ASIA:

AFGHANISTAN-MILITARY OFFENSIVE

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan army is waging its largest-ever solo offensive against the Taliban, hoping to strike a decisive blow ahead of the spring fighting season and prove it can rout the insurgents without the aid of U.S. and NATO combat troops. By Lynne O'Donnell. SENT: 880 words, photos.

— AFGHANISTAN — Two roadside bombings kill at least eight civilians. SENT: 110 words.

CHINA-BRITAIN-ROYAL VISIT

BEIJING — Prince William presents China's president with an invitation from the queen for him to visit Britain this year, as the prince begins the first official trip to mainland China by a senior British royal in a generation. By Louise Watt. SENT: 680 words, photos.

KOREAS-TENSIONS

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea fires two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and warns of "merciless strikes" against its enemies as allies Seoul and Washington launch annual military drills Pyongyang claims are preparation for a northward invasion. By Hyung-Jin Kim. SENT: 460 words.

BANGLADESH-US WRITER KILLED

DHAKA, Bangladesh — Bangladeshi security officials arrest a suspect in the killing of an American writer who was a prominent critic of extremist Islam and was hacked to death last week as he walked with his wife in Dhaka. By Julhas Alam. SENT: 280 words.

MYANMAR-STUDENT PROTEST

LETPADAN, Myanmar — Truckloads of police prevent hundreds of students from continuing their march to Myanmar's biggest city to protest a new law they say curbs academic freedom. Tensions have been building since the rally began in the country's second-largest city of Mandalay just over a month ago, with public sympathy growing for the demonstrators, who have repeatedly defied threats by authorities to turn back or face the consequences. SENT: 310 words, photos.

CHINA-POLLUTION DOCUMENTARY

BEIJING — A slick new documentary on China's environmental woes racks up more than 28 million online views in two days, underscoring growing concern in the country over the impact of air, water and soil pollution. By Christopher Bodeen. SENT: 420 words.

AUSTRALIA-ISLAMIC STATE

CANBERRA, Australia — The Iraqi city of Mosul, which is held by Islamic State movement fighters, becomes the second terrorist hot-spot to be declared off-limits to Australians under new counterterrorism laws aimed deterring foreign fighters. By Rod McGuirk. SENT: 330 words.

THE WEEK THAT WAS IN ASIA-PHOTO GALLERY

Glimpses of daily life around Asia last week. SENT: 180 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

FLIGHT 370 ANNIVERSARY-MALAYSIA TOURISM

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Two airplane catastrophes put Malaysia on the map in a bad way in 2014. But it didn't hurt the country's tourism, and the higher visibility may even have helped. By Eileen Ng. SENT: 930 words, photos.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

BEIJING — China's manufacturing activity improves in February for the first time in four months but export demand weakened, a survey shows. SENT: 290 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

ISLAMIC STATE

BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces launch a large-scale military operation to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown from the Islamic State extremist group, a key step in the government's campaign to recapture a large swath of territory controlled by the militants. But hours into the operation, the military says it still hasn't entered the city of Tikrit, indicating a long battle could lie ahead. By Sinan Salaheddin. SENT: 740 words, photos.

PRESIDENT VS PRIME MINISTER

WASHINGTON — This was never happily-ever-after waiting to happen. When President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office early in 2009, there were plenty of reasons to expect their relationship would be difficult. Still, few could have predicted the downward spiral of backbiting, lecturing and outright name-calling that has occurred. By Nancy Benac. SENT: 1,070 words, photos.

— UNITED STATES-ISRAEL-KERRY — Secretary of State John Kerry is in Geneva where he is to deliver a vigorous defense of Israel before the U.N. Human Rights Council. SENT: 500 words.

UNITED STATES-RUSSIA

GENEVA — Secretary of State John Kerry holds what appeared to be less than amicable talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov amid continuing tensions over Ukraine and U.S. calls for a full probe into the murder of a prominent opposition figure in Moscow. By Matthew Lee. SENT: 560 words, photos.

UKRAINE-DISPLACED TEAM

LVIV, Ukraine — Shakhtar Donetsk has been away from its home for more than nine months. With the soccer team's hometown of Donetsk in a war zone controlled by pro-Russian separatists battling Ukranian troops, the team has been playing more than 600 miles away in Lviv, near the border with Poland. The players live in nearby Kiev and are starting to build new lives there, but their thoughts never stray far from the conflict back home. By James Ellingworth. SENT: 1,180 words, photos, video.

— UNITED NATIONS-UKRAINE — The U.N. human rights office says more than 6,000 people have died in eastern Ukraine since the start of the conflict almost a year ago. SENT: 330 words.

CONGRESS-HOMELAND

WASHINGTON — With a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department possible at week's end, House Speaker John Boehner said the House wants to enter talks with the Senate on a final bill funding the agency. But Senate Democrats aren't interested. By Kimberly Hefling. SENT: 340 words, photos.

NASDAQ NEARS PEAK

NEW YORK — The last time the Nasdaq was this high, Bill Clinton was president, Microsoft dominated the tech world and the iPod, iPhone and iPad didn't exist. Fifteen years later the Nasdaq is again near 5,000 and close to topping its record from the dot-com boom. By Steve Rothwell. SENT: 970 words, photos, graphic.

DIGITAL LIFE-REVIEW-SAMSUNG PHONE

First look at new Samsung phone coming this spring. By Anick Jesdanun. SENT: 720 words, photos.

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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.

The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.

Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.