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

HONG KONG (AP) — Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong plan to hold a spot referendum Sunday on whether to stay in the streets or accept government offers for more talks and clear their protest camps. The three main groups behind the demonstrations say they would register public opinion at the main downtown protest site, where thousands remain camped out.

BEIJING (AP) — China and 21 other Asian nations signed on Friday to a new Beijing-backed international bank for Asia that Washington opposes as an unnecessary rival to established institutions such as the World Bank. Representatives of the 22 nations signed a memorandum of understanding at the Great Hall of the People in the heart of Beijing to establish the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Thursday agreed to maintain wartime control of South Korean troops in the event of an attack by North Korea for the foreseeable future, delaying the transfer of authority to Seoul that had been scheduled for 2015. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that delaying the handoff "will ensure that when the transfer does occur, Korean forces have the necessary defensive capabilities to address an intensifying North Korean threat."

BEIJING (AP) — China launched an experimental spacecraft Friday to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for the country's first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. The eight-day program is a test run for a 2017 mission that aims to have a Chinese spacecraft land on the moon, retrieve samples and return to Earth. That would make burgeoning space power China only the third country after the United States and Russia to have carried out such a mission.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The remarkable rise of Indonesia's new president has captured popular imagination at home and won praise internationally, but Joko Widodo still needs to prove his foreign policy prowess. The U.S. is looking for him to sustain Jakarta's role as a regional leader in Southeast Asia. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the inauguration this week of Jokowi, as he is better known, whose personal story is symbolic of Indonesia's own transition from autocracy to democratic rule. After he was sworn in, the leader of the world's fourth-most populated country traveled to the presidential palace by horse and cart, underscoring his credentials as a champion of the poor.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — A Malaysian man seriously injured in a car accident crawled through jungle for three days before happening upon an isolated village, authorities said Friday. The man, identified as Nicholas Andrew, showed up at the village on Wednesday, after the car he was driving sped off a highway in central Malaysia into a ravine early Sunday morning, said police chief Som Sak Din Keliaw said

LAKE CHON, North Korea (AP) — When North Korea opens its doors, it does so for a reason. So it was when the authoritarian government granted permission for a road trip so extensive that few North Koreans — let alone a pair of American journalists — could imagine taking it. We drove 2,150 kilometers (1,336 miles) in a country that has barely 25,000 kilometers of road, and only 724 kilometers of those paved. By the time we returned to the capital a week later, our Chinese-made Great Wall SUV had a few new scratches and one less hubcap.

HONG KONG (AP) — It's among the most powerful clubs in this city of enormous wealth and influence. Only 1,200 people are allowed in, and they decide who leads Hong Kong every five years. As thousands of protesters block city streets demanding democratic reforms, the future of Hong Kong's exclusive — some would say purposefully opaque — election committee may prove key to defusing a high-stakes political standoff that has dragged on for nearly a month.

HONG KONG (AP) — Smooth jazz star Kenny G insisted Thursday he's not a foreign provocateur supporting Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests, after Beijing signaled its displeasure over his inharmonious visit and repeated concerns about meddling by external forces. The American musician created a stir when he tweeted Wednesday about his visit to the semiautonomous southern Chinese city, where thousands of student-led protesters have occupied streets for more than three weeks to press their demands for greater democratic reforms.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is preparing to transfer a military detainee in Afghanistan for criminal trial in Virginia, U.S. officials said Thursday. The move would mark the first time a military detainee from Afghanistan was brought to the U.S. for trial, and it represents the Obama administration's latest attempt to show that it can use the criminal court system to deal with terror suspects.

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — The United States government must make a formal apology to secure the freedom of two Americans who remain imprisoned in North Korea after the release this week of Jeffrey Fowle, North Korean legal experts said Thursday. Although North Korea released Fowle, getting Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae out of prison will likely require an official statement of apology and formal request for their release from Washington, according to the two North Korean law experts who spoke to The Associated Press.

BEIJING (AP) — China may ban Facebook, but not its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. The young billionaire delighted an audience of students at a prestigious Beijing university this week with a 30-minute chat in his recently learned Mandarin Chinese. — DID HE COMPLAIN ABOUT THE BAN? He made no explicit mention of China's ban on the social media giant, but an indirect reference to it drew laughter during the question-and-answer session Wednesday at Tsinghua University. Zuckerberg, whose company has long sought to enter China, noted Facebook already helps some Chinese companies in foreign markets, citing computer maker Lenovo's ads on Facebook in India.

BEIJING (AP) — China's ruling Communist Party announced steps Thursday to improve judicial independence and check political interference in the courts in hopes to boost legal justice and alleviate social tensions. Yet, observers say it has failed to produce meaningful legal checks on the ruling party itself. "There is only the rhetoric commitment with no mechanism to make constitutional rulings," said Willy Lam, an expert on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

BEIJING (AP) — Local authorities have punished 17 officials in southwest China after one of the most violent land conflicts in recent years left eight people dead, state media reported Thursday. The Oct. 14 clash centered on a dispute between villagers and a property developer in Yunnan province over compensation for land. Authorities previously said that residents of Fuyou village detained several construction workers and burned four of them to death. Two other workers and two villagers also died, and 18 people were injured.

In this photo by Kin Cheung, a hiker looks at the yellow banner reading "I want genuine universal suffrage" in Chinese and "Umbrella Movement" in English hanging from the face of Lion Rock mountain in Hong Kong. Democracy activists hung the banner on the mountain in support of the protest movement in which thousands of demonstrators have camped out on the streets of the southern Chinese financial center for nearly a month to press their demands for greater democracy.

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