Top Asian News 2:53 a.m. GMT

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — May 18 appears the most likely date for Australia's next election at which the conservative government will seek a third three-year term. Government sources have told media that Prime Minister Scott Morrison will not call an election on Sunday, which had been widely anticipated. Sunday was the most likely choice if Morrison were to opt for the first of three dates available to him — May 11, May 18 and May 25. While many commentators had previously thought May 11 the most likely election date, May 18 would give the ruling coalition another week to use government money to advertise its policies and achievements.

LONDON (AP) — Dozens of people protested in London on Saturday against new Islamic laws in Brunei that punish gay sex and adultery by stoning offenders to death, while the University of Oxford said it will reconsider an honorary degree it awarded the sultan of Brunei following international outcry over the Southeast Asian nation's draconian measures. The university said in a statement it shared the "international revulsion" the laws induced and that it would reconsider a 1993 decision to confer the honorary degree of civil law by diploma to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. But Oxford stressed that no one had the right "summarily to rescind" the degree.

WASHINGTON (AP) — China's official news agency says U.S.-Chinese trade talks "achieved new progress" in Washington this week and remaining issues will be handled through "various effective means." The terse statement by Xinhua on Saturday did not say where or when further discussions will happen. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement Friday that "significant work remains" and the two sides would be in continuous contact. Xinhua said the three-day talks that ended Friday dealt with issues including technology transfer, intellectual property rights protection, non-tariff measures, agriculture and enforcement. Leading the delegations were U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He.

BANGKOK (AP) — The leader of a popular new Thai political party that ran a strong third in last month's general election was formally charged with sedition on Saturday and expressed concern that he is to be tried in a military court. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was greeted by hundreds of supporters chanting "Keep fighting, Thanathorn!" as he arrived at a Bangkok police station to answer a summons on complaints of sedition, assisting criminals and illegal assembly filed by a member of the country's ruling military junta. He denied the charges, which carry a prison sentence of up to nine years. "I'm concerned because this case is under the military court instead of the criminal court," Thanathorn, leader of the Future Forward Party, told reporters.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Three hostages held by Muslim militants in the southern Philippines have made a daring escape that left one drowned, another shot in the back in critical condition and another safe after swimming to his freedom, officials said. The two Indonesians and one Malaysian separately escaped while Philippine marines were attempting to rescue them on Simusa island in southern Sulu province over the last two days, regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerry Besana said Saturday. The dramatic escapes leave at least three more hostages in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization due to its brutal history of bombings, ransom kidnappings, extortion and beheadings.

MALE, Maldives (AP) — People in the Maldives voted in a crucial parliamentary election on Saturday that many hope will help President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih overcome a coalition split that has hampered his efforts to restore political freedoms and tackle corruption. Some voters who had lined up earlier were allowed to cast their vote well after balloting officially ended at 6 p.m. in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation known for its luxury resorts, said Ahmed Akram, an election official. He said voter turnout was over 78 percent. Officials were planning to announce results later Saturday night. Solih's Maldivian Democratic Party is seeking at least 44 seats in the 87-member parliament for a majority to pass legislation needed to implement pledges from last year's presidential campaign.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has formally named Monsignor Michael Byrnes as Guam's archbishop following the definitive sex abuse verdict against his predecessor. Byrnes in 2016 had been named coadjutor bishop for the U.S. Pacific island territory, giving him the right of succession after Archbishop Anthony Apuron was removed pending the investigation into claims by former altar boys that he assaulted them. On Saturday, the Vatican made that transition official after Apuron's guilty verdict was upheld on appeal. His sentence — a lifelong ban from Guam, removal from office and prohibition of presenting himself as a bishop — disappointed victims' advocates since he was allowed to stay in ministry and not defrocked.

BEIJING (AP) _ Lighting sparked a forest fire in mountainous western China last month that killed 27 firefighters and four local helpers in one of the country's deadliest days for first responders, investigators said. Acting on accounts of eyewitnesses in Sichuan province's Muli county, investigators located an 18-meter (59-foot) pine tree split by lightning that they identified as the fire's origin point. They said that after igniting the tree, the fire spread to the thick layer of decomposed plant material on the ground known as humus lying in a remote area at an altitude of around 3,800 meters (12,500 feet.) The 31 died after wind, dry air and combustible material creative an explosive effect.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents killed seven policemen and three civilians in attacks across Afghanistan on Saturday, provincial officials said. Such attacks, blamed on the Taliban, have continued in recent months, even as the militants hold talks with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to negotiate an American troop withdrawal. In a visit to Kabul earlier this week, Khalilzad lobbied for "intra-Afghan dialogue" — talks that would encompass prominent Afghan figures, government representatives and the opposition, as well as the Taliban. The U.S. envoy has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban, most recently last month in Qatar where both sides said progress was made.

DINARD, France (AP) _ Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations failed to reach consensus on key Middle East issues on Saturday as they wrapped up a meeting in France that was shaken by the absence of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The diplomats in attendance projected a united front while walking side-by-side along a seaside promenade before they released the agreement from their two-day meeting in Dinard. The agreement included mildly worded joint commitments on issues such as fighting cybercrime, giving women bigger peacemaking roles, and engaging with countries in Africa's Sahel region to combat migrant trafficking.