Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan Quick Take

STAFF WRITER, WITH AGENCIES

■ Diplomacy

Panama ties to stay firm

Panamanian president-elect Martin Torrijos reaffirmed on Tuesday his commitment to maintaining formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Torrijos made the reaffirmation prior to his departure for a European tour that will take him to Spain, Belgium and France. Torrijos will assume the presidency on Sept. 1. He said Panama maintains formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan while keeping commercial ties with China. "I see no possibility that this situation will be changed after I assume office," he told reporters.

■ Government

Cabinet approves spending

The Cabinet yesterday approved a special appropriation of NT$36.5 billion (US$1.08 billion) for the NT$500 billion 10 New Major Construction Projects for the first year of the project. These funds will go toward the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) systems in Taipei and Kaohsiung and the third wave of freeways across the country. The legislature passed a bill authorizing the projects on the last day of the legislative session, which ended on June 11. The bill allows the Cabinet to circumvent the nation's public debt ceiling and to make a special budget of up to NT$500 billion for the projects over the next five years.

■ Crime

Gun control may get tighter

Cabinet yesterday approved tightening gun-control regulations following a police shootout with suspected kidnappers in Taichung last month that left two police officers dead. The draft amendments to the Statute Regulating Firearms, Ammunition, Knives and Other Deadly Weapons (槍砲彈藥刀械管制條例) will proceed to the legislature for further review. Under the draft, penalties for those possessing homemade or remodeled firearms, including replica guns, would increase. Unauth-orized persons selling or leasing firearms or remade firearms would be subject to a jail term of at least five years and a fine of up to NT$10 million.

■ Crime

Japan returns `smugglers'

Three crew members aboard a Taiwanese fishing boat suspected of drug trafficking in waters near Japan were sent to Taiwan early yesterday for questioning, coast guard officials said. Japanese maritime authorities notified Taiwan's coast guard office in Suao at noon Tuesday that they were detaining a fishing boat from Juifang suspected of drug trafficking. The Suao coast guard office immediately sent a cutter to waters near Japan to escort the Hsintsaifa No. 2 back to Taiwan. Coast guard officials said their Japanese counterparts began to chase the fishing boat away Tuesday morning when it seemed to be on the verge of entering Japanese waters.

■ Cross-Strait Ties

Crash relatives in China

Family members of tourists killed or injured in a bus crash in Jinlin Province on Tuesday left for China yesterday to handle matters related to the accident. A Taiwanese woman, identified as Wang Shu-chen (王淑珍), was killed in the crash at a Changbaishan mountain resort, while 10 others were injured. The injured are receiving treatment at a hospital in Antu City. The Penghau Travel Agency had organized the 10-day tour that left Taipei last Friday and was scheduled to return on Sunday. Reports from China said the bus' brakes failed and it crashed into a ditch after hitting a bridge.

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