■ MilitaryExplosion report issued
The Minister of National Defense (MND) Thursday night issued its investigation report about the military depot explosion on Nov. 6, saying that some senior military officials have been punished for neglecting their duties. The incident resulted in the death of three soldiers: Second Lieutenant Hung Tuan-lung (洪端隆), Sergeant Huang Chien-che (黃建哲) and Private First Class Yang Wu-chang (楊武璋), who were assigned to move mortar shells. The report directly cited human negligence as the cause of the incident, therefore, the Logistics Command has decided to refer the case to the military prosecutors' office. "The chief of the military depot in Kaohsiung County's Chishan Township, Yu Jung-so (余榮壽), will be investigated under the military judicial system," the MND spokesman's office said. The office also said that the MND has issued a general order to temporarily suspend the disposal of mortar shells and will not resume such operations until the MND can absolutely ensure the safety of all soldiers.
Vanuatu discusses relations
Vanuatu's Cabinet met yesterday to discuss the controversy over whether their country had established diplomatic relations with Taiwan, despite ties with China. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman in Taipei told reporters the government still believed it had diplomatic relations with Vanuatu after signing a Nov. 3 deal that sealed formal ties. Officials in Vanuatu have delivered conflicting statements, with the foreign minister denying ties with Taiwan and the prime minister acknowledg-ing formal relations with Taiwan while reaffirming ties with China. Details of yesterday's Cabinet meeting weren't immediately available. Vanuatu media reports said Prime Minister Serge Vohor would address the issue on television today.
`Taiwan Republic' promoted
A group of 66 Democratic Progressive Party legislative candidates and its ally the Taiwan Solidarity Union have joined a "legislative united front" to promote a new constitution and a new name for the country, organizers said yesterday. Peter Wang (王獻極), leader of the pro-independence Alliance to Campaign for the Rectification of the Name of Taiwan, which initiated the drive, said the alliance will send a "Taiwan Republic" campaign mission to tour the nation starting next week to drum up support for the politicians. Former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) will also attend a rally promoting the foundation of the "Taiwan Republic," which is set for Nov. 28 in Banciao, Taipei County, Wang said. Also yesterday, the alliance released a "theme lamp" and the theme song "Beautiful Formosa" for yet another mass rally planned for the cause Feb. 28, 2005. The lighting-up rally is expected to attract 1 million people around Taiwan, Wang said.
Highway expansion okayed
A project to widen the Southern Cross-island Highway has passed a feasibility assessment, Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Ling-san (林陵三) said in Taitung County yesterday. Making the announcement during a meeting with Taitung County Commissioner Hsu Ching-yuan (徐慶元), Lin said the travel time from Taitung to Kaohsiung is expected to be cut by one hour after the NT$16.8 billion (US$509.09 million) project is completed in 2012. The project is set to start in 2006 after it undergoes an environmental impact assessment next year, Lin said.