A powerful U.S. B-52 bomber flew low over South Korea on Sunday, a clear show of force from the United States as a Cold War-style standoff deepened between its ally Seoul and North Korea following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test. North Korea will read the fly-over of a bomber capable of delivering nuclear weapons — seen by an Associated Press photographer at Osan Air Base near Seoul — as a threat. Any hint of America’s nuclear power enrages Pyongyang, which links its own pursuit of atomic weapons to what it sees as past nuclear-backed moves by the United States to topple its authoritarian government.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The latest on North Korea’s announcement that it conducted a hydrogen bomb test last week (all times local): ___ 12:45 p.m. A U.S. B-52 bomber has returned to its base on the Pacific island of Guam after flying over South Korea following North Korea’s nuclear test. The U.S. military’s Pacific Command says in a statement that the bomber was joined by South Korean F-15 and U.S. F-16 fighters in the fly-over show of force. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander U.S. Pacific Command, says: “This was a demonstration of the ironclad U.S. commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan, and to the defense of the American homeland.” He adds: “North Korea’s nuclear test is a blatant violation of its international obligations.” ___ 12:15 p.m.
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — When North Korea claimed triumphantly that it had tested its first hydrogen bomb, it was roundly and predictably condemned by the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and India, countries estimated to possess a combined total of more than 15,000 nuclear warheads. Non-nuclear powers condemned the test, too, including Japan, the country that was on the receiving end of the only atomic bomb attack in history — the U.S. bombing that ended World War II in the Pacific in 1945. But while most of the world, East and West, agrees that no one wants North Korea to be an effectively functioning nuclear power, a question that can’t be escaped lurks behind the condemnation: How much right do nations have to tell other nations what to do?
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than a million Filipino Roman Catholic devotees jammed Manila’s streets Saturday for an annual procession of a centuries-old statue of Christ that was held under extra heavy security following the Paris attacks. About 5,000 police and soldiers were deployed to secure the daylong procession of the Black Nazarene in one of Asia’s largest religious festivals, although no specific threat was being monitored. The huge crowd reached more than a million by noon, Manila police Chief Superintendent Rolando Nana said. The raucous gathering is a security nightmare for the Philippines, a poor Southeast Asian country battling widespread crime nationwide and Muslim extremists in the south.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka’s government on Saturday began the process of drawing up a new constitution for the country aimed at eliminating causes that led to a quarter-century civil war. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed that Parliament be converted into a constituent assembly that will discuss and draft the new constitution. President Maithripala Sirisena, speaking in Parliament, said constitutions since Sri Lanka’s independence from Britain in 1948 have not focused on unifying different ethnic communities. Objections from the majority ethnic Sinhala community to power sharing deals with minority ethnic Tamils in the early years led to terrorism and war, he said.
BANGKOK (AP) — “You just need to be white to win.” A skin-whitening ad in Thailand featuring that slogan alongside a famous actress in blackface makeup sparked such outrage that the company pulled it Friday, just a day after releasing it. The retraction did little, however, to stem a debate the ad ignited about the regularity of racist advertisements in the Southeast Asian country. The online video campaign for a new product called “Snowz” starred porcelain-skinned Thai movie star Cris Horwang. In the ad, she talks about being an aging actress in a competitive industry as gentle piano music plays in the background.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives isn’t waiting for confirmation of North Korea’s hydrogen-bomb test claim before voting on legislation that expands sanctions on Pyongyang and specifically seeks to deny the hard currency lawmakers say it needs for its weapons programs. The legislation, which has broad bipartisan support and could be on the House floor as early as Tuesday, languished for nearly a year until North Korea announced two days ago that it had conducted a fourth nuclear test — this one detonating a thermonuclear device with huge destructive power. The announcement was greeted with doubt that North Korea had set off a hydrogen bomb, which would represent a significant and unexpected advance for the reclusive country’s limited nuclear arsenal.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the United States will hold talks in Islamabad on Monday aimed at reviving the Afghan peace process. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni said Saturday that the representatives will discuss a “roadmap for peace talks.” The talks were agreed upon during a visit to Kabul last month by Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif. Monday’s talks do not include the Taliban, who have been battling the U.S.-backed government for nearly 15 years and have recently stepped up their attacks. Talks with the Taliban have been on hold since July, when they collapsed after just one meeting following Afghanistan’s announcement that longtime Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar had been dead for more than two years.
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — A Pakistani police officer says a roadside bomb has killed two coast guards and wounded three others in the country’s southwest. Police officer Muhammad Sajid says the coast guard’s vehicle was struck Saturday in the Baluchistan province, which has long been the scene of a low-level separatist insurgency. Sajid says the explosion destroyed the vehicle and wounded all five guards. He says two of the guards died before reaching the hospital. Elsewhere in Baluchistan, armed motorcyclists gunned down two policemen who were guarding a mosque in the provincial capital, Quetta. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister said on Saturday he will discuss with President Barack Obama regional security and combatting the Islamic State movement when he visits Washington this month. Malcolm Turnbull will make his first visit to the United States as prime minister on Jan. 18 and 19. “The alliance with the United States is fundamental to Australia’s national security,” his office said in a statement. Besides Obama, Turnbull plans to meet with senior administration officials and congressional leaders. He will underline “Australia’s enduring commitment to the alliance and in particular Australia’s ongoing commitment to an effective response to regional and global challenges, including combatting ISIL in Iraq and Syria,” the statement added.