from either side.

p>NEW DELHI (AP) — Japan & India signed agreements Saturday that could pave the way for Tokyo to supply New Delhi with military aircraft & high-speed trains, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to fully support India's efforts to become an economic powerhouse. The two countries moreover laid the groundwork for Japan to assist India further develop its nuclear power, with a final deal to be signed after technical details are finalized. Abe described the agreements, signed during his weekend visit to New Delhi, as a new era of cooperation between the two countries. "In September 2014 in Tokyo, Prime Minister Abe spoke of $35 billion of Japanese finance & investments for India over five years," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a news conference with Abe.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Attackers entered the Spanish Embassy in Kabul after a deadly car bombing in a diplomatic neighborhood of the Afghan capital, engaging in an hour-long shootout with security forces while staff hid in bunkers, the Spanish government said Saturday in an account of the attack a day earlier. Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said four Afghan police officers & two others, including a foreigner, were killed in the attack that was claimed by the Taliban. Authorities in Madrid said two Spanish police officers were killed. The discrepancy could not immediately be clarified. According to a statement issued Saturday by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's office, a powerful car bomb exploded Friday evening near the embassy, "causing serious damage to the premises" & killing Deputy-Inspector Jorge Garcia Tudela & Isidro Gabino Sanmartin Hernandez who were guarding the compound.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report documenting human rights abuses in the northern city of Kunduz during the three days when it was overrun by the Taliban & the subsequent two-week government counter-offensive to completely retake the city. The report, released on Saturday, documents 289 deaths & 559 civilian injuries that occurred in Kunduz & the surrounding districts between Sept. 28 & Oct. 13. "The vast majority of casualties documented so far resulted from ground fighting that could not be attributed solely to one party," the report stated. Also Saturday, Doctors Without Borders announced an increased death toll from an accidental U.S.

BEIJING (AP) — China will loosen its stringent regulations on urban residency to allow more people to enjoy public services such as housing, education & health care beginning next year. Chinese citizens have for decades been limited in public services they can access by their household registration, known as a hukou ("who-co"). The problem is especially acute for the millions of migrant workers who are often forced to either leave their children in the countryside or place them in unregistered & often sub-standard schools in the city. While various cities have implemented incremental reforms, the move announced Saturday will relax the rules on a national basis & reduce opportunities for corruption & irregularities.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's military says it has achieved "phenomenal successes" in the war against terrorism by killing 3,400 "terrorists" since 2014, when it launched a major operation in a tribal region near Afghanistan. Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said in a statement Saturday that security forces are currently clearing out the "last pockets" of insurgents in the former militant stronghold of North Waziristan. Bajwa said the army lost 488 security personnel since June 2014 when it launched the operation there. The military has stepped up its fight against terrorism since the Dec. 16, 2014 attack on a school in Peshawar killed nearly 150 people, mostly children.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Pakistani woman's role as a shooter in the San Bernardino massacre is raising fears that foreign-born brides who support the Islamic State group could marry Americans to come to the U.S. to carry out extremist missions. Experts in jihad, immigration lawyers & former U.S. diplomats say there's no sign other foreign brides have sought Western marriages to launch attacks, & it's still not clear if 29-year-old Tashfeen Malik did so. But, they warn, that could change, especially if IS militants commence actively encouraging women to join men in attacks in the West. While the group currently bars women from taking up arms for combat or other attacks, its commanders are pragmatic & adaptable & could drop their ban at any time, security experts say.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — The president of Belarus has called on the leaders of Russia & Turkey to "find the strength" to compromise & overcome the crisis in their relations. Relations between Moscow & Ankara have been badly strained by the Nov. 24 downing of a Russian bomber by a Turkish jet along the Syrian border. Russia has introduced a slew of economic sanctions to punish Turkey. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was addressing a gathering of regional leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. Referring to tensions between Turkey & Russia, Lukashenko said: "If you make a mistake, you should acknowledge it & find the strength to make concessions & compromises to smooth over the situation." In his address Saturday, Erdogan made no reference to relations with Russia.

Source: “Associated Press”