Top Asian News 4:56 a.m. GMT

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — To get a feel for how North Korea’s economy works, go buy a roll of toilet paper. Or start up a mobile phone network. As capitalist-style markets have grown more important in North Korea, so has a market-friendly exchange rate for the much-coveted U.S. dollars, euros and Chinese yuan that lubricate the North’s economy. But the official and unofficial rates are totally out of whack. And as one big investor recently found out, the difference can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits. Dueling exchange rates are a common issue for developing countries that have an official premium rate set by the government, often for political purposes that don’t reflect economic realities and are therefore often ignored in the marketplace.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Communist guerrillas in the Philippines said Monday they want to proceed with peace talks that President Rodrigo Duterte has scrapped, but that reimposing a cease-fire would be difficult if the military keeps on violating the truce. Duterte on Friday lifted the government’s 6-month-old cease-fire with the rebels and said Saturday that he was scrapping the talks brokered by Norway. Those moves came after the guerrillas abandoned their own truce and killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others in fresh violence. The government and the rebels separately declared cease-fires last year to foster peace talks, which had steadily progressed in recent months before rapidly deteriorating in recent weeks.

NEW DELHI (AP) — It’s no surprise that satirical portraits of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are the centerpiece of the India Art Fair, the annual feast of visual arts where politics took center stage this year, including groundbreaking projects on migration and rapidly changing urban landscapes in South Asia. Titled “Peace Owners,” the work of Nepali artist Sunil Sigdel uses Buddhist motifs on the faces of the three global leaders. “Artists are responding to the global political climate,” said Dina Bangdel, curator of Nepal Art Council in New Delhi. “We are also looking at agriculture and perhaps the disintegration of the rural community with urbanization.

TOKYO (AP) — In his debut abroad as the first retired general to lead the Pentagon in more than half a century, Jim Mattis found that in Japan and South Korea his experience in uniform is seen as an asset. Not everyone who knows Mattis well in the U.S. shares that view, but he clearly was an instant hit in northeast Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was effusive in his endorsement as the two shook hands Friday before a phalanx of Japanese and international news reporters and cameras. “I was very encouraged,” Abe said, “to see someone like you who has substantial experience, both in the military and in security, defense and diplomacy, taking this office.” Mattis won easy confirmation by the U.S.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister on Sunday ruled out any deal to get the United States to honor an agreement to resettle hundreds of Muslim refugees that President Donald Trump has described as “dumb.” Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull also dismissed a Nine Network television network journalist’s suggestion that he should be offended that White House spokesman Sean Spicer has repeatedly called him “Trumbull” in press briefings. Turnbull said, “The important thing is results.” Spicer says Trump has agreed to honor an Obama administration deal to resettle up to 1,250 asylum seekers rejected by Australia. Trump made the agreement during a conversation with Turnbull last weekend, but has since tweeted, “I will study this dumb deal!” Turnbull said Trump had asked for nothing in return for resettling the mostly Muslim refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

BEIJING (AP) — Authorities have detained those in charge of a foot massage parlor in eastern China in which 18 people were killed and another 18 injured in a fire Sunday. The official Xinhua News Agency gave no further details and the cause of the fire was under investigation on Monday. Workers jumped out of windows to escape the blaze, which broke out at the Zuxintang parlor in Zhejiang province’s Tiantai county at around 4 p.m. China has struggled to improve workplace safety and change a deep-rooted business mentality that puts profits above all else. Recent disasters include an explosion at a hazardous material warehouse in the eastern city of Tianjin in August 2015 that killed at least 114 people.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh is sticking to its plan to relocate Rohingya Muslims, who fled Myanmar in the face of persecution, from overcrowded and unhealthy camps in a southern coastal district to a low-lying island still not ready for human habitation. Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali briefed about 60 diplomats and representatives of various agencies and sought their help to relocate the Rohingya to Thengar Char in eastern Bangladesh, a government statement said late Sunday. More than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have been living in Bangladesh for decades while about 66,000 more have crossed the border since October amid renewed persecution and targeted attacks by soldiers and majority Buddhists in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

BANGKOK (AP) — A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves: ___ EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly look at the latest developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region. ___ MATTIS RULES OUT MILITARY RESPONSE IN SOUTH CHINA SEA On his first trip to Asia as secretary of defense, Jim Mattis ruled out a military response to China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea but promised to continue with freedom of navigation operations to oppose Beijing’s occupation of disputed islands.

SYDNEY (AP) — Seven percent of priests in Australia’s Catholic Church were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades, a lawyer said Monday as officials investigating institutional abuse across Australia revealed for the first time the extent of the crisis. The statistics were released during the opening address of a hearing of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission — which is Australia’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2013 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children over decades. The commission has previously heard harrowing testimony from scores of people who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Avalanches in Afghanistan have killed at least 54 people in the last three days, officials said Sunday. Omer Mohammadi, spokesman for the Afghan state minister for disaster management and humanitarian affairs, said that more than 50 others have been injured in different parts of the country, updating an earlier toll. He said more than 150 homes have been destroyed by the avalanches and that 50 others were heavily damaged. The avalanches, which came after heavy snowfall, have also killed an estimated 550 animals and destroyed more than 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of farmland, Mohammadi said. Mohammad Aseem, governor of the hard-hit northern province of Parwan, said 16 people were killed and eight others injured in avalanches in two districts.


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