Top Asian News 12:28 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — All systems are go as a Chinese spacecraft and rover power up their observation equipment after making a first-ever landing on the far side of the moon, the Chinese National Space Administration said. The Jade Rabbit 2 rover has succeeded in establishing a digital transmission link with a relay satellite that sends data back to the Beijing control center, the space agency said in a posting late Friday on its website. The rover's radar and panoramic camera have been activated and are working normally, it said. A photo released by the agency showed the rover stopped at a point not far from where the Chang'e 4 spacecraft touched down Thursday.

TOKYO (AP) — A 612-pound (278-kilogram) bluefin tuna sold for a record 333.6 million yen ($3 million) at the first auction of 2019, after Tokyo's famed Tsukiji market was moved to a new site on the city's waterfront. The winning bid for the prized but threatened species at the predawn auction Saturday was more than double the 2013 annual New Year auction. It was paid by Kiyomura Corp., whose owner, Kiyoshi Kimura, runs the Sushi Zanmai chain. Kimura has often won the annual auction in the past. Japanese broadcaster NHK showed a beaming Kimura saying that he was surprised by the high price of tuna this year.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Six schoolchildren and their bus driver were killed as the vehicle rolled down a gorge on a hilly road in northern India, police said. Another 12 children were hospitalized with injuries after the school bus skidded off the road in Himachal Pradesh state on Saturday, said police officer Rohit Malpani. Malpani said three students aged 5 to 14 and the driver died on the spot. Three students died later in a hospital. The cause of the accident is being investigated. Around 150,000 people die every year on India's roads, often because of reckless driving, badly maintained roads and vehicles overcrowded with passengers.

BANGKOK (AP) — Ferry services and airports reopened in southern Thailand on Saturday as a storm moved west into the Andaman Sea after causing disruption and leaving at least one person dead. Tropical Storm Pabuk barreled across the Gulf of Thailand on Friday but spared world famous beach resorts major damage. The storm damaged houses, knocked down power lines and triggered flash floods in several east coast provinces. On the island of Koh Samui, where the suspension of air and ferry services had trapped many visitors, lines were long Saturday for rides back to the mainland. The area's large fishing industry had to stand down, with ships ordered to stay in ports and small boats hauled ashore to keep them from being swept away.

TOKYO (AP) — Nissan Chief Performance Officer Jose Munoz, who oversaw the Japanese automaker's global strategies, is taking a leave of absence to work on "special tasks arising from recent events," the company said Saturday, referring to the arrest of former Chairman Carlos Ghosn. Nissan Motor Co. spokesman Nicholas Maxfield did not offer any other details. Munoz is among several executives media have speculated could be a possible successor to Ghosn. Ghosn, a revered figure in the global auto industry, led Nissan for two decades after being sent in by Renault in 1999 when Nissan was near bankruptcy. Renault owns 43 percent of Nissan.

BEIJING (AP) — American officials are due in Beijing Monday for talks aimed at easing the U.S.-China trade battle that threatens to hobble global economic growth. The talks are going ahead despite tension over the arrest of a Chinese tech executive in Canada on U.S. charges related to possible violations of trade sanctions on Iran. The two governments have expressed interest in a settlement but have given no indication that their stances have shifted. After several tit-for-tat tariff increases last year, Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed Dec. 1 to postpone further hikes. The two countries hope to have "positive and constructive discussions," said a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang.

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese legislator is drawing criticism for his comment that "a nation would collapse" if everyone became LGBT. Remarks by Katsuei Hirasawa, a veteran lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, were carried on Nippon News Network's national broadcast Friday. Outrage has been popping up on social media. Hirasawa told a crowd in Yamanashi Prefecture in central Japan on Thursday: "Criticizing LGBT would create problems, but if everyone became like them then a nation would collapse." He also said he didn't understand moves in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward and other local areas to recognize same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are not recognized in Japan nationally.

NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian court on Saturday declared tycoon Vijay Mallya a "fugitive economic offender," a ruling that empowers authorities to confiscate his properties and other assets. Judge M.S. Azmi's decision came less than a month after a British Court ruled that the 62-year-old Mallya should be extradited to India to face financial fraud allegations. Mallya remains free on bail in London and can appeal the ruling. Mallya, who left India in 2016, is accused of money laundering and cheating Indian banks out of hundreds of millions of dollars. He has denied wrongdoing. He was declared a fugitive economic offender under a new Indian law that applies to a person accused of financial fraud of over 1 billion rupees ($14.2 million) and who has fled India to avoid prosecution.

BEIJING (AP) — China has come a long way since the founding of its space program in 1956. Shortly after the former Soviet Union launched Sputnik, Chairman Mao Zedong declared that China too should have an artificial satellite to keep up with the great powers. Now, being recognized as a galactic pioneer is once again part of China's national ambitions. "The space dream is part of the dream to make China stronger," President Xi Jinping said shortly after taking office in 2013. While China still lags behind the United States, which has a much larger space exploration budget, it has come out ahead in at least one arena after becoming the first country to make a landing on the far side of the moon Thursday.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's top diplomat to Italy, who South Korea's spy agency says has gone into hiding along with his wife, appears to be the latest member of the North's elite to abandon the secretive totalitarian state. Many of them have expressed frustration over what they described as an oppressive police state in Pyongyang or desires for their families to have new lives in South Korea or the West. The North, which touts itself as a socialist paradise, is extremely sensitive about defections, especially among its elite, and has previously insisted that they are South Korean or U.S.