Top Asian News at 6:00 a.m. GMT

Associated Press

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — The grim work of recovering bodies from the submerged South Korea ferry proceeded rapidly Wednesday, with the official death toll reaching 146, though a government official said divers must now rip through cabin walls to retrieve more victims. The victims are overwhelmingly students of a single high school in Ansan, near Seoul. More than three-quarters of the 323 students are dead or missing, while nearly two-thirds of the other 153 people on board the ferry Sewol when it sank one week ago survived.

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Sherpa guides packed up their tents and left Mount Everest's base camp Wednesday in an unprecedented walkout to honor 16 of their colleagues who were killed last week in the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on the mountain, climbers said. The boycott throws Nepal's lucrative climbing season into disarray. Most attempts to reach Everest's summit are made in mid-May, when weather is most favorable, but expedition companies already have started canceling their climbs for the season following Friday's tragedy. Thirteen bodies were recovered after the avalanche and three Sherpas still missing are presumed dead.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia may use more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet as the prime minister said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site would not spell the end of the search. The search coordination center said Wednesday a robotic submarine, the U.S. Navy's Bluefin 21, had so far covered more than 80 percent of the 310-square-kilometer (120-square-mile) seabed search zone off the Australian west coast, creating a three-dimensional sonar map of the ocean floor. Nothing of interest had been found.

TOKYO (AP) — President Barack Obama confirmed Wednesday that America's mutual security treaty with Japan applies to the islands at the center of a territorial dispute between China and Japan. "The policy of the United States is clear," he said in a written response to questions published in Japan's Yomiuri newspaper before his arrival in Tokyo at the start of a four-country Asia tour.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia announced Wednesday that it had increased its order for F-35 Joint Strike Fighters by 58 to 72 to be fully operational by 2023 in a declaration of confidence in the troubled stealth war plane. The government expects the additional 58 U.S. jets, developed by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., will cost 12.4 billion Australian dollars ($11.5 billion), Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police armed with truncheon, shields and water hose have clashed with more than 100 left-wing activists who rallied at the U.S. Embassy in Manila to oppose a visit by President Barack Obama and a looming pact that will increase the American military presence in the Philippines. Riot policemen blocked the flag-waving activists near the heavily fortified embassy compound Wednesday but the protesters slipped past them, sparking a brief scuffle in view of motorists stuck in traffic.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Commercial satellite imagery shows increased activity at North Korea's nuclear test site but not enough to indicate an underground atomic explosion is imminent, a U.S. research institute said Tuesday. North Korea last month threatened to conduct its fourth nuclear test and there's been speculation it may do so as President Barack Obama travels to Asia this week.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is reviewing a new series of options that would leave fewer than 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year, a U.S. official said Tuesday. The options, requested by the administration, include a range of troop numbers from zero to 10,000 U.S. troops and reflect the long-running debate over how many are needed to train and advise the Afghan security forces and conduct counterterrorism missions.

TOKYO (AP) — Toyota kept its position at the top in global vehicle sales for the first quarter of this year, outpacing rivals General Motors and Volkswagen. Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday that it sold 2.583 million vehicles in the January-March period, ahead of Detroit-based GM at 2.42 million and Volkswagen of Germany at 2.4 million.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Pirates raided a Japanese tanker in the Malacca Strait and pilfered several million liters of diesel fuel it was carrying, Malaysian marine police said Wednesday. A marine police officer said the tanker was sailing from Singapore to Myanmar when it was boarded by pirates armed with pistols and machetes early Tuesday. He said most of the crew members were tied up and locked in a room.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — State media say a court in Vietnam has sentenced an American to death for heroin trafficking. The Liberated Saigon newspaper says Jason Dinh, 41, was convicted of trafficking 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of heroin at a one-day trial by Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new poll shows that Indians view rape as a big problem in their country and think the criminal justice system is inadequate to deal with it. The national survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center one year after the December 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student in New Delhi unleashed a wave of public anger about sexual violence in India. The results were published Tuesday.

HONG KONG (AP) — Factory activity in China shrank for the fourth straight month in April, though the decline was slightly slower, a survey on Wednesday said, in a possible sign the slowdown in the world's No. 2 economy is stabilizing. The preliminary version of HSBC's purchasing managers' index edged up 48.3 from March's 48.0 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion.

MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — As the ferry sank, some crew members gave their lifejackets to passengers. One refused to leave until she shepherded students off the ship, and was later found dead. Others worked from rescue boats to break windows with hammers and pull people trapped in cabins to safety. Nearly a week after the sinking of the South Korean ferry, with rising outrage over a death count that could eventually top 300, the public verdict against the crew of the Sewol has been savage and quick. "Cowards!" social media users howled. "Unforgivable, murderous," President Park Geun-hye said Monday of the captain and some crew.

JINDO, South Korea (AP) — A bicycle, never ridden. A lipstick prank pulled off by old friends. Mother-daughter conversations that now burn in the memory, laden with regret. Among the 302 people dead or missing in last week's South Korean ferry disaster, there are a multitude of stories. Here are just a few: