Abdication OK'd in Spain

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MADRID — Lawmakers in Spain on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved an abdication law that paves the way for Crown Prince Felipe to ascend to the throne being vacated by his father, King Juan Carlos.

But the parliamentary debate also highlighted the political and territorial tensions that await King Felipe VI, with Catalan lawmakers abstaining from the vote and instead calling on the new king-to-be to endorse their plan to hold a referendum on independence. The debate was also disrupted by several left-wing parliamentarians, who waved signs demanding a referendum on whether to maintain Spain’s monarchy.

Speaking in parliament, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy praised Juan Carlos, particularly for serving as the “skillful pilot of a transition filled with risks,” having come to the throne in 1975, two days after the death of the dictator Gen. Francisco Franco. Almost four decades later Felipe was taking over with the clear backing of Spanish society, Mr. Rajoy said.

Felipe VI is set to be crowned on June 19 in a ceremony purposefully designed to be low key. Europe’s other royal families and foreign leaders will not attend.

Water cannons defended

LONDON — London Mayor Boris Johnson on Wednesday defended a decision to buy three water cannons from Germany for possible deployment against rioters, even though their use has yet to be approved by Home Secretary Theresa May.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said in a statement Tuesday that it’s planning to purchase three used vehicles from the German Federal Police for about 30,000 pounds ($50,000) each. Including transportation and refitting costs, the cannons would cost a total 218,000 pounds. Buying the secondhand cannons, which are available for sale until the end of July, would save 2.4 million pounds relative to the cost of new equipment, according to the mayor’s office.

The possibility of using water cannons, which have never been deployed in mainland Britain for riot control, has been under discussion since the August 2011 unrest that saw looting and arson in London and other English cities. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has said that while there’s a “small, limited role” for the equipment, water cannons would be “rarely used and rarely seen” on the streets.

Toyota recall expanded

TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s largest automaker, Wednesday expanded a 14-month-old recall of more than 2 million vehicles for faulty air bags after supplier Takata Corp. told customers further fixes may be needed.

Toyota called back an additional 650,000 vehicles, including Corolla cars, the Toyota City, Japan-based company said in an email. A total of 2.27 million Toyota vehicles worldwide are affected by the recall because most cars that were called back last year weren’t fixed, spokeswoman Shino Yamada said. The carmaker has received one report of a seat-cover burn related to defective air-bag inflators.

Toyota is the first Japanese carmaker to widen last year’s recall involving Takata’s air bags, with Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. saying they’re studying the issue.

Captain rejects charges

SEOUL — The captain of the South Korean ferry that sank in April killing more than 300 rejected homicide charges against him at the first day of his trial, while relatives of the victims jeered the crew of the ship.

Captain Lee Joon Seok, 68, and three other crew members charged with homicide said Tuesday they were shocked when the Sewol began sinking and that they couldn’t do more to save the passengers, because the ferry had already capsized too much, Hahn Jee Hyung, a court spokesman, said Wednesday in an email.

The four went on trial Tuesday along with 11 other crew members facing lesser charges at Gwangju district court, south of Seoul. Prosecutors accuse them of abandoning the ferry on April 16 while passengers -- most of them high school students on a field trip -- were instructed to stay in their cabins.

Japan protests flybys

TOKYO — Japan protested to Beijing on Wednesday after Chinese fighter jets flew within 100 feet of Japanese military planes in airspace claimed by both nations. Similar flybys in the same area took place several weeks ago.

In two separate episodes Wednesday, Chinese Su-27 fighters flew dangerously close to two Japanese propeller-driven reconnaissance airplanes in skies over the East China Sea, Japan’s defense ministry said.

The flybys are the latest escalation in an increasingly tense test of wills between China and Japan for dominance of the East China Sea, which includes a group of uninhabited islets that both nations claim. Japan took control of the island group when it was a rising imperial power in the late 19th century, but now a newly resurgent China wants to regain what it sees as stolen territory.

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