Top Asian News at 12:30 a.m. GMT

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean and Japanese media say North Korea has launched two ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast in its latest test-firing. Impoverished North Korea has staged a series of recent missile and rocket test-firings seen by analysts as expressions of anger over its failure to win talks meant to provide outside aid, and over South Korean and U.S. military drills.

SINGAPORE (AP) — A children’s book inspired by a real-life story of two male penguins raising a baby chick in New York’s zoo has been deemed inappropriate by state-run Singapore libraries, and the conservative city-state’s information minister said he supports the decision to destroy all copies alongside two other titles. The National Library Board, which runs 26 public libraries in Singapore, pulled from the shelves and said it would “pulp” the copies of three titles, citing complaints their content goes against Singapore’s family values.

BEIJING (AP) — A top business journalist at China’s state broadcaster was taken away by prosecutors, abruptly absent from his nightly newscast he was anchoring, China’s financial news magazine Caixin reported Saturday. The sudden removal of celebrity journalist Rui Chenggang came less than two months after his boss was detained on suspicion of taking bribes during an ongoing investigation into high-level corruption at China’s biggest state-run network.

GAUHATI, India (AP) — A crude bomb exploded Saturday in India’s troubled northeast, wounding at least six passersby, and authorities searched for four Muslim traders believed to be abducted by a rebel group in the region. The improvised device went off near the Manipur University complex in Imphal, the capital of Manipur state.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Friday hailed as “historic” a Japanese government decision to loosen restrictions on its military. Hagel said once Japan’s parliament passes implementing legislation, the Asian nation will be able to contribute more to regional security and expand its role on the world stage.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan’s two rival candidates reached a breakthrough agreement Saturday to a complete audit of their contested presidential election and, whoever the victor, a national unity government. The deal, brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, offers a path out of what threatened to be a debilitating political crisis for Afghanistan, with both candidates claiming victory and talking of setting up competing governments.

TOKYO (AP) — A strong earthquake hit Japan’s northern coast Saturday near the nuclear power plant crippled in the 2011 tsunami. At least one person was injured and a small tsunami was triggered, but no damage was reported. Japan’s Meteorological Agency said the magnitude-6.8 quake struck 10 kilometers (6 miles) below the sea surface off the coast of Fukushima. The 4:22 a.m. (1922 GMT Friday) quake shook buildings in Tokyo, about 250 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of the epicenter.

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Roadside bombs in Afghanistan killed at least 10 people Saturday, authorities said. The deadliest attack happened in southern Kandahar province when a bomb struck a civilian car, killing eight people, Panjwayi district police chief Sultan Mohammad said. He blamed the Taliban for the bombing.

KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — Militants killed a Pakistan army captain and two soldiers in a cross-border attack early Saturday in a tribal region near Afghanistan, as an airstrike killed 13 suspected extremist fighters, authorities said. A group of some 60 militants carried out the attack, entering from Afghanistan and firing on a vehicle carrying security forces in the Bajur tribal region, said Shah Nasim, a senior government administrator there. He initially said the militants had attacked an army post.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. State Department proposed Friday that Asian nations not build new outposts or expand existing ones in the South China Sea to help lower the risk of a conflict as tensions mount in its resource-rich waters. Meanwhile the Senate passed a resolution urging all nations to refrain from “destabilizing activities” and expressing U.S. commitment to freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States said Friday is it very concerned that four reporters and a magazine chief executive in Myanmar have been sentenced to 10 years hard labor for investigative reporting about a weapons factory. The sentence sends the “wrong message” about Myanmar’s commitment to freedom of expression, State Department press officer Peter Velasco said. He urged Myanmar to respect the rights of all journalists.

GUNPO, South Korea (AP) — Once their espionage cases are resolved, some former North Korean spies find that life in the South can be pretty good. They write books, land TV gigs, work for think tanks and in general benefit from their new home’s fascination with their old homeland. Won Jeong-hwa is not one of those spies.

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese regulators have banned the country’s journalists from sharing information they have obtained on the job with overseas media or publishing it in any venue, such as blogging sites, outside the media they are employed, in a move that critics say will further stifle press freedom and curb the influence of social media. The regulations, which were detailed in a June 30 document but released this week, come at a time when Chinese journalists have been accused of using their positions to blackmail. But the rules will also impact journalists who, frustrated with tight news controls over what they can publish in their own companies, sometimes release information they have obtained to outlets outside mainland China or in social media, such as their personal blogs.

NEW DELHI (AP) — A 14-year-old girl was dragged into a forest and raped on the orders of a village council in remote eastern India in retaliation for a sex assault blamed on her brother, her family and police said Friday. Jitendra Singh, a top local police official, said two men have been arrested in the rape case. They include the village headman and the main suspect, identified as the husband of the woman who was allegedly molested by the victim’s brother.

BEIJING (AP) — Courts in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang sentenced 32 people to prison, three of them for life, for terror charges stemming from downloading and spreading violent Internet content that authorities have blamed for inspiring a recent string of deadly attacks, state media said Friday. The other 29 people were handed sentences ranging from four to 15 years’ imprisonment by seven courts in the region on Thursday, according to state broadcaster CCTV and the region’s official newspaper, the Xinjiang Daily.

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