Top Asian News 4:59 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — Asia is welcoming the lunar year of the pig with visits to temples, family banquets and the world's biggest travel spree. The streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities were quiet and empty Tuesday after millions of people left to visit relatives or travel abroad during the year's biggest family holiday. Families gathered at home for multigenerational banquets. Shops, companies and government offices closed for the week. In Hong Kong, worshippers stood in line for hours at the Wong Tai Sin Temple to welcome the lunar new year by lighting incense. China's railway ministry forecast mainland travelers would make 413 million trips during the three-week period around the holiday.

The Lunar New Year is being celebrated around Asia with lanterns, performances, decorations and food. People are bidding farewell to the year of the dog in the 12-year Chinese astrological cycle and welcoming the year of the pig with hopes of happiness and fortune. On the eve of the new year, people gathered for reunion dinners, gave red packets of pocket money to youngsters and lit firecrackers at midnight. Early Tuesday, the first day of the year of the pig, hundreds lined up outside famous temples to burn the first joss sticks of the year, expecting it to bring them good luck.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — As she pursued her dream of becoming a fashion model, veering for years between extreme dieting and overeating, Park I Seul realized she had a problem: She was not tall and skinny, like typical runway models, nor was she big enough to be a plus-size model. She also realized that the only way to meet South Korea's lofty beauty standards was for her to continuously deny who she truly is. So Park, 25, began calling herself a "natural size model" — a nearly unheard of term in South Korea — which she defines as someone with the same kind of body you see in daily life, as opposed to a difficult-to-attain ideal.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — An eruption of one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes sent lava and searing gas clouds out the crater and made villagers leave the slopes, a volcanology official said Tuesday. Authorities were still trying to evacuate nearly 600 residents living along the slopes of Mount Karangetang, said Yudia Tatipang, head of the Karangetang volcano observation post. There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage. He said the 1,784-meter (5,853-foot) volcano located on Siau island of North Sulawesi province started spitting clouds of gas and lava on Sunday. Late on Monday, hot ash tumbled down its slopes up to 300 meters (980 feet), triggering panic among villagers as falling ash and sulfur blanketed several villages around its slopes.

LONDON (AP) — A British official has signed an order that paves the way for tycoon Vijay Mallya's extradition to India to face financial fraud allegations. The government office that oversees immigration and other issues said in a statement issued on Monday that Home Secretary Sajid Javid "carefully considered all relevant matters" before signing the extradition order. Mallya has 14 days to appeal. Known for his flashy lifestyle, he was a leading figure among India's business elite. He launched Kingfisher Airlines and owned a stake in the Force India Formula One team. Mallya is accused in India of conspiracy to defraud, making false representations and money laundering offenses.

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Two bodies were reportedly found near a drain in the flood-stricken city of Townsville on Tuesday as Australia's prime minister toured the devastation wrought by unprecedented rainfall Police would not immediately confirm media reports that the bodies had been recovered a day after two men disappeared near flood waters in the Townsville suburb of Aitkenvale. Authorities have warned Townsville residents not to swim in flood waters, in which crocodiles and snakes have been spotted among the Townsville suburbs. While floodwater receded in Townsville on Tuesday, overnight monsoonal rain created flash-flooding in communities to the north where authorities have warned residents to move to higher ground.

BANGKOK (AP) — Candidates in Thailand's first general election since the military seized power in 2014 began registering Monday, as supporters waved banners and chanted slogans in political activity that until recently was illegal. Hundreds of candidates from dozens of parties crammed into an indoor stadium to officially enter the race and draw lots for the numbers that will go alongside their names on the ballot papers for the March 24 election. Enthusiasm for a return to democracy is high, but is tempered with an awareness that new election rules handicap the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which has easily won every national election since 2001.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in a hurry to find a peace deal for Afghanistan that would allow America to bring home its troops after 17 years of war, but the road ahead is littered with obstacles. After years of U.S. insisting on talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Khalilzad began meeting with the insurgents shortly after his appointment in September, giving into a key demand from the Taliban, who view the Kabul government as an American puppet. President Donald Trump's frustration with the costly and interminable war, as well as reports of a U.S. plan to withdraw half of its roughly 15,000 troops by the summer, has lent a sense of urgency to Khalilzad's mission.

TOKYO (AP) — The leaders of Germany and Japan said Monday they will try to minimize the global economic impact from Britain's upcoming departure from the European Union and pledged to defend free trade in the face of rising protectionism. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Britain to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Last Friday, Japan and the EU ushered in a landmark trade deal that creates one of the world's largest free trade areas. Combined, the two sides account for almost a third of the world's economy. Abe said Japan and Germany would work together to keep the global economy growing.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Five suspected Abu Sayyaf militants accused of involvement in a deadly suicide attack at a Roman Catholic cathedral in the southern Philippines have surrendered to authorities, the national police chief said Monday amid renewed terrorism fears. Complaints for murder and attempted murder were filed against the five, as well as several other suspected Abu Sayyaf fighters who remain at large, for their alleged role in the Jan. 27 attack at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Sulu province's Jolo town which killed 23 people and wounded nearly 100 others. Before the bombing, the detained suspects escorted two Indonesians thought to have carried out the suicide attack around Jolo and to a meeting with an Abu Sayyaf commander, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, who has been accused of planning and funding the attack, police Director-General Oscar Albayalde said.