Top Asian News 4:43 a.m. GMT

BANGKOK (AP) — When Prayuth Chan-Ocha seized control of Thailand in a military coup, he vigorously denounced politicians as responsible for the country's ills and positioned himself and his fellow generals as the cure. Four years on, with many of the country's problems still festering and the public growing impatient for long-delayed elections, the junta leader made a declaration that for many seemed to confirm suspicions that he planned to stay in power long past any polls. "I am no longer a soldier. Understand? I'm just a politician who used to be a soldier," the 63-year-old former-army-chief-turned-prime-minister told reporters at the turn of the year, adding, "But I still have a soldier's traits." The world's only nation still under formal military rule, Thailand is under increasing pressure both at home and abroad to return to civilian governance.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Officials from the two Koreas met Monday to work out details about North Korea's plan to send an art troupe to the South during next month's Winter Olympics, as the rivals tried to follow up on the North's recent agreement to cooperate in the Games in a conciliatory gesture following months of nuclear tensions. In a development that still shows their bitter animosities, the North issued a veiled threat on Sunday indicating it could cancel its plans to send an Olympic delegation to protest what it called South Korea's "sordid acts of chilling" the prospect for inter-Korean reconciliation.

LEGAZPI, Philippines (AP) — More than 9,000 people have evacuated the area around the Philippines' most active volcano as lava flows down its crater in a gentle eruption that scientists are warning could turn explosive. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology increased the alert level for Mount Mayon late Sunday to three on a scale of five, indicating an increased tendency toward a hazardous eruption. Institute head Renato Solidum said lava flowed at least half a kilometer (less than half a mile) down a gulley from the crater and on Monday morning, ash clouds appeared mid-slope. Molten rocks and lava at Mayon's crater lit the night sky Sunday despite thick clouds, sending thousands of residents into evacuation shelters.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media say a pool of oil from a sunken tanker is burning in the East China Sea. Footage shown by state broadcaster CCTV at noon Monday showed huge clouds of thick acrid smoke rising from the oil slick. Just three bodies from the Iranian tanker's crew of 30 Iranians and two Bangladeshis were recovered. The cause of the Jan. 6 collision between the Sanchi and the Chinese freighter CF Crystal, 257 kilometers (160 miles) east of Shanghai, remains unclear. All 21 members of the freighter's crew were reported safe. The Sanchi was rocked by a large explosion around noon on Sunday and sank shortly afterward.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived Sunday for his first visit to India to expand defense, trade and energy ties. During his six-day stay the two countries are expected to sign agreements on cybersecurity, energy and space cooperation and film production, India's External Affairs Ministry said. They're also expected to review progress in implementing agreements on cooperation in technology, water and agriculture that were signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel last year, the first by an Indian prime minister to Israel. Before leaving for India, Netanyahu told reporters in Israel that the trip "serves our security, economic, trade and tourism interests, as well as many other areas." "We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power," he said.

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Russia in mind, the Trump administration is aiming to develop new nuclear firepower that it says will make it easier to deter threats to European allies. The plan, not yet approved by President Donald Trump, is intended to make nuclear conflict less likely. Critics argue it would do the opposite. The proposal is spelled out in a policy document, known officially as a "nuclear posture review," that puts the U.S. in a generally more aggressive nuclear stance. It is the first review of its kind since 2010 and is among several studies of security strategy undertaken since Trump took office.

BANGKOK (AP) — Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called the military's investigation into the deaths of Rohingya Muslims found in a mass grave a "positive indication," state media reported Saturday. The military, which has been accused of indiscriminate killings, rape and burning of Rohingya villages, acknowledged that security forces and villagers were responsible for the deaths of 10 people found in a mass grave in December. It said the 10 were "Bengali terrorists" who had threatened villagers, but that the military would "take action" against those who "broke the rules of engagement." The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not acknowledge Royingya as a minority group even though they have lived in the country for generations.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — President Donald Trump's vulgar insult of Africa was a puzzle for many foreign media organizations, which didn't have a ready translation of his epithet for their readers or listeners. Their answers ranged from "dirty" to, well, dirtier. While meeting with senators on immigration, Trump questioned why the United States would accept more immigrants from Haiti and "shithole countries" in Africa, according to one participant and people briefed on the conversation. His comments Thursday revived racism accusations against Trump, roiled immigration talks and set off international outrage that left some foreign journalists wondering how to express the offending word.

BERLIN (AP) — Airbus says it is in talks with German prosecutors to end their investigation into alleged irregularities in the sale of combat aircraft to Austria. The aviation and defense company says that "once concluded, Airbus will disclose the result." The company described as "pure speculation" a report late Saturday by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Airbus might avoid going to trial by paying a fine of 70-80 million euros ($85-97 million). Munich prosecutors are investigating whether bribes were paid to secure the sale of 15 used Eurofighter Typhoon planes to Austria in 2003. Separately, Airbus said it has been notified of an arbitration ruling in a case involving subsidiary Matra Defense, ordering it to pay 104 million euros for breach of contract in the 1992 sale of missiles to Taiwan.

NEW DELHI (AP) — A ferry boat carrying mostly teenage schoolchildren sank in the Arabian Sea off India's western coast on Saturday, killing three students, police said. The police and the navy involved in the rescue operation said another 29 children were rescued after the incident off Dahanu, a town in Maharashtra state. All the students on the boat have been accounted for, said police officer V.J. Sankha. Earlier, the Press Trust of India news agency said that 32 children have been rescued during search operations using a plane, helicopters and some ships. It also said the schoolchildren were on a picnic when the accident occurred.

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