Top Asian News 3:50 a.m. GMT

TOKYO (AP) — The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has begun removing fuel from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in the decades-long process to decommission the plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday that workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, but the pools are not enclosed, so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand's foreign minister has confirmed a New Zealand nurse has been held captive by the Islamic State group in Syria for almost six years, information long kept secret for fear her life might be at risk. The status of nurse and midwife Louisa Akavi, now 62, is unknown but her employer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, says it has received recent eyewitness reports suggesting she might be alive. The New York Times on Sunday became the first media organization to name Akavi, ending a more than 5 ½-year news blackout imposed by the New Zealand government and Red Cross with the cooperation of international media.

PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Six months after Palu was ripped apart by an earthquake, tsunami and liquefying soil that sucked neighborhoods into the earth and killed thousands, a second crisis is looming as recovery efforts stumble and a city that feels ignored begs for humanitarian assistance. Thousands of people in this city on Indonesia's Sulawesi island are still living in sweltering tent cities, while construction of new permanent homes has yet to start and almost a third of temporary housing is unoccupied after aid groups and authorities failed to connect the units to essential utilities. President Joko Widodo, who is seeking a second term in elections this week, and his deputy promised that financial assistance to those whose homes were destroyed or whose loved ones were killed would be rapidly distributed.

BEIJING (AP) — China and Japan have the opportunity to "take charge of the economic field" during a time of worldwide uncertainty, Japan's foreign minister said Sunday, as trade pressures from the United States have prompted both countries to seek alternative markets. Foreign Minister Taro Kono met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Beijing to discuss youth exchanges and economic relations between the two countries, whose ties "completely recovered" last year, according to Kono. The relationship was turbulent in previous years due to an unresolved dispute over islands in the East China Sea. High-level exchanges were frozen in 2012 after Japan nationalized the small group of remote islands claimed by Beijing.

HONG KONG (AP) — With the blond wig and red tie, the star of the Cantonese opera in Hong Kong may look familiar. The Chinese actor and singer has the lead role in "Trump on Show," a four-day comedic opera reimagining the U.S. president's personal life and his fictional twin brother who lives in China. The three-hour opera opens with America's first family moving into the White House, where Trump's daughter Ivanka discovers an old suitcase. Inside she finds an English version of "The Little Red Book," which details ideas on class struggle by the founding chairman of modern communist China.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. DNA tests have confirmed the death of a Muslim militant commander who helped lead the 2017 siege of a city in the southern Philippines and was considered a key leader of the Islamic State group in the region, officials said Sunday. Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano said the tests confirmed that Owaida Marohombsar, who was also known by his nom de guerre Abu Dar, was one of four militants killed in a March 14 gunbattle that also left four soldiers dead near southern Tubaran town in Lanao del Sur province. The Philippine military asked U.S. authorities to confirm Marohombsar's death through DNA tests.

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A small passenger plane crashed into a parked helicopter during takeoff at the only airport in Nepal's Everest region on Sunday, killing at least three people and injuring four others, officials said. The crash occurred while the plane, a Czech-manufactured Let L-410 belonging to Summit Air, was trying to take off from Lukla for Kathmandu on Sunday morning, said aviation official Raj Kumar Chhetri. He said the plane skidded off the runaway, hitting a Manang Air helicopter. Both are private airline companies that cater to tourists and Nepalese in the country's remote areas. The injured were airlifted to Kathmandu by helicopter, Nepal police spokesman Uttam Raj Subedi said.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says an explosion has killed at least seven children playing near their village in the eastern Laghman province, but says the cause of the blast remains unclear. Asadullah Dawlatzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor, says eight other children were wounded Sunday near the provincial capital, Mihterlam. He speculated that either a bomb recently planted by insurgents or leftover unexploded ordinance could have caused the blast. He said all the casualties are between 7 to 15 years of age and at least four were reported in serious condition. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the explosion.

BEIJING (AP) — The only known female member of one of the world's rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China, officials said Sunday. The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam, but their genders are unknown. The turtle died Saturday afternoon, the Suzhou city government said in a statement, citing the zoo. It said experts have already used technology to collect the turtle's ovarian tissue for future research.

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian police on Sunday charged a man extradited from the United States with murder in the death of a Thai national, whose body was found bound and gagged on the side of a Sydney road. Alex Dion, 38, was charged with the 2018 murder of Wachira "Mario" Phetmang after he arrived in Sydney from California under police guard. The arrest warrant for Dion was issued in September while he already was in custody on a domestic violence charge in San Diego. Phetmang's body was discovered by a truck driver last June bound, gagged and wrapped in plastic, covered in a mattress protector.