Top Asian News 3:57 a.m. GMT

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament Thursday, paving the way for a snap election that is expected to be held Oct. 22. The speaker of the house, Tadamori Oshima, read the statement of dissolution. Abe is widely seen as trying to reconsolidate his grip on power within the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party, so he can extend the term of his premiership next year. The dissolution of the more powerful of Japan's two-chamber parliament comes more than a year before required by law. The ruling party, though, faces a growing challenge from a new party launched by Tokyo Gov.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says he will seek a public mandate on his tougher diplomatic and defense policies to deal with escalating threats from North Korea. Abe spoke at a meeting of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party minutes after dissolving parliament's lower house Thursday for an election. He urged his fellow members to gain understanding his North Korea policies. Abe said his responsibility is safety and peace for the people of Japan. The election for the 475-seat lower house, the more powerful of Japan's two-chamber parliament, is expected on Oct. 22.

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh (AP) — When their nine children fled to Bangladesh to escape recent violence and persecution in Myanmar, a Rohingya Muslim couple made the tough decision to stay behind. They did not want to leave their land or the grocery store they ran in their village. Sultan Mehmood, 62, also faced another obstacle in fleeing — he had lost the lower half of one of his legs two years earlier when a Myanmar soldier shot him, he says. Their decision to stay behind when soldiers invaded their village in late August left them open to further attack. Mehmood, now in Bangladesh, says his wife was raped by three of the soldiers and he was badly beaten.

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The women working at ABC Toys on the second floor of a nondescript office building in Mexico City's working-class Obrera neighborhood drew so little attention to themselves that when the building collapsed in last week's powerful quake few living nearby could recall them. In death, they remained nearly as anonymous: Government officials identified them in a list of foreigners killed during the 7.1-magnitude quake as simply "four Taiwanese women." But Helen Chin, Amy Huang, Carolina Wang and Gina Lai did have names — and stories that came to a sudden end under the rubble of the building at 168 Bolivar Street.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban unleashed a barrage of rockets at the Kabul international airport on Wednesday in a brazen attack that the insurgents said targeted the plane of visiting U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. In response, the U.S. said it launched two missiles, one of which missed its intended target and killed at least one Afghan civilian. Afghan officials said one Afghan woman was killed and 11 civilians were wounded in the Taliban attack. Afghan special forces managed to repel the attackers, killing four in an ensuing gunbattle, officials said. Later, the U.S. military issued a statement saying that it had responded with an airstrike.

BANGKOK (AP) — A Thai court on Wednesday sentenced former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted in a 2014 military coup, in absentia to five years in prison for alleged negligence in a money-losing rice subsidy program. Yingluck, who has said the charges are politically motivated, is believed to have fled the country last month before the original date of the verdict. Her lawyers said on Wednesday that they have no idea where she is. Yingluck's conviction had been widely expected, as the military remains firmly in charge and the courts have a record of antipathy toward her politically influential family.

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Warnings that the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali will erupt have sparked an exodus of nearly 100,000 people that is likely to continue to swell. In this series of images by Associated Press photographer Firdia Lisnawati, people living within a high-danger zone that in places extends 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the crater have evacuated their villages, and others farther away are also leaving. Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo visited a sports center serving as temporary accommodation in a district south of the volcano on Tuesday. The region is being rattled daily by hundreds of tremors from the mountain, which volcanologists say indicates a high chance of an eruption.

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — The exodus from a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali is nearing 100,000 people, a disaster official said Wednesday, as hundreds of tremors from the mountain are recorded daily. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said more than 96,000 people have now fled the area around Mount Agung in the northeast of the island. Villagers began leaving in the middle of last week and the number of evacuees has swelled daily since Friday, when the volcano's alert status was raised to the highest level. The agency said a monitoring center had recorded more than 800 earthquakes so far Wednesday and thin smoke was observed rising 50 meters (160 feet) above the crater.

TOKYO (AP) — South Korean organizers of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics corrected a map on their official website after Japanese sports officials complained that Japan was missing. The Japan Sports Agency said officials discovered the omission Wednesday, after receiving a number of calls from the public. The agency demanded a correction via the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo, agency official Masahide Katsumata said. Katsumata said Japan was not on the map when he checked early Wednesday. The world map on the "Dream Program" section of the website for the 2018 Winter Olympics has since been corrected. An official from the Pyeongchang organizing committee said Japan's omission was a "simple mistake" caused by changes in image files when organizers updated the Olympic website in February.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian cookbook author who falsely said she beat cancer through healthy eating was fined by a court on Thursday for misleading consumers by lying about her charitable donations. The judge had ruled in March that Belle Gibson's deceptive claims of donating the proceeds from the sales of "The Whole Pantry" and a related app constituted unconscionable conduct under Australian consumer law. The book and app were withdrawn. Federal Court Justice Debra Mortimer on Thursday ordered Gibson to pay a total of 410,000 Australian dollars ($320,000) for five contraventions of the law relating to false claims that the proceeds would go to various charities.