Indonesia admitted Tuesday that reporters had been allowed to listen in on a conversation between its president and Australia's prime minister aimed at improving relations, but insisted it had been a mistake. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Indonesia's Batam island on Wednesday as he tries to restore ties that have been hurt by spying allegations and turnbacks of boatpeople headed for Australia. But it has now emerged that Jakarta allowed Indonesian journalists to listen in on the call Abbott made to Yudhoyono last month to arrange this week's talks. There was nothing substantive in the conversation to make a big issue out of," spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told AFP, adding it had "already been more than a month" since the conversation.
Opponents of Thailand's military coup are risking arrest by flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" movies to defy a junta that has banned all public protests. The gesture has become the unofficial symbol of resistance against a military regime that has suspended democracy and severely curtailed freedom of expression. "Showing three fingers has become a symbol to call for basic political rights in a country ruled by one person as if with the most sovereign power, who is General Prayut Chan-O-Cha," Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent activist wanted by the junta, wrote on Facebook. Critics of the May 22 coup, including the youngest daughter of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have posted photographs of themselves flashing three fingers on Facebook and other social media sites.
China's manufacturing activity improved in May, but weakness remained as the world's second-largest economy faces headwinds, particularly in the property sector, HSBC said Tuesday. The HSBC final purchasing managers' index (PMI), which tracks activity in the nation's factories and workshops, came in at 49.4 in May, lower than a preliminary reading of 49.7, the British banking giant said in a statement. "The final PMI reading for May confirmed that the economy is stabilising, but it is too early to say that it has bottomed out, particularly in light of a weaker property sector," Qu Hongbing, HSBC's economist in Hong Kong, said in the statement. China's property sector is a key driver of economic growth.
Peshawar (Pakistan) (AFP) - At least seven people were killed and three wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday in a suspected sectarian attack, officials said. The incident took place when a Datsun pick-up truck hit an IED near Parachinar, the main town of Kurram tribal agency which lies along the Afghan border and is a hotbed of both Taliban-linked and Sunni-Shiite violence. "It was a roadside IED, four people died on the spot while three others died in the hospital," Maqsood Hassan, a local government official told AFP. An intelligence official confirmed the incident, adding that the vehicle was carrying people from a Sunni Muslim dominated area while the bomb was exploded in a Shiite area.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may visit North Korea, Japan said Tuesday, days after announcing a deal to re-open the probe into Japanese citizens kidnapped by spies in the Cold War. Any such visit would be controversial, especially in Seoul and Washington, which have led the charge to further isolate Pyongyang over its ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. Tokyo and Pyongyang have no formal diplomatic ties, partially because of what Japan says is the North's unwillingness to come clean over the abductions in the 1970s and 1980s.
South Korea on Tuesday repatriated a North Korean fisherman but rejected Pyongyang's demands to return two others picked up by the coastguard at the weekend. Seoul's Unification Ministry said the repatriation took place at the border truce village of Panmunjom. The fishermen were picked up Saturday by a coastguard vessel off the east coast of South Korea, and the North quickly demanded the immediate return of all three as well as their boat. A Unification Ministry spokesman said there was "no word or protest" from North Korea when the third fisherman was handed over at the border.
Several US states hold primary votes on Tuesday ahead of November's mid-term elections, with the Tea Party eying perhaps its best remaining chance to bounce an establishment Republican incumbent from the Senate. The conservative movement that promotes small government and fewer taxes has had a relatively rough 2014 campaign season, mostly failing to oust mainstream Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Now it is pinning hopes on constitutional conservative and spending-slasher Chris McDaniel, a 42-year-old state senator from Mississippi pitting himself against the old guard in the form of the US Senate's consummate Southern gentleman, six-term Republican Thad Cochran, 76. Outside political groups have pumped millions into the race, which spiralled into a Mississippi mudfight when four McDaniel supporters were arrested after one sneaked into a nursing home to take pictures of Cochran's wife, who is being treated for dementia.
Dabanga (Cameroon) (AFP) - "Everyone out! Hold onto your belongings, we're going to conduct a search," yells a Cameroonian soldier as he inspects bus passengers already wearied by dusty hours on a bumpy northern road. "We're everywhere in the area," said the soldier in Dabanga, in Cameroon's far north, the border region where a French family was kidnapped last year by Islamic extremists of the deadly Boko Haram movement. The incursion of Boko Haram fighters into Cameroon, from their stronghold over the border in Nigeria, has led to regular vehicle searches and identity checks by the army. Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", has killed thousands of people since 2009 in its fight to establish an Islamic state in the north of Nigeria.
Emirates chief Tim Clark has reportedly questioned why fighter jets did not intercept Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 when it veered widely off course, but said he believed the missing plane will be found. The Emirates boss told The Australian Financial Review at an annual airlines conference in Doha that the plane would have been intercepted by military aircraft if it had flown off course over other countries. "Even if you did that over Australia and the US, there would be something up. His comments came as the International Air Transport Association conference looked at ways of improving the tracking of aircraft through flight data transmissions or technologies to monitor their movements.