ASIA:

POPE-ASIA

MADHU, Sri Lanka —Pope Francis traveled to the jungles of war-torn northern Sri Lanka on Wednesday for a deeply symbolic show of solidarity with the victims of the country's 25-year civil war and to urge forgiveness and reconciliation "for all the evil which this land has known." By Nicole Winfield and Jayampathi Palipane. SENT: 1,240 words, photos.

— POPE WATCH — Glimpses of the pope's trip. SENT: 1,500 words, photos.

— POPE-ASIA-PHILIPPINES-CARDINAL — Pope Francis will be welcomed in this Catholic heartland by a Filipino cardinal who might one day succeed him: a boyish-looking priest who rode the bus as a bishop and has impressed many with his intellect, humble life and compassion for the poor. SENT: 950 words, photos.

INDONESIA-PLANE

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A navy ship has located the fuselage of the crashed AirAsia plane in the Java Sea, Singapore's defense minister says. SENT: 150 words, photos.

JAPAN-MILITARY-BUDGET

TOKYO — Japan's Cabinet approves the country's largest ever defense budget, including plans to buy surveillance aircraft, drones and F-35 fighter jets to help counter China's rising assertiveness in the region. By Mari Yamaguchi and Elaine Kurtenbach. SENT: 550 words, photos.

CAMBODIA-30 YEARS IN POWER

NEAK LOEUNG, Cambodia — Hun Sen, Cambodia's tough and wily prime minister, marks 30 years in power, one of just a handful of political strongmen worldwide who have managed to cling to their posts for three decades. By Sopheng Cheang. SENT: 690 words, photos.

PIRACY

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — World sea piracy fell to its lowest level in eight years in 2014, but ship hijackings rose due to attacks against small tankers off Southeast Asia's coasts, a global maritime watchdog says. SENT: 320 words.

SKOREA-ACTIVIST ARRESTED

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean officials arrest a leftist activist for allegedly praising archrival North Korea, just days after an American was deported on similar charges and adding to criticism that the government seeks to limit free speech and suppress dissidents. By Kim Tong-hyung. SENT: 350 words, photos.

UNITED NATIONS-NORTH KOREA-US

UNITED NATIONS — North Korea says that "many things will be possible this year on the Korean Peninsula" if the United States agrees to suspend its annual military exercises with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang's suspension of nuclear tests. SENT: 500 words, photos.

— CONGRESS-NORTH KOREA — House Republican calls for stiffer sanctions on North Korea over security, cyber threats. SENT: 570 words.

THAILAND-SURROGACY

BANGKOK — Thai authorities say the surrogate mothers of 13 babies fathered by a Japanese businessman have sued the government ministry that took custody of their children. SENT: 130 words.

CHINA-XINJIANG

BEIJING — Shanghai police detain nine terror suspects from an ethnic minority in western China plus 10 Turkish people accused of helping them in an attempt to illegally travel abroad, including to Syria, a state newspaper says. SENT: 350 words.

INDIA-BODIES IN RIVER

LUCKNOW, India — Authorities investigate how more than 100 bodies, many of them children, ended up floating in an offshoot of the Ganges River in northern India. Officials do not suspect a crime, and instead believe the dead were given water burials. By Biswajeet Banerjee. SENT: 260 words.

INDIA-DEADLY LIQUOR

LUCKNOW, India — Authorities in an Indian state suspend 23 officials in a crackdown on illegal liquor sales, as the death toll among villagers who drank from a bad batch of cheap alcohol climbed to 38. SENT: 300 words, photos.

INDIA-ITALIAN MARINES

NEW DELHI — India's top court grants an Italian marine's request for extended medical leave abroad, before he and a fellow marine face expected charges over the 2012 shooting of two Indian fishermen. The case has caused a diplomatic uproar between India and Italy because the two marines have been held in India for almost three years without formal charges. By Katy Daigle. SENT: 290 words, photos.

INDONESIA-US WOMAN DEAD

BALI, Indonesia — An American couple go on trial in Indonesia on charges of murdering the woman's mother last year on the resort island of Bali. The badly beaten body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack was found in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxi outside an upscale hotel. By Firdia Lisnawati. SENT: 380 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-FILM-AVATAR

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Director James Cameron says that writing three "Avatar" sequels is such a complex job he's delaying the first new film a year and it will now be released in late 2017. By Nick Perry. SENT: 350 words, photos.

NEW ZEALAND-PETER JACKSON

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Director Peter Jackson says he's putting his energy into helping launch a museum to commemorate World War I after finishing his "Hobbit" movie trilogy. If he has any plans for future blockbusters, he's not saying. By Nick Perry. SENT: 310 words, photos.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

PHILIPPINES-POVERTY

MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank says the Philippines can eliminate poverty within a generation as sustained economic growth in recent years has translated into more jobs and higher incomes. By Teresa Cerojano. SENT: 360 words.

SKOREA-INDIA-SAMSUNG PHONE

SEOUL, South Korea — Samsung Electronics Co. starts selling a $90 smartphone in India that runs on the company's Tizen software, its first major break from Google's Android operating system in the mobile phone market. By Youkyung Lee. SENT: 410 words.

MALAYSIA-BANK MERGER

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Three Malaysian lenders say that a proposed merger that would have created the country's biggest bank has collapsed after they failed to agree on terms amid a deteriorating economic outlook. SENT: 200 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

FRANCE-ATTACKS

PARIS — The Paris prosecutor's office says 54 people have been detained for defending or glorifying terrorism since Islamic radicals began a rampage a week ago that left 17 people dead. Meanwhile, Charlie Hebdo's defiant new issue is selling out around Paris. By Lori Hinnant. SENT: 960 words, photos, video.

— FRANCE-ATTACKS-YEMEN — Yemen's al-Qaida branch claims responsibility for last week's deadly attack on a Paris satirical newspaper, with one of its top commanders saying the assault was in revenge for the weekly's publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, considered an insult in Islam. SENT: 760 words, photo.

OBAMA-BROADBAND

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is once again challenging major cable and telephone companies by encouraging the Federal Communications Commission to pre-empt state laws that stifle competition for high-speed Internet service. SENT: 400 words, photo.

UKRAINE-AID CRUNCH

DONETSK, Ukraine — Valentina Dudareva's voice cracks with despair as she stands in the snow, surveying the bombed-out windows of her apartment block in Donetsk, the separatist capital in east Ukraine. Cold, poor and hungry, Dudareva is among the masses of people trapped by fighting between the government and Russian-backed militias reliant on outside help that often fails to arrive. By Mstyslav and Peter Leonard. SENT: 800 words, photos.

PUERTO RICO-FALLING CRIME

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Nearly all the economic and crime data from Puerto Rico has been relentlessly grim in recent years, but now homicides have fallen to a nearly 15-year low and violent crime overall is down 17 percent. By Danica Coto. SENT: 730 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.