JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Southeast Asia, a focus of past U.S. presidents, has been overlooked thus far for the Trump administration, but Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Indonesia Thursday marked a sign of change and he announced the president would follow him to the region later this year. Anxious Southeast Asian governments are looking for America's commitment to counter China's economic and military clout. Vietnam's foreign minister is in Washington this week, and the top diplomats of the region's 10-nation bloc are expected to arrive en masse in early May, amid concerns their interests were being crowded out as President Donald Trump prioritizes Mideast counterterrorism, traditional alliances in Europe and North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.
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 Taehoon Lim, 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.
BEIJING (AP) — Kerry Yang speaks openly to foreigners about the bouts of depression that have haunted her for a decade — her emotional meltdowns in college, the bruises she inflicted upon her body as a coping mechanism, her initial unsuccessful attempts at treatment. Yet despite such candor, the 30-year-old public relations consultant from Beijing often can't bring herself to discuss her problems with her fellow Chinese, including members of her own family. "There's a saying in China that if you display your emotions, you display weakness," Yang said. Depression as an illness went widely unacknowledged for decades in China, even as the brutalities of the Cultural Revolution and, more recently, frenetic economic growth left emotional scars.
PAG-ASA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine defense secretary and military chief of staff are visiting a Philippine-occupied island in the South China Sea to assert the country's claim to the heartland of a disputed area where China is believed to have added missiles on man-made islands. The trip led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on an air force C-130 aircraft Friday to the island Filipinos call Pag-asa will likely infuriate China. Beijing claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has aggressively tried to fortify its claims to the consternation of rivals. It has cemented its foothold with seven artificial islands now feared to have surface-to-air missiles.
BEIJING (AP) — China's foreign minister recently likened the U.S. and North Korea to two speeding trains hurtling toward each other, an analogy that would seem to place China in the role of helpless bystander. And indeed, while tensions have risen, Beijing has been frustrated by its declining influence over the Korean Peninsula. China "has a grandstand seat but no control," said University of Virginia China scholar Brantly Womack. The U.S. is piling the pressure on Beijing to use its clout with North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs. China is the North's most important trading partner and ally, but Pyongyang has ignored Beijing's calls for a suspension of those programs and its requests for high-level bilateral talks.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence says President Donald Trump will be attending a summit with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in the Philippines in November. Pence says Trump will also attend the East Asia Summit that follows the regional meetings in the Philippines that same month. Pence is announcing the presidential trip after meeting in Jakarta with ASEAN officials. Pence also met with a group of young people who are involved with the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. Trump is also expected to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam in November.
BEIJING (AP) — China on Thursday launched its first unmanned cargo spacecraft on a mission to dock with the country's space station, marking further progress in the ambitious Chinese space program. The Tianzhou 1 blasted off at 7:41 p.m. (1141 GMT) atop a latest-generation Long March 7 rocket from China's newest spacecraft launch site, Wenchang, on the island province of Hainan. Minutes later, as the spacecraft cleared the atmosphere, the mission was declared a success by administrators at ground control on the outskirts of Beijing. It is programmed to conduct scientific experiments after reaching the now-crewless Tiangong 2, China's second space station.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan's return of a Chinese asylum seeker this week is a likely bid by President Tsai Ing-wen to stabilize relations with Beijing that have been in sharp decline since her election last year, analysts said Thursday. Officials in Taipei said Chinese national Zhang Xiangzhong lacked legal grounds to stay in Taiwan after breaking away from his tour group on April 13. The 48-year-old civil rights activist had sought political refugee status in Taiwan, but flew back to China after agreeing that would be the best solution. With dialogue between the two governments suspended by Beijing, analysts said that Tsai's administration may hope China sees Zhang's return as a goodwill gesture and responds in kind.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The mayor of Vietnam's capital on Thursday urged villagers engaged in a land dispute with authorities to release the remaining 20 police and officials they've been holding since the weekend. The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted Nguyen Duc Chung as telling local officials to persuade the residents to remove barricades erected around Dong Tam village in My Duc District on the outskirts of Hanoi. The standoff began Saturday when police clashed with villagers who say their farmland was taken illegally for sale by a military-run telecoms firm. Nine villagers were arrested for disturbing public order but were later released.
NAKON PATHOM, Thailand (AP) — In a large workshop about an hour west of the Thai capital, fans ease the stultifying heat beating down on artisans hard at work fashioning ornate articles, large and small, to be used at the cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (POO-mee-pon AH-dun-yaa-det). The work — weaving embroideries, restoring artifacts and making sculptures, all in the royal style — is overseen by the Culture Ministry's Department of Fine Arts, but around 100 volunteers have signed up to help the experts, demonstrating their devotion to the beloved monarch. Thailand's military government has allocated 1 billion baht ($28.6 million) for the funeral of Bhumibol, who died Oct.