Top Asian News 4:44 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese spacecraft on Thursday made the first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, state media said. The lunar explorer Chang'e 4 touched down at 10:26 a.m., China Central Television said in a brief announcement at the top of its noon news broadcast. The far side of the moon faces away from Earth and is relatively unexplored. It is also known as the dark side of the moon. The pioneering landing demonstrates China's growing ambitions as a space power. In 2013, Chang'e 3 was the first spacecraft to land on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 in 1976.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Lawyers for South Koreans forced into wartime labor have taken legal steps to seize the South Korean assets of a Japanese company they are trying to pressure into following a court ruling to provide them compensation. Lawyer Lim Jae-sung said Thursday the court in the city of Pohang could decide in two or three weeks whether to accept the request to seize the 2.34 million shares Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. holds in its joint venture with South Korean steelmaker POSCO, which are estimated to be worth around $9.7 million. Lim said Nippon Steel has been refusing to discuss compensation despite a ruling by South Korea's Supreme Court in October that the company should pay 100 million won ($88,000) each to four plaintiffs who worked at its steel mills during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

BANGKOK (AP) — Thai weather authorities are warning that a tropical storm will bring heavy rains and high seas to southern Thailand and its famed beach resorts. The Thai Meteorological Department said Tropical Storm Pabuk was moving west into the Gulf of Thailand on Thursday with maximum winds of 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph). Torrential rain was possible Thursday through Saturday for Thailand's southern provinces and islands popular with domestic and foreign tourists. The department said waves 3 to 5 meters (yards) high were possible in the Gulf of Thailand and 2 to 3 meters high in the Andaman Sea on the west coast.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A large fishing ship ran aground on a remote Pacific atoll early Thursday, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it was helping coordinate the rescue of its 24 crew members. The 308-foot (94-meter) Chinese-flagged Ou Ya Leng No. 6 ran aground on uninhabited Taka Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said. He said a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules plane had arrived in the area and made contact with the crew, who remained aboard and were using emergency generator power. West said earlier reports the crew had left the ship and made it ashore on a lifeboat were incorrect.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — While Sheikh Hasina is set to begin her third consecutive term as Bangladesh's prime minister following a landslide election victory, critics say having such an overwhelming majority in Parliament could create space for her to become even more authoritarian. The Hasina-led coalition won 288 seats in the 300-seat Parliament in Sunday's election, amid allegations by the opposition that the voting was rigged. Hasina rejected the accusations at a briefing with foreign journalists a day after the vote. The new Cabinet is expected to be sworn in by Jan. 10, but members of the opposition alliance, which won only seven seats, said they would not take the oath.

KURAVILANGAD, India (AP) — The stories spill out in the sitting rooms of Catholic convents, where portraits of Jesus keep watch and fans spin quietly overhead. They spill out in church meeting halls bathed in fluorescent lights, and over cups of cheap instant coffee in convent kitchens. Always, the stories come haltingly, quietly. Sometimes, the nuns speak at little more than a whisper. Across India, the nuns talk of priests who pushed into their bedrooms and of priests who pressured them to turn close friendships into sex. They talk about being groped and kissed, of hands pressed against them by men they were raised to believe were representatives of Jesus Christ.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Two women on Wednesday entered one of India's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites that had been forbidden to females between the ages of 10 and 50, sparking protests across a southern state, with police firing tear gas at several places to disperse stone-throwing protesters, police said. The Supreme Court lifted a ban in September on women worshipping at Sabarimala temple in Kerala state. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972. Despite the ruling, demonstrators including Hindu priests and conservatives continued to block women of menstruating age from entering the centuries-old temple. The two women in their forties entered the temple early Wednesday and worshipped there, said Pramod Kumar, the state police spokesman.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Emperor Akihito waved on Wednesday to throngs of well-wishers eager to see his final New Year's appearance before abdicating in several months. "I am truly happy to celebrate the New Year with all of you under such cloudless skies," the 85-year-old emperor told the crowd from a balcony at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Akihito has made annual New Year's appearances with his wife, Empress Michiko, and other family members to wish peace for the nation. Japanese media reported that more than 150,000 people attended on Wednesday, a record under Akihito's reign. Many waited from early in the morning and waved Japanese flags when Akihito appeared.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he has received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and will be setting up a meeting with Kim "in the not-too-distant future" to restart talks about the North's nuclear programs. "He'd like to meet. I'd like to meet," Trump said as he held up the letter during a Cabinet meeting. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted: "Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others — & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime." Kim has met several times with the leader of South Korea and attended a summit in Singapore with Trump in June.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping, declaring that independence is not an option for Taiwan, urged both sides to reach an early consensus on unification and not leave the issue for future generations. No one or no party can stop the trend toward unification, the Chinese leader said Wednesday in a policy speech devoted to Taiwan. He said independence for the self-governing island is 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's leader rejected his call just hours later.