SYDNEY (AP) - More than two months after President Donald Trump got into a spat with the leader of Australia, Vice President Mike Pence will be working to smooth over any lingering hard feelings. Pence will meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday as part of his 10-day, four-country trip to Asia. 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 Pacific Rim. "Partly, you could call it a diplomatic clean-up mission," said Michael Auslin of the American Enterprise Institute, an analyst on Asian security issues.
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.
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 visited a Philippine-occupied island in the South China Sea on Friday 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 to the island Filipinos call Pag-asa will likely infuriate China, which has claimed virtually the entire sea and aggressively tried to fortify its foothold, to the consternation of rival claimant governments and the United States. President Rodrigo Duterte has said China dissuaded him from flying to the island, also known internationally as Thitu, to raise his country's flag when the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day on June 12.
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.
U.S. and Indonesian companies are signing 11 commercial and investment agreements during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's visit to Jakarta that the two governments say are worth a combined $10 billion over time. The deals include Lockheed Martin providing an advanced weapons targeting system for Indonesia's F-16 fighter jets, ExxonMobil selling 1 million tons of liquid natural gas to state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina for 20 years starting in 2025, Honeywell supplying turboprop engines to Indonesian aerospace company Dirgantara, and a $2 billion electricity metering system organized by a consortium of companies. Pence told business leaders Friday the signings represent the "tremendous excitement" that U.S.
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.
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.