Top Asian News at 4:30 a.m. GMT

BEIJING (AP) — A coal mine shaft collapsed in northwestern China, killing 16 miners, China's official news agency said Saturday. Another 11 miners were injured in the disaster that struck just before midnight Friday in Tiechanggou township outside the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi.

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Nepal bus packed with people, including Israeli tourists and locals heading home for a Hindu festival, veered off a mountain highway, killing 14 and injuring dozens, police said Saturday. Among those killed Friday were two Israelis, including a woman who was part of a group heading to the Langtang trekking area. Israeli media reported four other Israelis were among the dozens of injured, 20 of whom remained in hospitals.

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong democracy activists will hold a two-day referendum starting Sunday to gauge protesters' response to government proposals to end the monthlong street occupation. Protest organizers said late Friday they would register public opinion at the main downtown protest site, where thousands remain camped out, and two other satellite protest zones.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Police in Vietnam have arrested a prominent businessman and one of the country's richest men on suspicion of lending fraud, as authorities step up their crackdown on financial crimes in a bid to clean up the debt-ridden banking sector. Ha Van Tham, former chairman of the board of the private Ocean Bank, was taken into police custody in Hanoi on Friday for "violating lending regulations," the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement posted on its website late Friday. Police searched his house and workplace.

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Le Minh Thai, a photojournalist who covered the Vietnam War for The Associated Press and Time Life, has died. He was 93. Thai died Oct. 10 at a nursing home in Encinitas, where he had been living for the past seven years, his daughter, Quynh Thai, told The Associated Press.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A Malaysian military officer was back in a New Zealand court Saturday to face sexual assault charges five months after he left the country under the protection of diplomatic immunity. Muhammad Rizalman Ismail did not say anything during his brief appearance at the Wellington District Court. He was taken into police custody and scheduled to reappear before a judge Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea may be capable of fielding a nuclear-armed missile that could reach U.S. soil, but because it has not tested such a weapon the odds of it being effective are "pretty darn low," the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea said Friday. In remarks at the Pentagon, Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti noted that North Korea claims to have such a missile, capable of being launched from a road-mobile vehicle and therefore difficult to monitor via satellite. Some, however, have questioned whether the North Koreans have achieved all of the key technological breakthroughs, including manufacturing a nuclear warhead small enough for a long-range missile.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged North Korea to release two detained Americans to build goodwill with the United States, but ruled out providing a U.S. apology to Pyongyang to win their freedom. Kerry said North Korea should free Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae for humanitarian reasons and because they are being held "inappropriately."

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — American forces are guarding Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, yet a ring of Filipino troops surrounds them. The seemingly redundant security effort around the suspect in a Philippine murder case reflects Manila's uneasy ties with Washington, its former colonial master. Pemberton, 19, is accused of killing Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipino, in a motel room Oct. 11 in the city of Olongapo. He was initially been held on a U.S. Navy warship at the Subic Bay Freeport, northwest of Manila, but on Wednesday he was transferred to the Philippine military's main camp, where Filipino troops and two of his fellow Marines continue to guard him.

CHUNCHEON, South Korea (AP) — The whistleblower who exposed breakthrough cloning research as a devastating fake says South Korea is still dominated by the values that allowed science fraudster Hwang Woo-suk to become an almost untouchable national hero. In an interview with The Associated Press after almost a decade of silence, Ryu Young-joon, one of Hwang's former researchers, said the cost of telling the truth still weighs on him but he doesn't regret his decision to out Hwang as a false prophet.

BEIJING (AP) — Twenty-one Asian nations have signed on to a China-driven initiative to create a new development bank for Asia that's aimed at boosting infrastructure investment of all kinds. Beijing sees that as a way to raise its international standing, but Washington opposes the move as an unnecessary and potentially damaging rival to established institutions such as the World Bank. — WHO'S IN THE GROUP?

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The hunt for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in a remote patch of the Indian Ocean is progressing well but will likely take many months because of the huge area involved, an Australian official said Friday. Peter Foley, an Australian search coordinator, said there is optimism with two ships using high-tech sonar devices to search for the Boeing 777, which disappeared in March while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — After an American was released from North Korean custody, the attention has now focused on two other U.S. citizens still in its jails, and at least one North Korean legal expert has some unusual advice to offer: let Washington formally apologize to Pyongyang, and the country's leader will consider pardoning them. The suggestion on Thursday by Sok Chol Won, a professor of international law, offers a look at North Korean thinking — academics, government officials and ordinary people alike. While the idea of an apology may appear ludicrous to outsiders in democracies, autocratic North Korea assumes that a government is responsible for its citizens' actions.

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's army shot dead a journalist who was detained while covering clashes between the army and ethnic rebels at the rugged border, saying he reached for a soldier's gun during an attempted escape, the press council said Friday. It released a military statement that said Aung Naing was arrested Sept. 30 after an attack on the army near Kyaikmaraw in Mon state in eastern Myanmar, and that an interrogation revealed he was an information officer for an armed ethnic Karen group. The journalist's full name, not given in the statement, is Aung Kyaw Naing.

PARIS (AP) — A French appeals court has authorized the extradition to Russia or Ukraine of a Kazakh dissident banker whose legal case is tangled up in at least five countries. His lawyer immediately announced a decision to appeal, which blocks the procedure.

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