Top Asian News 3:44 a.m. GMT

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in a crime that an Australian judge said showed "staggering arrogance." Victoria state County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd ordered Cardinal George Pell to serve a minimum of 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole. The five convictions against Pell carried a maximum possible sentence of 10 years each. "In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance," Kidd said in handing down the sentence. Pope Francis' former finance minister was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy's 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after Pell became archbishop of Melbourne.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — An Australian judge has sentenced Cardinal George Pell to 6 years in prison on convictions of sexually abusing two choirboys in a cathedral when he was archbishop of Australia's second-largest city more than 20 years ago. A timeline of Pell's career and the criminal case: July 16, 1996: Auxiliary Bishop George Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. Within months he abuses two choir boys at St. Patrick's Cathedral. March 26, 2001: Pell becomes Archbishop of Sydney. Oct. 21, 2003: Pope John Paul II makes Pell a cardinal. Feb. 25, 2014: Pope Francis appoints Pell to the powerful position of Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The trial of Cardinal George Pell was largely a case of his word against that of his sole accuser, a 34-year-old man who alleged that as a 13-year-old choirboy he and a friend were abused in one of Australia's grandest cathedrals more than 20 years ago as hundreds of worshippers were filing away after Mass. The victim, who described himself as a gardener, gave his account to the jury over two days in the witness box. The other victim died in 2014 and neither can be identified. Australian law prohibits victims of sexual abuse being identified in the media.

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The conviction and sentencing of Cardinal George Pell represent a remarkable downfall for the man who was Pope Francis' former finance minister and third-highest ranking Catholic in the Vatican. Pell, the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for molesting two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral more than 20 years ago. He was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy's 13-year-old friend in the late 1990s, months after becoming archbishop of Melbourne.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has urged Malaysia to release the second woman accused of killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader. Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh made the plea in a phone call Tuesday with his counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, according to a statement on the ministry website. It said Minh requested the Malaysian court conduct a fair trial and free Doan Thi Huong. Malaysia on Monday dropped the murder charge against her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who has returned to her home village. Huong's murder trial is to resume Thursday, and prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong's lawyers for the government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The longest peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban to end America's 17-year war in Afghanistan concluded Tuesday night in Qatar, with both sides saying progress had been made. The nearly two weeks of talks produced two draft agreements between the militants and the U.S. government on a "withdrawal timeline and effective counterterrorism measures," American envoy Zalmay Khalilzad wrote on Twitter. The diplomat said he'd go to Washington and meet with other concerned parties, likely including the Afghan government, which did not take part in the 13 days of face-to-face talks in Doha, the Qatari capital.

RANCASUMUR, Indonesia (AP) — A chaotic crush of jubilant villagers and reporters greeted the young Indonesian woman who was freed after Malaysia dropped charges that she killed the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader in an airport two years ago. Mosque loudspeakers blared as police guarding Siti Aisyah pushed their way through a mob to the house of a local parliamentarian in the Javanese village where she grew up. Officials said Aisyah was exhausted and had fainted. Earlier Tuesday, she met Indonesian President Joko Widodo, just a day after being whisked out of Malaysia, reuniting with her parents and facing the onslaught of two news conferences.

BEIJING (AP) — Heavily guarded internment camps for Muslims which China calls vocational training centers will gradually disappear if there comes a time that "society does not need" them, regional authorities said Tuesday. The camps in the far-west Xinjiang region have elicited an international outcry, with former inmates describing harsh conditions in which Muslim minorities are subject to political indoctrination and psychological torture. Human rights groups, researchers and the U.S. government estimate around 1 million people from the predominantly Muslim Uighur and Kazakh ethnic groups are held in a network of compounds spread throughout the vast region. At a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China's ceremonial legislature, Xinjiang Gov.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Two fatal crashes of Boeing 737 Max 8 planes less than five months apart have raised alarm, but experts are wary of linking the two. The head of Indonesia's National Transportation Safety Committee, Soerjanto Tjahjono, said Tuesday it was unclear if the cause of Sunday's disaster in Ethiopia was similar to the still-undetermined reason for a Lion Air crash in October. Tjahjono said his agency is waiting for Ethiopian authorities to respond to its offer to assist with the investigation into the crash that killed all 157 people aboard. The Max 8 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air plunged into the Java Sea on Oct.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The new U.S. ambassador to Australia says he's concerned about the way China lends money to developing Pacific nations in what he describes as "payday loan diplomacy." Arthur Culvahouse Jr. told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday that it was up to U.S. allies and Western liberal democracies to educate people about the dangers of such loans. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence previously warned of China deploying "debt traps" against developing Pacific nations. Culvahouse says he would use stronger language by calling the practice payday loan diplomacy. Culvahouse says the money looks attractive upfront "but you better read the fine print." Long affiliated with Republican officeholders, Culvahouse oversaw the vetting process for President Donald Trump's running mate in 2016.