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Briefly: Faults under nuke plant likely active, panel says

- - Thursday, December 20, 2012

JAPAN

TOKYO — A team of Japanese scientists says faults under a nuclear plant in northern Japan are likely active, which could further delay resumption of idled reactors.

The four-member panel commissioned by the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Thursday that at least two major faults underneath the Higashidori plant are believed to be active and could cause major earthquakes, rejecting operator Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s denial.

The operator would have to re-evaluate the seismic impact and reinforce the facility, a process that could take years.

Just two of Japan's 50 reactors are online. The rest are suspended for checks after last year's Fukushima Dai-ichi meltdowns.

Checks have been made for seismic faults at several plants. Earlier this month, experts said they suspected an active fault directly under a Tsuruga reactor in western Japan.

INDIA

Indian premier calls for close relations with ASEAN

NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a summit of Southeast Asian leaders on Thursday that his nation attaches the "highest priority" to its relations with their region.

Mr. Singh's address to a gathering in New Delhi between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was part of his nation's "Look East" policy, seen as a counter to China's influence across the region.

As part of that policy, Mr. Singh visited Myanmar in May and deepened ties with Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and Indonesia, among others.

"The path to regional peace and stability is greater coordination, cooperation and integration among our economies," Mr. Singh told the summit, which brought nine Southeast Asian heads of state or government to India.

Mr. Singh said he hoped India-ASEAN trade would exceed $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2022.

TAIWAN

Ex-leader, wife get new prison terms

TAIPEI — Former President Chen Shui-bian, already serving a long prison term for corruption, was convicted and sentenced Thursday to another 10 years in another graft case.

Chen was convicted of taking bribes from a local financial group during a high-profile merger case, Taiwan's highest court said in a statement.

The 62-year-old Chen already is serving an 181/2-year term for corruption and money laundering.

Under Taiwanese law, the maximum time a convict can serve in prison is 20 years unless a life term is imposed. A court will announce early next year how much Chen's jail term will be extended following Thursday's ruling.

Prosecutor Chen Hung-ta said the latest conviction is still meaningful because legal authorities would be able to ask the Swiss government to return the $13 million that the Chen family deposited in a Swiss bank.

The court said the money was paid to Chen as a bribe by the financial group involved in the scandal. The sum has been frozen by Swiss authorities since the scandal broke in 2008.

Swiss authorities already have returned to Taiwan about $20 million in deposits held by Chen following his money-laundering conviction.

Chen's wife, Wu Shu-chen, already sentenced to 19 years and two months on four convictions, including corruption and perjury, also was convicted and sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison for graft.

Wu, 59, is paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. She has been spared from serving her sentence because of poor health.

PHILIPPINES

Rebels call for Aquino 'alliance'

MANILA — Communist rebels said Thursday they have called for an "alliance" with President Benigno Aquino to undertake programs aimed at ending a long insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people.

There was no immediate official reaction to the reported offer, which chief rebel negotiator Luis Jalandoni said was made during "special track" talks in The Hague on Monday and Tuesday.

"The 'special track' means the offer of alliance and truce offered by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to the government of the Philippines," the exiled rebel told reporters in a statement.

Both sides would form a "Committee of National Unity, Peace and Development" to implement agrarian reform, rural development and national industrialization, he added.

"On the basis of the above-mentioned points, a truce would be declared and implemented," Mr. Jalandoni said.

The National Democratic Front is a communist-led rebel coalition.

INDIA

Hindu nationalists win in western state

NEW DELHI — Hindu nationalists won a resounding victory Thursday in state elections in western India, buttressing the political strength of Narendra Modi, the Hindu ideologue and polarizing figure whose supporters think he could become prime minister in 2014.

With almost all results counted, news reports from Gujarat state, where Mr. Modi has served as the state's chief minister since 2001, gave his right-wing Bharatiya Janata party 115 seats in the state assembly, two less than the 117 seats in the last election.

Its closest rival, the Congress Party, took 60 seats, one more than it held before.

"Indian voters are mature enough to understand that what's good for Gujarat is good for their future. The people of Gujarat have given a vote for good governance and development," Mr. Modi told cheering crowds that had gathered to celebrate his victory.

Analysts noted that Mr. Modi gave his victory speech in Hindi instead of the local language in order to reach out to a larger national audience.

INDONESIA

Clash with terrorists kills 3 policemen

JAKARTA — Three officers were killed in a gunfight Thursday with suspected Islamic terrorists in Indonesia's province of Central Sulawesi, police said.

The clash happened as a group of 10 to 15 gunmen ambushed policemen patrolling in the village of Kolora in Poso district, said national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar.

Three other officers were wounded in the gunfight, before the assailants fled into the jungle with one officer's gun, Gen. Amar said.

"They are being evacuated to hospital in the province's capital of Palu," said Gen. Amar, who identified all the victims as sergeants from the police's special forces unit.

Nine other officers were unharmed. One of the attackers was arrested, Gen. Amar said, but he would not identify him.

He said the attackers were believed to be a group who escaped last week when police caught them preparing a location for military training.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports