TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Emperor Akihito has waved to throngs of well-wishers eager to see the final New Year's appearance in his reign. He told the crowd Wednesday at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo: "I am truly happy to celebrate the New Year with all of you under such cloudless skies." Akihito will abdicate on April 30 and his son will succeed him. Akihito, who inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne from wartime emperor Hirohito, has appeared each year to wish peace for the nation with his wife Empress Michiko and other family members. Japanese media reported the attendance at nearly 60,000 people as of late morning, many of them waving Japanese flags.
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged both sides to reach an early consensus on the unification of China and Taiwan and not leave the issue for future generations. No one or no party can stop the trend toward unification, the Chinese leader said in a speech devoted to Taiwan, calling independence for the self-governing island against history and a dead-end. "We are willing to create a vast space for peaceful unification, but we will never leave any room for any sort of Taiwan independence separatist activities," he said. Taiwan and China split in a civil war that brought the Communists to power in China in 1949.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian officials insisted Wednesday that a suspected militant had not been left stateless after he was stripped of his Australian citizenship over his alleged links to the Islamic State group. Australia announced this past weekend that Australian-born Neil Prakash had become the 12th dual national to lose his Australian citizenship for extremist links. But a newspaper reported on Wednesday a Fijian government official saying the 27-year-old was not a citizen of Fiji. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said an Australian board of senior officials had determined Prakash was a dual national before he lost his Australian citizenship.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday he hopes to extend his high-stakes nuclear summitry with President Donald Trump into 2019, but also warned Washington not to test North Koreans' patience with sanctions and pressure. During his televised New Year's speech, Kim said he's ready to meet with Trump at any time to produce an outcome "welcomed by the international community." However, he said the North will be forced to take a different path if the United States "continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure."
TOKYO (AP) — Looking almost banker-like in a business suit and sitting in an upholstered leather armchair, Kim Jong Un gave his annual televised New Year's address on Tuesday. The North Korean leader's big curtain-raiser for 2019 comes after a couple of very tumultuous years. In 2017, his rapid-fire missile tests brought him to the brink with President Donald Trump and 2018 saw his sudden rise on the world stage with hints of detente, summits with China and South Korea and an unprecedented meeting with Trump in Singapore. What's ahead in 2019? Here are four big takeaways. ___ IT'S STILL ABOUT THE ECONOMY About two-thirds of the entire speech was devoted to the economy.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn will have his official coronation on May 4, the palace announced Tuesday. The coronation will be more than two years after Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died at age 88 after reigning for seven decades. The palace said the coronation ceremonies for Vajiralongkorn, 66, will be held on May 4-6, with the monarch making a public appearance on the last day. Bhumibol's coronation, held almost four years after he was named king, took place in 1950 on May 5, a date that is a public holiday in Thailand. Major royal ceremonies in Thailand are usually very ornate, but Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in June last year that Vajiralongkorn had expressed the desire that his coronation be held in a relatively modest manner, though in keeping with elaborate royal tradition.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Rescuers recovered six more bodies buried under tons of mud from a landslide that crashed onto a hilly village on Indonesia's main island of Java, bringing the death toll to 15, officials said Tuesday. The landslide that plunged down surrounding hills just before sunset Monday buried 30 houses in Sirnaresmi village in West Java's Sukabumi district. Sixty people who lost their homes were forced to move to a temporary shelter, said National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. Television video showed relatives wailing as they watched rescuers pull a mud-caked body from a devastated hamlet. It was placed in a blue bag and taken away for burial.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan special forces launched a new offensive against the Islamic State group in eastern Nangarhar province, killing 27 militants, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Taliban attacks in northern Afghanistan killed 15 members of the country's security forces. According to provincial council member Ajmal Omar, the special forces, backed by helicopter gunships, targeted IS in Achin district of Nangarhar on Monday. The province has been an IS stronghold and the site where the militant group's regional branch first emerged a few years ago. The militants' media arm, the Aamaq news agency, claimed IS repulsed a joint Afghan-U.S. operation in the area.
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese treasure their autonomy from China, the leader of the self-governing island said Tuesday, warning city and county officials to be open about and exercise caution in any dialogue with the Chinese. President Tsai Ing-wen's remarks come after major gains by a Beijing-friendly opposition party in local elections in late November. "The election results absolutely don't mean Taiwan's basic public opinion wants us to give up our self-rule," she said in an 11-minute New Year's address at the presidential office. "And they absolutely don't mean that the Taiwanese people want us to give ground on our autonomy." China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the Chinese civil war of the 1940s, when Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalists lost to Mao Zedong's Communists.
TOKYO (AP) — A minivan slammed into pedestrians early Tuesday on a street where people had gathered for New Year's festivities in downtown Tokyo, injuring eight people, police said. The suspect, 21, Kazuhiro Kusakabe, was arrested and being questioned, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said on customary condition of anonymity. He is suspected of intentionally trying to kill people by driving the small vehicle through the street. NHK TV footage showed a small van with the entire front end smashed and officers and ambulance workers rushing to the scene. A ninth person was injured after Kusakabe got out of the car and punched him, police said.