Top Asian News 4:19 a.m. GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation, President Donald Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program, South Korean and U.S. officials said Thursday. No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader. The meeting would be unprecedented during seven decades of animosity between the U.S. and North Korea. The countries remain in a state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. "Great progress being made," Trump tweeted after the South Korean national security director, Chung Eui-yong, announced the plans to reporters in a hastily called appearance on a White House driveway.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The first inkling that something big was afoot on North Korea came from President Donald Trump himself: He popped his head into the White House briefing room late Thursday afternoon to tease a "major statement" coming soon — from South Korean officials. Then ABC reporter Jon Karl ran into Trump in a West Wing hallway and the president let out a little more string. Asked if the announcement was about talks with North Korea, Trump offered: "It's almost beyond that. Hopefully, you will give me credit." Within hours came the remarkable news that after years of brinksmanship and threats of mutual obliteration, Trump had agreed to sit down with North Korea's Kim Jong Un — a man he's long derided as "Little Rocket Man." Instead of a televised addressed to the nation or a press conference in the stately East Room, the news ultimately was delivered by a South Korean national security official standing on the White House driveway.

President Donald Trump accepting a reported offer to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a stunning turn of events after a year of heated verbal warfare that included crude insults and mutual threats of nuclear attacks. It remains to be seen whether a summit will take place or lead to a meaningful breakthrough, but here's a look at recent events: Jan. 1, 2017: Kim Jong Un says in a New Year's address that preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile have "reached the final stage." Jan. 2: President-elect Donald Trump tweets, "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Unswayed by Republican warnings of a trade war, President Donald Trump ordered steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. on Thursday, vowing to fight back against an "assault on our country" by foreign competitors. The president said he would exempt Canada and Mexico as "a special case" while negotiating for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. The new tariffs will take effect in 15 days, with America's neighbors indefinitely spared "to see if we can make the deal," Trump said. He suggested in an earlier meeting with his Cabinet that Australia and "other countries" might be spared, a shift that could soften the international blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners.

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries signed a sweeping free trade agreement Thursday to streamline trade and slash tariffs just hours before President Donald Trump announced his plans to impose new tariffs on aluminum and steel to protect U.S. producers. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year, causing fears that it would not prosper without its most influential country. But the remaining 11 members pressed ahead, saying they were showing resolve against protectionism through global trade. The ministers dropped key provisions that the Americans had required on protection of intellectual property, among others.

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's opposition coalition has pledged to axe an unpopular good and services tax and reopen investigations into a multibillion-dollar financial scandal linked to Prime Minister Najib Razak if it wins the next elections. The Hope Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, also promised to clip the powers of the prime minister, revive a fuel subsidy and abolish tolls. The next general elections must be held by August but are widely expected in the second quarter this year. Mahathir said in announcing the coalition's manifesto late Thursday that the opposition has been labelled "government-in-waiting" as he rallied supporters to unite to oust the coalition that has ruled since independence.

KANDY, Sri Lanka (AP) — Buddhist mobs swept through Muslim neighborhoods in Sri Lanka's central hills, destroying stores and restaurants and setting homes on fire despite a curfew, a state of emergency and a heavy deployment of security forces, residents said Thursday. In the small town of Pallekele, mobs ignored the curfew that was supposed to keep them off the streets and used gasoline bombs to burn four homes, said Mohamed Nazar. An angry crowd gathered around Nazar's house around 8 p.m. Wednesday, throwing rocks and shouting, so the family turned off the lights so no one could see inside. "Then a large flame came and the house caught fire," Nazar said.

BEIJING (AP) — The world can only benefit as China marches toward "irresistible" national rejuvenation and assumes greater global leadership under President Xi Jinping, China's top diplomat said Thursday as he sought to dismiss concerns about China's rise while also underscoring its inevitability. From providing the most peacekeepers of any U.N. Security Council member to facilitating talks in world conflicts, "the China of today should play a more active role in resolving hot issues in the region and the world," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. "This is not only something we should do, but what is widely expected of us."

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Several hundred opposition supporters staged a protest in Bangladesh's capital on Thursday demanding the release of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, who is serving a five-year prison sentence in a corruption case. The protesters accused police of obstructing their sit-in, and a brief clash occurred when the authorities attempted to arrest a student opposition leader. No injuries were reported in the one-hour demonstration in downtown Dhaka. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, secretary general of Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, said they would demonstrate in Dhaka and in small towns across the country on Saturday to protest the police action.

BEIJING (AP) — A man set himself on fire and died in western China's Sichuan province in the first self-immolation protest among Tibetans this year, monitoring groups reported Thursday. Tsekho Tugchak, reportedly in his 40s, died in Ngaba county on Wednesday amid intensified security in the restive region ahead of the anniversary of a 2008 anti-China riot and 1959 independence uprising, the International Campaign for Tibet said. ICT said his death was the 153rd self-immolation by a Tibetan since the protests began in 2009. The Free Tibet Campaign and U.S.-backed Radio Free Asia also reported the death, saying it took place in Ngaba's Meruma township.