Top Asian News 4:53 a.m. GMT

TOKYO (AP) — Japan announced Wednesday it is leaving the International Whaling Commission to resume hunting the animals for commercial use but said it will no longer go to the Antarctic for its much-criticized annual killings of hundreds of whales. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the hunts will be limited to Japan's territorial waters and its 200-mile exclusive economic zone along the country's coasts, and that Japan will stop its annual whaling expeditions to the Antarctic and northwest Pacific oceans. Japan will resume commercial whaling in July 2019 after a 30-year absence "in line with Japan's basic policy of promoting sustainable use of aquatic living resources based on scientific evidence," he said.

SUMUR, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian authorities asked people near an island volcano to avoid the coast while eruptions and weather and sea conditions were being monitored for tsunami risks. A tsunami that followed an eruption of Anak Krakatoa hit communities along the Sunda Strait on Saturday night, killing more than 420 people and displacing thousands. The eruption is believed to have set off a landslide on the volcano's slopes, displacing the water that then slammed into Java and Sumatra islands. Indonesia's Meteorology, Geophysics and Climatology Agency asked people late Tuesday to stay at least 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the Sunda Strait coastline.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North and South Korea broke ground Wednesday on an ambitious project to modernize North Korean railways and roads and connect them with the South, but without progress in nuclear negotiations, regular trains won't be crossing the border anytime soon. The ceremony at the North Korean border town of Kaesong came weeks after the Koreas conducted a joint survey on the northern railway sections they hope to someday link with the South. It's one of several peace gestures agreed between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in as they push ahead with engagement amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

TIANJIN, China (AP) — About two dozen plainclothes police were stationed outside a courthouse in northern China on Wednesday as the trial of a prominent human rights lawyer was expected to unfold. Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was to be tried. Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the best known in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's main opposition alliance on Tuesday demanded the resignation of the chief election commissioner, accusing him of bias, ahead of Sunday's elections while violence worsens, officials and news reports said. Opposition spokesman Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said Tuesday night that they demanded the resignation of K.M.Nurul Huda as they did not expect a free and fair election under him. He urged the country's figurehead president to appoint a neutral person instead. Alamgir, who is the secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, told a news conference they made the call after senior leaders from an anti-government alliance walked out of a meeting with Huda.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese state media say eight people were killed after a hijacker with a knife drove a bus into pedestrians in a southeastern Chinese city. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that 22 others were injured, one seriously, in the Tuesday afternoon attack in Longyan in Fujian province, about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south of Shanghai. The attacker was captured, a police statement said. It did not say how many fatalities occurred aboard the bus and how many among pedestrians. A video clip on the website of the Beijing News newspaper showed a half dozen police officers wrestling the attacker to the ground in the middle of a street as traffic flowed past.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's legislature on Tuesday agreed to amend the country's drug law to allow the licensed medical use of marijuana, as well as kratom, a locally grown plant traditionally used as a stimulant and painkiller. Thailand is the first country in Southeast Asia to take such action, which is also under consideration in neighboring Malaysia. New Zealand's government earlier this month enacted a law liberalizing the medical use of marijuana, which had previously been tightly restricted. The Thai legislation passed its final reading at the National Legislative Assembly by a vote of 166-0 with 13 abstentions. The changes, which become law when published in the Royal Gazette, legalize the production, import, export, possession and use of marijuana and kratom products for medical purposes.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The death toll from an attack in the Afghan capital has climbed to 40, the Health Ministry said Tuesday, as police and rescue workers combed through the smoldering public welfare building where the gunmen held out for eight hours against security forces. A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle outside the building Monday before at least three gunmen stormed in, rampaging through the office complex hunting for victims. Some employees managed to barricade themselves inside offices while police quickly evacuated more than 350 people. Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majro says 40 people were killed and 29 were wounded.

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan Motor Co. executive Greg Kelly was released from detention in Japan on Tuesday after being granted bail over the alleged underreporting of his boss Carlos Ghosn's pay. The late-night release of Kelly, who is American, followed the Tokyo District Court's approval earlier in the day of a bail request filed last week by his Japanese lawyer. Kelly was freed on 70 million yen ($635,600) bail, ending his detention after more than a month. Television footage captured the bespectacled Kelly, wearing a beige jacket, slowly walking out of the detention center and getting into a black car. The vehicle carrying Kelly, who was seated next to his lawyer and looking straight ahead, drove past reporters as cameras flashed.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — A Pakistani lawyer who successfully fought a legal battle to acquit a Christian woman in a high-profile blasphemy case says he will return home to represent her whenever the country's Supreme Court takes up a review petition against her. Saiful Malook, who fled to the Netherlands following threats to him from radical Islamists after the Oct. 21 acquittal of Asia Bibi, said Tuesday that no date has been set by the court to hear the petition. The announcement by Malook came as the 54-year-old mother of five celebrated Christmas amid security despite being freed. Bibi had been on death row since 2010 on charges of insulting Islam's Prophet Muhammad.