TOKYO (AP) — Japan's ruling party approved a change in party rules Sunday that could pave the way for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to become the country's longest-serving leader in the post-World War II era. It is a remarkable turnaround for Abe, who lasted only a year during an earlier stint as prime minister, and in a country that had six prime ministers in the six years before Abe returned to office in December 2012. Analysts say that Japan's 62-year-old leader learned from his first term in office, when he focused on divisive issues such as constitutional revision and patriotic education that contributed to his early downfall.
BEIJING (AP) — China's top economic official trimmed its growth target and warned Sunday of dangers from global pressure for trade controls, as Beijing tries to build a consumer-driven economy and reduce reliance on exports and investment. In a speech to the national legislature, Premier Li Keqiang Li promised more steps to cut surplus steel production that is straining trade relations with Washington and Europe. He pledged equal treatment for foreign companies, apparently responding to complaints Beijing is trying to squeeze them out of technology and other promising markets. Li's report set the growth target for the world's second-largest economy at "around 6.5 percent or higher, if possible." That's down from 6.7 percent expansion last year but, if achieved, would be among the strongest globally, reflecting confidence that efforts to create new industries are gaining traction.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia said it expelled North Korea's ambassador on Saturday for refusing to apologize for his strong accusations over Malaysia's handling of the investigation into the killing of the North Korean leader's half brother. Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said a notice was sent to the North Korean Embassy at around 6 p.m. declaring Ambassador Kang Chol persona non grata. The notice said Kang must leave Malaysia within 48 hours. Earlier in the week, Malaysia demanded that North Korea formally apologize for Kang's accusations over the investigation into the Feb. 13 killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport, including that "the Malaysian government had something to hide and that Malaysia has colluded with outside powers to defame" North Korea, Anifah said in a statement.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — Sushi in Pyongyang? At a restaurant run by a Japanese sushi chef famous for working for North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il? Kenji Fujimoto has opened his sushi restaurant in the North Korean capital, according to Canadian Michael Spavor, a consultant with a long record of working in the communist state. He was involved with NBA star Denis Rodman's trips to North Korea, and the two spent days with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father after his death in 2011. Spavor said he was introduced to Fujimoto just last year, when he learnt about the chef's plans to open a restaurant in Pyongyang and tried to track it down early this year.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — North Korean weapons barred by U.N. sanctions ended up in the hands of U.N. peacekeepers in Africa, a confidential report says. That incident and others in more than a half-dozen African nations show how North Korea, despite facing its toughest sanctions in decades, continues to avoid them on the world's most impoverished continent with few repercussions. The annual report by a U.N. panel of experts on North Korea, obtained by The Associated Press, illustrates how Pyongyang evades sanctions imposed for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to cooperate "on a large scale," including military training and construction, in countries from Angola to Uganda.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ An outcast from North Korea's ruling family was killed with a weapon believed to belong to North Korea's chemical arsenal and several North Koreans are wanted for questioning. But with Malaysia deporting the only North Korean it detained in the airport assassination of Kim Jong Nam, many in South Korea see the secretive, dictatorial regime in Pyongyang escaping punishment for another mysterious killing. The government in Seoul and human rights groups say Pyongyang has for decades acted to silence its perceived enemies, sending assassins after South Korean government officials, North Korean defectors and anti-Pyongyang activists.
MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani police have found body of a man in the central city of Multan with chained feet, tied hands, and wearing a Guantanamo-style orange jumpsuit. Police officer Gul Mohammad said Saturday that the body found near a state-owned television station with gunshot wounds to the head. The body was identified as that of Azhar Jilani, who was abducted in June 2014. A message reading "Daesh Pakistan" was scrawled on the back of the victim's jumpsuit — using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. The message accused the victim of being an "agent." Pakistani officials and politicians have mostly depicted IS presence in the country as negligible, but the group has repeatedly claimed responsibility for terrorist attacks including one at a Sufi shrine last month that killed 88 people.
BEIJING (AP) — A senior Chinese government adviser has warned that the country's internet censorship is hampering scientific research and economic development, in a rare public criticism of a sensitive policy that the government has vigorously defended. Slow access to overseas academic websites have forced domestic researchers to buy software to circumvent China's site-blocking firewall, or even travel overseas to conduct research, Luo Fuhe, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told reporters in Beijing. He described the lengths that Chinese researchers go to simply carry out their work as "not normal." Luo's remarks, reported by state media, came as national leaders and thousands of appointed representatives are gathering in Beijing for the national legislature's annual session.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged Sunday to make the country's skies blue again and "work faster" to address pollution caused by coal burning. His words to delegates at the opening of the annual National People's Congress highlight how public discontent has made reducing smog, the most visible of China's environment problems, a priority for the leadership. In a report to China's ceremonial legislature, Li said that "people are desperately hoping for" faster progress to improve air quality. "We will make our skies blue again," he declared to almost 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People. He said the government intends over the next year to step up work to upgrade coal-fired power plants to achieve ultra-low emissions and energy conservation, and prioritize the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid.
BEIJING (AP) — China will raise its defense budget by about 7 percent this year, a government spokeswoman said Saturday, continuing a trend of lowered growth amid a slowing economy despite regional tensions over the South China Sea and other issues. Total defense spending would account for about 1.3 percent of projected gross domestic project in 2017, said Fu Ying, spokeswoman for the legislature. She was speaking at a news conference on the eve of the opening of the body's annual session. The precise figure will be provided by Premier Li Keqiang in his address to the National People's Congress on Sunday morning.