Top Asian News 4:49 a.m. GMT

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand (AP) — Rain, winds and surging seawater are striking southern Thailand as a strengthening tropical storm nears nervous coastal villages and popular tourist resorts. Authorities made rounds in coastal Nakhon Si Thammarat on Friday morning urging people to leave before roads are blocked. A father and a son rushed off with their belongings on their pickup truck, quickly telling reporters the roof of their house was already damaged. Other officials helped fishermen move boats off the beach, which was being beaten up by strong waves. Tropical Storm Pabuk is forecast to make landfall Friday evening in Nakhon Si Thammarat and bring torrential rain and strong winds to more than a dozen other provinces.

BEIJING (AP) — China's space agency has posted a photo of a lunar rover making tracks on the surface shortly after leaving a spacecraft that had made the first-ever landing on the moon's far side. The Jade Rabbit 2 rover drove off a ramp and onto the moon at 10:22 p.m. Thursday, about 12 hours after the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down. Lunar project chief designer Wu Weiren called the separation of the rover "a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation." Other countries have sent spacecraft to the side of the moon that faces Earth.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite the name of Pink Floyd's best-selling album, the side of the moon you can't see isn't always dark. But it is far. So scientists call the area where a Chinese spacecraft just landed the far side, not the dark side. "The other side sees the sun sometimes. The other side is not dark, it's just far," said Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb. "It's a mistake." The moon is what scientists call "tidally locked " which means the same side always faces us, while another side always faces away, Loeb said. When Earth views a darkened new moon, the far side is lit.

ROME (AP) — North Korea's top diplomat in Italy has gone into hiding along with his wife, according to a South Korean lawmaker, raising the possibility of a defection of a senior North Korean official. The news came from South Korea's spy agency, which briefed lawmakers in Seoul on Thursday on the status of North Korea's acting ambassador to Italy, Jo Song Gil. It said he went into hiding with his wife in November before his posting to Italy ended late that month. A high-profile defection by one of North Korea's elite would be a huge embarrassment for leader Kim Jong Un as he pursues diplomacy with Seoul and Washington and seeks to portray himself as a geopolitical player.

An Indian Sikh warrior blows fire during a display of traditional martial art skills in Jammu, India. In other images from the Asia-Pacific region this week, a woman holds incense and prays for health and fortune on New Year's Day at the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing. Thai worshippers take turns lying in coffins at a Buddhist temple in Bangkok in the belief that it helps them get rid of bad luck in the new year. ___ This gallery was curated by Associated Press photo editor Masayo Yoshida in Tokyo. ___ Visit the AP Images blog: Visit AP Images online:

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan official says an overnight fire that began at a gas station in the Afghan capital and spread to a nearby apartment complex has killed three people and injured 27 others. Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayer says six women are in critical condition in a hospital. Saifullah, an eyewitness who, like many Afghans uses only one name, says the fire began shortly after midnight at a gas station in Kabul's eastern Macroyan neighborhood. It quickly spread to a nearby cement block apartment complex. Police officials contacted by The Associated Press say the fire is still under investigation and have so far refused to speculate on the cause.

SYDNEY (AP) — Australian firefighters took hours to extinguish flames after a gasoline tanker caught fire on Friday, cutting traffic on a busy highway and forcing evacuations of nearby homes. The tanker carrying 36,000 liters (9,500 gallons) of gasoline erupted in flames mid-morning after the driver pulled over on the Princes Highway west of the east coast city of Wollongong, a police statement said. Fire and Rescue New South Wales Superintendent Norman Buckley said there were no injuries and 16 residents were evacuated as a precaution by the time the fire was extinguished by 100 firefighters spraying flame-retardant foam. The fuel tank never ruptured and much of the fuel remained inside after the flames were extinguished, Buckley said.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Hindu hardliners vandalized shops, shut businesses and clashed with police in a southern state Thursday to protest the entry of two women in one of India's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, police said. Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters who also blocked roads by placing burning tires and concrete blocks in key towns, including Kozhikode, Kannur, Malappuram, Palakkad and Thiruvananthapuram. Pinarayi Vijayan, the state's top elected official, accused supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party of triggering violence that reportedly claimed one life. Most state-run buses kept off roads after several were damaged by protesters.

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.

NEW YORK (AP) — Behind Apple's disconcerting news of weak iPhone sales lies a more sobering truth: The tech industry has hit Peak Smartphone, a tipping point when everyone who can afford one already owns one and no breakthroughs are compelling them to upgrade as frequently as they once did. Some manufacturers have boosted prices to keep up profit. But Apple's shortfall highlights the limits of that strategy. The company said demand for iPhones is waning and revenue for the last quarter of 2018 will fall well below projections, a decrease traced mainly to China. Apple's shares dropped 10 percent Thursday on the news — its worst loss since 2013.