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North slams US censure on human rights
SEOUL:North Korea condemned US criticism of its human rights record as “ridiculous” as a diplomatic whirlwind accelerated ahead of leader Kim Jong Un’s summits with the South and with US President Donald Trump. In the latest sequence of messaging before Friday’s summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the Demilitarised Zone, Trump demanded the North give up its nuclear weapons − while describing its leader
 
 
China warns of more action after drills near Taiwan
BEIJING: A series of Chinese military drills near Taiwan were designed to send a clear message to the self-ruled island and China will take further steps if Taiwan independence forces persist in doing as they please, a government spokesman said on Wednesday. Over the past year or so, China has ramped up military drills around democratic Taiwan, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island. Last week
   
Taliban dismiss peace overtures as a ‘conspiracy’
KABUL: The Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive on Wednesday, dismissing an offer for peace talks by President Ashraf Ghani but pledging to focus on US forces in Afghanistan. The announcement of the Al Khandaq campaign, named after the so-called Battle of the Trench, marks the symbolic start of the fighting season. But heavy fighting has been going on in different parts of the country and hundreds of
 
 
Indonesia oil well explosion kills 15, dozens injured
BANDA ACEH: The death toll from an illegal oil well blaze in Indonesia has jumped to 15 with dozens injured, authorities said on Wednesday, warning that there could be more victims of the explosion. Images from the accident showed a towering flame shooting some 70 metres in the air above homes and palm trees dotting a small community in Sumatra island’s Aceh province. Firefighters on Wednesday afternoon were still battling the
   
Japan minister apologises after ‘yoga’ claims
TOKYO: Japan’s education minister apologised on Wednesday for using an official car to visit a yoga studio, but denied claims that the facility was offering “sexy private yoga.” The row is the latest headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which is already under fire after two cronyism scandals and sexual harassment claims against a top finance ministry bureaucrat. The Shukan Bunshun weekly magazine on Wednesday
 
 
Duterte closes island resort for six months
MANILA: The government is to officially close on Thursday the popular island resort of Boracay in Aklan province in the Visayas despite a last minute petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the order of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to prevent it from turning into a “cesspool.” Officials said they would implement Duterte’s shutdown order at exactly 12:01 am, or immediately after midnight on Thursday amid live
   
Beijing chokes in heavy dust as sandstorm blows in
BEIJING: Beijing’s air quality index (AQI) soared to hazardous levels on Wednesday as a sandstorm blew in from Inner Mongolia and smothered the Chinese capital and other parts of northern China in dust. China’s National Meteorological Center (NMC) issued a ‘blue’ sandstorm warning late on Tuesday. It is the lowest in China’s four-tier alert system, telling citizens in some northern regions to close doors and windows, wear scarves
 
 
‘No proof of rights groups’ ties with mafia’
MANILA: Law-enforcement agencies have found no evidence that human rights groups are being used by drug lords to discredit and even destabilise the Duterte administration over the unabated war on illegal drugs as alleged by two Malacanang Palace officials. This was admitted by Derrick Arnold Carreon, the spokesman of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Authority (PDEA) and Chief Superintendent John Bulalacao, his
   
SC throws out plea to oust Ombudsman
MANILA: The Supreme Court unanimously rejected for “lack of merit” a petition seeking the ouster of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the country’s chief graft-buster, allegedly for overstaying. Lawyer Theodoro Te, the SC spokesman, said the 14 members of the tribunal all voted to throw out two petitions seeking the ouster of Morales by declaring that her term of office had expired on Nov.30, 2012. Te told a media briefing the
 
 
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