WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pointing toward possible confrontation, Donald Trump's selection for secretary of state likened Beijing's island-building in the South China Sea to a takeover of another country's territory and spoke of forcing Beijing to fully apply sanctions on North Korea. China will likely be alarmed by former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing remarks on Wednesday. While they focused largely on Russia, reflecting Tillerson's past relationship with its President Vladimir Putin and allegations of Russian hacking into the U.S. election, his testimony on China presented a sharp change in tone from the Obama administration's focus on cooperation.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he will announce soon whether he will run for South Korea's presidency, as he returned home and strongly hinted at his political ambitions before hundreds of cheering supporters. Ban's return will likely heat up local politics as he's considered the only major conservative contender in a possible early election to replace impeached President Park Geun-hye. Dozens of lawmakers have already bolted from Park's conservative ruling party and want to align with Ban, while the main liberal opposition party is escalating its political offensive against him. "Many people have asked me whether I have a will for power.
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's No. 2 government official said Thursday that she was resigning to prepare for a leadership bid for the southern Chinese city's top job. Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said she tendered her resignation to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and asked him to submit it to Beijing for approval. Lam, 59, is the third person to announce plans to join the contest for the job of leading the former British colony, the scene of increasingly bitter political divisions between pro-democracy activists and Beijing loyalists. "There's only one reason for me to resign at this juncture and that is, if my resignation is approved by the central people's government, I intend to prepare to contest in the upcoming chief executive election," Lam said she wrote in her letter.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military in Afghanistan said on Thursday that its investigation into a November firefight with the Taliban in northern Kunduz province has shown that 33 civilians died in the raid during which U.S. troops fired on Afghan homes. The probe followed claims that civilian deaths resulted from airstrikes called in to support Afghan and U.S. forces who came under fire in the province's village of Buz-e Kandahari, which targeted two senior Taliban commanders. The two Taliban figures, responsible for violence in Kunduz the previous month, were killed in the operation. According to a U.S. military statement, the investigation "determined, regretfully, that 33 civilians were killed and 27 wounded" as troops responded to fire from "Taliban who were using civilian houses as firing positions." After the raid, Kunduz residents carried over a dozen corpses of the dead, including children and family members of the Taliban fighters, toward a local governor's office in a show of rage.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban released a video Wednesday showing an American and an Australian who were kidnapped in August, the first time they have been seen since their abduction. The two men, an American identified as Kevin King and an Australian identified as Timothy Weekes, were abducted outside the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, where they worked as teachers. U.S. officials said in September that American forces had launched a rescue mission, but the captives weren't at the raided location. In the video, sent to media by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the pair appears pale and unshaven. They say they are speaking on Jan.
MADRID (AP) — Madrid's zoo has named its latest baby panda Chulina, meaning Cutey. The name pays homage to Chulin, the first panda born at the zoo 34 years ago. The nearly 5-month-old female is the fifth panda to be born at Madrid's zoo. Its name also refers to bamboo, which pandas eat, in Chinese. Chulina was conceived naturally by two adult pandas the Madrid zoo has rented from Chinese authorities since 2007. She is the first female panda to be born at the zoo. The panda was considered to be in danger of extinction but there are now 1,864 pandas in their natural habitat in China.
MASSILLON, Ohio (AP) — The father of a 5-year-old Ohio girl whose mother is charged with murder in their daughter's death told authorities in a 911 call released Thursday that he couldn't find his daughter and that she had been asleep the last time she was seen. Authorities said the call from Liang Zhao was made Monday, a day before police found the body of Ashley Zhao hidden in the family's restaurant in North Canton after a daylong search. Jackson Township police haven't provided details on how she was hidden. "I need some help," Zhao, 34, told a police dispatcher in the 911 call.
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday pledged $8.7 billion worth of business opportunities and private investments along with speedboats and other counterterrorism equipment to the Philippines, whose president has boosted ties with China. Following talks with President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila, Abe welcomed the Philippine leader's efforts to improve Manila's ties with Beijing "in light of the arbitral award," referring to the Philippines' victory in an arbitration ruling declaring China's claims to the South China Sea invalid. China has refused to recognize the July 12 arbitration decision and has warned the United States and other countries not involved in the territorial row not to meddle in the disputes, which Beijing wants to be settled through one-on-one negotiations with other rival claimant countries like the Philippines.
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — The Bangladesh cafe besieged by militants who killed 20 hostages last year has quietly reopened a few blocks away from its old, bloodied site, which remains taped off by investigating police. For Shahriar Ahmed and the 16 other staffers, some of whom were working during the horrifying siege, the reopening of Holey Artisan Bakery represents hope and a new beginning. "This is beautiful to come back here with all my dearest colleagues," Ahmed said while preparing a cappuccino for a customer on Thursday. "Our old, familiar guests are coming and congratulating us, congratulating from their hearts." The July 1 attack by five young Bangladeshi extremists stunned the nation and drew condemnation from abroad.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani court on Thursday stayed the execution of a mentally ill convict who was sentenced to death in 2003 for murdering a fellow police officer over a land dispute, a rights group said. The order from the Lahore High Court came just days before the scheduled execution of 55-year-old ex-police officer Khizar Hayat, said Wassam Waheed, a spokesman for the Justice Project Pakistan. The court order also asked the government to provide a new report on the convicted man's health by Jan. 30, said Waheed, adding that the group was "relieved to hear" of the temporary reprieve.