- - Thursday, October 21, 2010

JAPAN

Toyota recalling 1.53 million cars

TOKYO | Toyota is recalling 1.53 million Lexuses, Avalons and other models, mostly in the U.S. and Japan, for brake-fluid and fuel-pump problems, the latest in a string of quality lapses for the world’s No. 1 automaker.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Thursday it will call back for repairs about 740,000 cars in the U.S. and 599,000 in Japan. The remainder are in Europe and other markets around the world.

Over the past year, Toyota has recalled more than 10 million cars and trucks worldwide for a variety of problems, from faulty gas pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerators to braking problems in its Prius hybrid. In August, Toyota recalled 1.33 million Corolla sedans and Matrix hatchbacks in the U.S. and Canada because it said their engines may stall.

The majority of vehicles this time around need to be fixed for a problem with the brake master cylinder that could lead to weaker braking power, said spokesman Paul Nolasco in Tokyo. Some models in Japan and elsewhere — but not in North America — have an electrical problem with the fuel pump that could cause the engine to stall, he said.

No accidents have been reported from the two defects, he said.

SOUTH KOREA

S.Korea denies N.Korea preparing nuclear test

SEOUL | South Korean officials said Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, but they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing its third atomic bomb test anytime soon.

The assessment came shortly after the mass-circulation Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Thursday that Pyongyang may be preparing another nuclear test, citing “brisk” activities at its atomic test site in the northeastern county of Kilju.

The paper, citing an unidentified South Korean government source, said a U.S. spy satellite detected such activities and that North Korea could detonate a nuclear device in three months.

The North may have intentionally let those activities be detected by the U.S. and South Korean authorities to force them to soften hard-line policies and to wrest concessions and aid, the paper said.

BURMA

Junta unveils new national flag

RANGOON | Military-ruled Burma unveiled a new national flag on Thursday, just two weeks before an election that the government calls a major step in a transition to democracy but critics say is a sham.

Government offices replaced the old standard with the new one at exactly 3 p.m. At a fire station in central Rangoon, blue-uniformed officers lined up at attention during a replacement ceremony. In the capital Naypyitaw, Prime Minister Thein Sein led a flag-hoisting ceremony at the junta’s headquarters, state television showed.

The new flag has horizontal stripes of yellow, green and red, with a big white star in the middle.

The announcement of the new flag was made on state television just before the ceremonies, which were supposed to take place simultaneously all over the country.

The 2008 constitution pushed through by the military called for fresh national symbols, including a new flag whose colors of yellow, green and red would stand for solidarity, peace and tranquillity, and courage and decisiveness. Still, the abrupt release of the new flag came as surprise.

CHINA

Group: Tibetan protests spread across western China

BEIJING | Tibetan students in western China protested again on Thursday against policies to extend the use of Chinese language in classes, building on demonstrations earlier this week, a campaign group said.

The London-based Free Tibet group said students took to the streets in Tawo Town, also known as Dawu, in Qinghai province, which has a large ethnic Tibetan population.

In another protest elsewhere in Qinghai, middle school students in Tongren were stopped from leaving the school grounds, the group said.

About 2,000 students from four schools in Chabcha county in Tibet itself demonstrated on Wednesday against government plans to reduce instruction in Tibetan in favor of Mandarin Chinese, the Free Tibet group said in an e-mail.

From wire dispatches and staff reports