Top Asian News 4:29 a.m. GMT

SINGAPORE (AP) — America has a steadfast and enduring commitment to the Indo-Pacific region but wants cooperation, not control, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday in comments to a Southeast Asian summit that carried a veiled swipe at China's growing influence. Pence, standing in for President Donald Trump at the 10-nation summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore and another later in the week in Papua New Guinea, told his fellow leaders that "empire and aggression have no place" in the region. He said U.S. support includes work to counter terrorism and pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and a commitment "to uphold the freedom of the seas and skies where we stand shoulder to shoulder with you for freedom of navigation, and our determination to ensure that your nations are secure in your sovereign borders on land, at sea, and in the digital world." "Like you, we seek an Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, can prosper and thrive - secure in our sovereignty, confident in our values, and growing stronger together," Pence said.

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The tribunal judging the criminal responsibility of former Khmer Rouge leaders for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians will issue verdicts Friday in the latest — and perhaps last — of such trials. Nuon Chea, 92, and Khieu Samphan, 87, are the last two surviving senior leaders of the radical communist group that brutally ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s. They are already serving life sentences after being convicted in a previous 2011-2014 trial of crimes against humanity connected with forced transfers and disappearances of masses of people. The proceedings against them were split into two successive trials for fear that the aging defendants might die before any verdict was reached in a single, more comprehensive trial and foreclose the opportunity for any sort of justice.

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh authorities said they are ready to begin repatriating some of the more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled from army-led violence in Myanmar since last year. But refugees scheduled to leave said they would refuse to go because of fears for their safety. Some said their families have fled from their shanties in the refugee camps to avoid being sent back. The situation remained tense in camps overnight. Refugees, Repatriation and Rehabilitation Commissioner Abul Kalam said earlier Wednesday that 30 refugee families would be handed over Thursday at the Ghumdhum border point near Cox's Bazar, where refugees have been living in crammed camps.

BEIJING (AP) — Students and alumni of several Chinese universities are sounding the alarm over the apparent detention of more than a dozen young labor activists who have been missing since the weekend. Three recent graduates of the elite Peking University have been taken away by authorities, the Jasic Workers Support Group said in a statement late Tuesday. According to the group, witnesses saw one person being "kidnapped" from the Beijing campus, while others in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai also disappeared. They were involved in a coalition, led by young Marxist activists, that was founded this summer to show solidarity with factory workers at Jasic Technology, a welding equipment manufacturer in southern China.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Three war-trophy bells seized by U.S. troops over a century ago got a send-off back to the Philippines on Wednesday by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who called the controversial decision to repatriate them an important gesture of friendship between the two countries. Some veterans and officials in the U.S. oppose returning the Bells of Balangiga, calling them memorials to American war dead. But Filipinos revere the bells as symbols of national pride. U.S. Army soldiers took the bells after an attack killed 48 American troops in 1901, during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines. Two of the Bells of Balangiga are at F.E.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An Indonesian woman whose fiance died on a Lion Air flight that plunged into the sea was photographed in her wedding dress and professed her love for him on the day they were to have been married. Intan Syari's fiance, Dr. Rio Nanda Pratama, was among 189 people who were killed when the Boeing 737 crashed Oct. 29 shortly after taking off from Jakarta. Syari and Pratama, both 26, had planned to get married Sunday. Pratama, who had attended a seminar in Jakarta, was on his way home to Pangkal Pinang for the wedding. Syari said Pratama had joked before leaving that if he was late in returning, Syari should take photos in her wedding gown and send them to him.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The agency for K-pop superstars BTS apologized Wednesday for members wearing a T-shirt depicting the explosion of an atomic bomb and a hat with a Nazi emblem. Japanese TV broadcasters recently canceled or stopped discussions on appearances in that country after images went viral of the musician wearing the shirt. The South Korean boy band ran into more troubles after news broke out that another member wore a hat featuring a Nazi symbol in a magazine photo book and band members flew flags with what appeared to be the Nazi swastika during a concert in the past.

PARIS (AP) — French authorities say they have closed an investigation into the disappearance and subsequent detention in China of the former president of Interpol, and found no evidence to support his wife's claim that she got a threatening call in Chinese after he was picked up. Grace Meng, the wife of Meng Hongwei, detailed the threatening call in an Associated Press interview in October. She said the caller told her to only listen but not to speak and threatened: "We've come in two work teams, two work teams just for you." An official close to the French investigation said Wednesday that police in the city of Lyon, where Interpol is headquartered, closed their probe into the call and Meng's detention having found no evidence that a crime was committed in France.

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka's Parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the government headed by the hastily sworn-in and bitterly disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, as lawmakers convened Wednesday for the first time since the president dismissed his Cabinet and suspended the legislature last month. The motion brought by the head of an opposition party could mean that Rajapaksa will have to resign his post but does not necessarily mean the leader whose ousting set off the crisis will be reinstated, creating a power vacuum in the South Asian island nation. "Rajapaksa's government will fall," said Paikiasothy Sarvanamuttu, executive director of the Colombo-based nonpartisan Centre for Policy Alternatives civil society group, and among the petitioners who challenged the constitutionality of President Maithripala Sirisena's recent actions.

WONSAN, North Korea (AP) — For North Korean factory managers, a visit by leader Kim Jong Un is the highest of honors and quite possibly the most stressful event imaginable. The chief engineer at the Songdowon General Foodstuffs Factory had looked forward to the visit for nearly a decade. His factory churns out tons of cookies, crackers, candies and bakery goods, plus dozens of varieties of soft drinks sold around the country. In its showroom, Kwon Yong Chol proudly showed off one of his best-sellers, a nutrient soup made with spirulina, a blue-green microalgae "superfood." "Ever since construction began everyone here had wanted the leader to visit, and this year he did.