- - Thursday, March 8, 2012

CHINA

Secret detentions restricted - on paper

BEIJING | China’s authoritarian government is restricting the police’s power to secretly detain people, at least on paper, announcing stricter revisions to a key criminal law Thursday after a wave of public complaints.

Scholars welcomed the changes, saying they will offer better protection of suspects and reflect increasing awareness in China of the need for stronger detainee rights.

The formal introduction of the revised criminal procedure law to the national legislature ends a half-year of speculation and debate about whether the government would give police the legal authority to do something they have long done extralegally: disappear people for months at a time without telling their families.

JAPAN

Japan kept silent on worst-case scenario

TOKYO | The Japanese government’s worst-case scenario at the height of the nuclear crisis last year warned that tens of millions of people, including Tokyo residents, might need to leave their homes, according to a report obtained by the Associated Press.

But fearing widespread panic, officials kept the report secret.

The recent emergence of the 15-page internal document may add to complaints in Japan that the government withheld too much information about the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

It also casts doubt about whether the government was sufficiently prepared to cope with what could have been an evacuation of unprecedented scale.

NORTH KOREA

Food aid talks end with progress

BEIJING | Key issues on deliveries of U.S. food aid to North Korea have been resolved, though details remain to be settled after talks ended Thursday.

Envoy Robert King called the 1 1/2-day talks with North Korean officials “positive and productive.” He declined to disclose details before reporting back to Washington.

“We resolved the administrative issues we were concerned with,” Mr. King told reporters at Beijing’s main airport before boarding a flight for Washington. He later said: “We’re still working on the details.”

The talks follow a deal announced last week in which the U.S. offered 240,000 tons of food aid in return for a North Korean freeze on long-range missile and nuclear tests and for halting a uranium enrichment program that would be monitored by U.N. inspectors.

That agreement is the most substantive sign of warming U.S.-North Korean ties after three years of tensions during which Pyongyang exploded a nuclear device and engaged in armed provocations against South Korea.

TAIWAN

Taiwanese protest U.S. beef import plan

TAIPEI | Thousands of Taiwanese farmers staged a raucous protest Thursday against a government plan to allow the import of U.S. beef containing a growth drug, challenging the island’s president to “say no” to Washington.

The protest erupted outside Taiwan’s ornate legislative building as newly re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou seeks to strengthen ties with the U.S. by resolving the long-standing beef dispute.

The beef issue has stalled trade talks crucial to maintaining the island’s competitive edge in global trade.

Protesters later marched to the Agriculture Council - Taiwan’s Ministry of Agriculture - and pelted police with pig excrement and rotten eggs. Shield-wielding officers prevented them from entering the building after they broke through an outer security barrier.

The Cabinet announced this week that it plans to lift a ban on U.S. beef containing minimal traces of ractopamine, a feed additive for meat leaning.

The government sought to appease opponents by promising to ensure that vendors properly label their meat products. The plan needs legislative approval.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports