Japan-Taiwan deal prompts ire in China

China expressed deep concern Wednesday after Japan and Taiwan signed a fishing agreement for the seas around a disputed group of East China Sea islands that have been at the center of an increasingly hostile standoff between Beijing and Tokyo.

“We hope that Japan earnestly abides by its promises on the Taiwan issue and acts cautiously and appropriately,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Japan recognizes Taiwan as belonging to China, but it maintains close economic and cultural ties with Taiwan. While China is generally happy for Taiwan to sign trade pacts, it looks askance at deals suggesting it is a sovereign country.

The waters around the Japanese-controlled islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are rich fishing grounds and have potentially huge oil and gas reserves. China and Taiwan also both claim the islands.

— Reuters

Former leader’s son, nephews sidelined

Yemen’s president removed the son and nephews of his predecessor from powerful security posts in the most dramatic step yet in sidelining top old-regime figures, state television reported.

Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in early 2012 after more than a year of protests against his rule, had seeded relatives and loyalists in top military and government posts. His successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has been gradually trying to remove many of them.

On Wednesday, Hadi ordered Saleh’s son Ahmed moved from his post as head of the Republican Guard to serve as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Saleh’s nephew Ammar, the intelligence chief, was made a military attache in Ethiopia. Ammar’s brother, Tareq Yahia, head of the Presidential Guard, was made a military attache in Germany.

— Associated Press

Group: Executions trending downward

In an annual report issued Wednesday, the human rights group Amnesty International found that a global trend toward ending the death penalty continued last year.

Twenty-one countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same number as in 2011, but down from 28 countries in 2003, Amnesty said. The top five countries in terms of numbers of executions last year were China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The group counted 682 confirmed executions worldwide last year, but that figure does not include the number in China, which executes more people than any other country but keeps the data secret. The United States executed 43 people in 2012, the same figure as the previous year.

— Associated Press

Gunmen kill Pakistani policeman during vaccination drive: Gunmen shot to death a policeman protecting a team of female anti-polio workers in the northwestern Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the latest in a series of attacks on people working on the U.N.-backed vaccination campaign, police said. No group has asserted responsibility for the attacks, but suspicion has fallen on Islamic militants, some of whom accuse health workers of spying for the United States.

Mandela daughters seek control of ex-president’s companies: Nelson Mandela’s daughters, Makaziwe and Zenani Mandela, have launched a court case against several longtime associates of the former president in a dispute over the control of two companies, South Africa’s Star newspaper reported. The main purpose of the companies was to channel funds — equivalent to about $1.7 million, the Star said — from the sale of their 94-year-old father’s handprints for the benefit of the Mandela family.

Uruguay approves gay marriage: Uruguayan lawmakers voted Wednesday to legalize gay marriage, making the South American country the third in the Americas to do so, after Canada and Argentina. The bill was already approved by both legislative houses, but senators made some changes — including allowing gay foreigners to wed in the country — that required a final vote by the deputies. President Jose Mujica is expected to put the law into effect within 10 days.

Egypt’s Morsi drops complaints against some journalists: Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi has ordered the withdrawal of complaints against journalists for allegedly reporting rumors, a spokesman said, saying the decision had been made “out of respect for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.” It does not affect journalists and media personalities accused of insulting Morsi and Islam, including the TV satirist Bassem Youssef.

— From news services