Top Asian News 3:52 a.m. GMT

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Bill Shorten, the man most likely to become Australia's prime minister in elections on Saturday, has the solid support of his center-left Labor Party behind him. But the Australian public isn't so sure. Shorten first found the public spotlight as a miners' union boss in 2006 when the world media was transfixed on a gold mine collapse drama that ended with the rescue of two miners who had been trapped underground for two weeks. He is still contending with accolades and condemnation for saying three years ago that some of then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's views were "barking mad."

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Scott Morrison has carried an unusual burden for an Australian prime minister campaigning for election on Saturday. As well as explaining why Australians should vote for him, he's also had to explain who he is to voters who have had little time to get to know their government's leader. The 51-year-old former tourism marketer was labeled the "Accidental Prime Minister" on Aug. 24, 2018, when he was thrust to the top of a bitterly divided government facing likely defeat in elections only months away. Since he was elected prime minister in a leadership ballot of colleagues in his conservative Liberal Party, Morrison has taken as much time as he had available to repair the government and define his leadership before facing the voters who still question why there was a change of leader.

HIKKADUWA, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sipping fresh coconut water while sunbathing on deserted Hikkaduwa beach, Alexi Konchayenko, a sports trainer from Ukraine, struck a stoical note. Bomb blasts can happen "anywhere, anytime," he said, adding that he was not afraid. "Sri Lanka is an amazing country. This is my first visit and I will tell my friends also to come." His is a lone voice — and a lone presence. Sri Lanka was the Lonely Planet guide's top travel destination for 2019, but since the Easter Sunday attacks on churches and luxury hotels, foreign tourists have fled. Many of those booked to come in the next few months have canceled.

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Two Indian climbers on Mount Kanchenjunga fell sick and died while attempts were being made to rescue them, an expedition organizer said Thursday. Pasang Sherpa of Peak Promotion in Kathmandu said one of the climbers had scaled the world's third tallest peak while another was on the way up but fell sick and died. They were believed to be suffering from high altitude sickness and had frostbites, he said. The climbers identified as 48-year-old Biplab Baidya and 46-year-old Kuntal Karar fell ill just below the 8,586-meter (28,160-foot) summit and attempts were being made to bring them to a lower camp from where they would have been picked by a rescue helicopter.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S.-China trade blowup was a long time coming. And it won't be easily resolved, not even if U.S. and Chinese negotiators reach a truce in the next few weeks that reassures jittery financial markets. Tensions between the world's two biggest economies intensified over the last week. The Trump administration more than doubled tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and spelled out plans to target the $300 billion worth that aren't already facing 25% taxes. The escalation covers everything from sneakers to toasters to billiard balls. The Chinese have punched back by upping tariffs on $60 billion in U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The acting chief of the Federal Aviation Administration defended his agency's safety certification of the Boeing 737 Max jetliner, the plane involved in two deadly crashes, and the FAA's decision not to ground the jet until other regulators around the world had already done so. During a congressional hearing Wednesday, the FAA official, Daniel Elwell, also stood by the agency's decades-old policy of using employees of aircraft manufacturers like Boeing to conduct inspections on their own companies' work. Boeing is updating an automated flight-control system that has been implicated in the two crashes involving the 737 Max. Elwell said he expects Boeing to complete its work "in the next week or so," after which the FAA will analyze the software changes and conduct test flights.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday that he's traveling to three South Pacific island nations to see the effects of climate change firsthand. Speaking in Fiji, the U.N. leader said he wanted to learn about the work being undertaken by island communities to bolster resilience. He said the Pacific needs stronger international support because climate change is taking place faster than efforts to address it. "The last four years were the hottest on record. The loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica is accelerating, meaning that sea levels will rise a full meter (over 3 feet) by 2100 if nothing is done to avoid it," Guterres said.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Wednesday it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades amid reports of severe food shortages. The official Korean Central News Agency said an average of 54.4 millimeters (2.1 inches) of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year. It said that is the lowest level since 1982, when North Korea received 51.2 millimeters (2 inches) of rain on average during the same period. The report came after U.N. food agencies said in a joint assessment earlier this month that about 10 million people in North Korea were facing "severe food shortages" after the country had one of the worst harvests in a decade.

PARIS (AP) — The White House is not endorsing a global pledge to step up efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks, citing respect for "freedom of expression and freedom of the press." The statement came Wednesday after World leaders led by French President Emmanuel Macron and executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies gathered in Paris to compile a set of guidelines dubbed the "Christchurch Call," named after the New Zealand city where 51 people were killed in a March attack on mosques. Much of the attack was broadcast live on Facebook, drawing public outrage and fueling debate on how to better regulate social media.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's oldest political party chose an experienced insider as its new leader Wednesday following an abysmal performance in recent elections that led to the resignation of its previous chief. The Democrat Party voted for Jurin Laksanawisit to succeed Abhisit Vejjajiva, a former prime minister who resigned after the March 24 general election. Jurin has served in the Cabinets of two Democrat-led governments, most notably as education minister and public health minister, and has been elected to Parliament 11 times. More a party insider than a charismatic politician, he is not associated with the group of radicals who broke with the party in late 2013 to stage militant anti-government street demonstrations that eventually triggered a military coup in May 2014.