TOP STORIES:

KOREA-HAGEL

PANMUNJOM, Korea — Standing just steps from the heavily armed border with North Korea, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says Pyongyang is closely watching the international response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people. And, with North Korean soldiers eyeing his every move, Hagel tells reporters traveling with him that the U.S. has no plans to reduce its military presence in South Korea, despite the ongoing budget crisis. By Lolita C. Baldor. SENT: 740 words, photos.

SKOREA-US-JAPAN

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's president criticizes Japan over historical and territorial disputes during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. SENT: 130 words.

ASIA-TYPHOON

HANOI, Vietnam — Tropical storm Wutip lashes central Vietnam after sinking at least two Chinese fishing boats near the Paracel Islands, leaving 75 fishermen missing, officials say. SENT: 270 words.

CAMBODIA-FLOODING

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — At least 30 people in Cambodia have died in recent floods caused by heavy rains and the Mekong River overflowing its banks. The floods have forced more than 9,000 families to flee their homes and destroyed nearly 100,000 hectares of rice fields. SENT: 180 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-DUMPED PREMIER

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's first woman prime minister, who was dumped by her party ahead of September's election loss, reveals she was surprised by the level of aggressive sexism directed at her during three years in power. Julia Gillard made the comments in her first interview since she was deposed in a ballot of her center-left Labor Party colleagues in June as public opinion polls showed the administration heading for a catastrophic election defeat. SENT: 270 words.

INDONESIA-AUSTRALIA

JAKARTA, Indonesia —Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he had frank and constructive discussions on immigration issues with his Indonesian counterpart during his first trip abroad since taking office, a visit that comes as the death toll continues to climb from the latest boat tragedy involving Australia-bound asylum seekers. By Ali Kotarumalos. SENT: 620 words, photos.

INDIA-POLITICIAN CONVICTED

PATNA, India — Two former chief ministers of an Indian state are convicted of embezzling millions of dollars in the 1990s with bogus bills for cattle feed. By Indrajit Singh. SENT: 360 words, photos.

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan police say Taliban insurgents killed two officers and three civilians in an attack on a checkpoint in the western part of the country. SENT: 110 words.

CHINA-BUILDING COLLAPSE

BEIJING — A disused factory building collapses in northern China, burying 16 construction workers who were sleeping inside, an official says. By Louise Watt. SENT: 130 words.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO — Japanese manufacturing slipped in August, but the government says output is expected to accelerate in coming months. The overall improvement since late last year could lend support for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's proposal to raise the sales tax in April. By Ken Moritsugu. SENT: 300 words.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG — Chinese manufacturing activity ticked up more slowly than expected in September. SENT: 130 words.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is David Thurber. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

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