SYDNEY (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence sought to reassure Australia on Saturday that the U.S. remains committed to the countries' longtime alliance, as he tried to patch up relations that were left frayed when President Donald Trump got into a spat with Australia's leader over a refugee resettlement deal. Pence met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and other Australian leaders in Sydney as part of his 10-day, four-country trip to the Pacific Rim. His agenda includes reassuring Turnbull about the state of the unusually strained U.S.-Australia alliance and laying out the new administration's priorities for the region. "I bring greetings this morning from the President of the United States," Pence told Turnbull and other Australian officials ahead of their meeting.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull are joining forces in urging China to do more to pressure North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program. Turnbull said at a joint news conference with Pence in Sydney on Saturday that China has the opportunity and "responsibility" to use its economic leverage to force China into compliance. He said the "eyes of the world are on Beijing." Pence added that "all options" remain on the table but the U.S. is "quietly confident" that China will pressure North Korea on its weapons program.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Car users in Pyongyang are scrambling to fill up their tanks as gas stations begin limiting services or even closing amid concerns of a spreading shortage. A sign outside one station in the North Korean capital said Friday that sales were being restricted to diplomats or vehicles used by international organizations, while others were closed or turning away local residents. Lines at other stations were much longer than usual and prices appeared to be rising significantly. The cause of the restrictions or how long they might last were not immediately known. North Korea relies heavily on China for its fuel supply and Beijing has reportedly been tightening its enforcement of international sanctions aimed at getting Pyongyang to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump's apparently offhand comment after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping — that "Korea actually used to be a part of China" — has enraged many South Koreans. The historically inaccurate sentence from a Wall Street Journal interview bumps up against a raft of historical and political sensitivities in a country where many have long feared Chinese designs on the Korean Peninsula. It also feeds neatly into longstanding worries about Seoul's shrinking role in dealing with its nuclear-armed rival, North Korea. Ahn Hong-seok, a 22-year-old college student, said that if Trump "is a person capable of becoming a president, I think he should not distort the precious history of another country." Many here assume that Xi fed that ahistorical nugget to Trump, who also admitted that after 10 minutes listening to Xi, he realized that Beijing's influence over North Korea was much less than he had thought.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Analysis of a genuine Boeing 777 wing flap has reaffirmed experts' opinion that a missing Malaysian airliner most likely crashed north of an abandoned search area in the Indian Ocean, officials said Friday. The $160 million search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 ended in January after a deep-sea sonar scan of 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) of ocean floor southwest of Australia failed to find any trace of the Boeing 777 that vanished with 239 people aboard on March 8, 2014. But research has continued in an effort to refine a possible new search. Australian government oceanographers had obtained a wing flap of the same model as the original and studied how that part drifted in the ocean, the Australian Transport safety Bureau said in a statement.
PAG-ASA ISLAND, South China Sea (AP) — Chinese forces tried to drive away two Philippine planes carrying Manila's defense and military chiefs Friday near a Chinese man-made island, officials said, adding they admired seeing up close the stunning city-like features, including buildings, roads and a runway in the South China Sea's hotly contested region. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the aircraft continued uninterrupted after Filipino pilots messaged back to the Chinese that they were flying over Philippine territory. The Chinese warned the Philippine aircraft they were entering the periphery of Chinese installations and told to avoid miscalculation. The aircraft that took Lorenzana, military chief of staff Gen.
NEW DELHI (AP) — At least 14 people were killed in a fire Friday that engulfed a store selling kerosene, which is used in India for cooking fuel, authorities said. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh state's top elected official, confirmed that the blaze broke out in central India's Chhindwara district. The area is nearly 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of New Delhi. The Times of India newspaper reported that about 25 people were inside the shop when the fire started and that more were lined up outside to purchase fuel and food. At least three people suffered burns and were hospitalized, the newspaper reported.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A watchdog group says South Korea's army is hunting down and prosecuting gay servicemen after a video of two male soldiers having sex was posted on the internet earlier this year, stoking fear in an already persecuted minority group. Military investigators looking into the case have threatened soldiers to out their gay peers, confiscated cellphones to check communication records, and even used dating apps to dupe soldiers into revealing their sexual identity, said Lim Tae-hoon, the head of the Military Human Rights Center for Korea, which tracks down abuses in the armed forces. South Korea's army says it's conducting a proper criminal investigation into soldiers allegedly involved with filming and uploading the video, which is a violation of the country's communications laws and a military penal code that makes homosexual activity punishable by up to two years in prison.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A man from the Netherlands was formally charged in a Cambodian court for taking nude photos of boys and possessing at least 1,300 pornographic pictures. Evrard Nicolas Sarot, 53, has been detained on child pornography charges, Siem Reap provincial court spokesman Yim Srang said Friday. Production of child pornography is punishable by 5-10 years in prison, while the sentence for its sale or distribution is 10-20 years. The court's action came after Sarot was arrested Tuesday in the northwestern province, home to the famous Angkor Wat temples, while photographing naked boys aged 11-15 years whom he had allegedly paid to strike erotic poses.
TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese government panel on Friday endorsed Emperor Akihito's apparent desire to abdicate as an exception, but avoided a key question of succession amid a declining royal population. The six-member advisory panel in its final report proposed allowing Akihito to abdicate under legislation that would be specially drafted only for him, to prevent future emperors from easily following suit. The report detailed procedures such as the title, status and roles for an abdicated emperor and his heir, but avoided divisive issues such as whether women should be included in the current male-only succession amid concerns about the shrinking royal population, including successors to the throne.