Top Asian News 3:43 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — The Vatican's breakthrough agreement to give China some say over bishop appointments has critics accusing the church of caving in to the ruling Communist Party just as it is waging a sweeping crackdown on religion. Others say it's an imperfect but much-needed step toward uniting Catholics in the world's most populous country. The agreement is a step toward addressing the long-cherished hope of bringing together China's 12 million Catholics who are divided between those worshipping in state-sanctioned churches and the underground priests and parishioners loyal to the pope, who are frequently detained and harassed. The specifics of the deal announced over the weekend are unknown.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday defended his work to settle a nuclear deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying he has given up nothing but his time during a June summit yet stands on the cusp of denuclearizing the North. In a wide-ranging news conference on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump told reporters that despite tough U.S. sanctions against the North staying in place, he believes that Kim wants to get a deal done because of their close ties. "We have a very good relationship. He likes me, I like him, we get along," Trump said.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — As Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un stand on the brink of a widely expected Summit No. 2 to unstick deadlocked nuclear diplomacy, a crucial but often overlooked question looms: Is North Korea actually a nuclear power? Kim and his well-amplified propaganda specialists certainly say it is. And most casual observers, after watching last year's run of increasingly powerful weapons tests, would probably agree. But Washington has always refused to accept that as fact. It is wary that doing so would allow Pyongyang to follow the path of India and Pakistan and a handful of other outliers who have built illicit nuclear programs outside the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which aims to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and Japan announced Wednesday they will open negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement between the world's first- and third-largest economies. It's a significant shift by Tokyo which has been a strong advocate of a multi-nation trans-Pacific trade pact that President Donald Trump withdrew from soon after taking office. The move won Japan relief from the immediate threat of punitive tariffs on its auto exports to the U.S. Trump made the announcement after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. He said that Japan had been unwilling in the past to enter into such talks, but now is and such a deal "will be something very exciting." Abe has cultivated close ties with Trump since after his 2016 election but trade relations have been difficult, since the Republican president withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, that had been negotiated by the Obama administration and championed by Abe despite considerable domestic political opposition in Japan.

MALE, Maldives (AP) — Maldives President Yameen Abdul Gayoom is working on how to stay in power despite having conceded defeat in this week's election, the opposition alliance said Wednesday. Joint opposition spokesman Ahmed Mahloof told The Associated Press that government officials say Yameen is planning to complain to the Maldives Election Commission about the conduct of the vote and pressure the commission to delay releasing the final results, due Sunday. Mahloof said Yameen is also trying to get police officers loyal to him to prepare intelligence reports saying the election was flawed. "It's serious. After conceding the election he is trying to play dirty," Mahloof said of Yameen.

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — The wife of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was grilled by the anti-graft agency for nearly 13 hours Wednesday over alleged theft and money laundering involving the 1MDB state investment fund. Rosmah Mansor arrived at 10 a.m. after being summoned for a second time since June 5 and left the agency's building at about 10:40 p.m. She smiled to reporters as she emerged from the building, escorted by her lawyers and police. "I am OK," she said, but declined to comment further. It was unclear why Rosmah was questioned at this time. The chief of the anti-graft agency, Mohamad Shukri Abdull, said earlier this week that the agency had completed its probe of Rosmah and had submitted its investigation report to the attorney-general's office for further action.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Thousands of people lined the streets of Hanoi on Thursday to pay their last respects to Vietnam's late President Tran Dai Quang. Many were using smart phones to catch glimpses of his flag-draped coffin as it passed by on a truck-drawn artillery carriage. Quang died last week at age 61 with what a government doctor said was a rare viral illness. In a eulogy, Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong said Quang's passing was a great loss to the country and praised his contributions to the nation. Trong said Quang, who was public security minister before becoming president, had helped to "uncover and prevent many sabotage plots of the hostile and reactionary forces and other criminals." As president, Quang, along with other leaders, sped reforms to develop Vietnam's socialist market-oriented economy and worked to heighten Vietnam's international role, Trong said.

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) — Turkmenistan's president has ordered a complete end to free natural gas, electricity and water, which residents of the Central Asian nation have enjoyed for a quarter century. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said Wednesday the move taking effect next year would help Turkmenistan more rationally use natural resources and develop a free market economy. In recent years, Turkmenistan has reduced the amounts of free gas, electricity and water for consumers and required payments for extras. The gas-rich ex-Soviet nation has faced economic troubles as energy prices fell. Berdymukhamedov has ruled Turkmenistan since 2006, when he assumed power after the death of his eccentric autocratic predecessor.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis urged Chinese Catholics on Wednesday to trust him and make concrete gestures of reconciliation following a landmark deal over bishop appointments that is aimed at ending decades of estrangement between the Vatican and Beijing. In a letter to the Chinese faithful, Francis also called for greater dialogue between local priests and government authorities to ensure that ordinary church activities can be carried out, while encouraging the opening of "a new chapter" in official bilateral cooperation. China's estimated 12 million Catholics are split between those belonging to the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is outside the pope's authority, and an underground church loyal to the pope.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corp. has resigned over allegations that he pressured the independent national broadcaster to fire two political journalists because the government disliked them. The scandal has damaged the credibility of both the ruling conservative coalition and the ABC, which is government-funded but is required by law to operate independently of party politics. Media reports alleged this week that ABC chairman Justin Milne had unsuccessfully pressured ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie to fire two senior reporters to prevent potential cuts in government funding. Milne said he had quit on Thursday for the good of the organization.