MOFA lauds Japan
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) praised Japan yesterday for shrugging off Beijing's request that Tokyo deny entry to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. MOFA deputy spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) made the remarks in response to a report in the Sing Tao Daily, a Hong Kong-based newspaper, which said that the Dalai Lama would visit Japan at the invitation of local religious groups. The newspaper said Beijing had asked Japan not to grant the spiritual leader entry because he is a separatist. Japan rejected Beijing's request. "We admire Japan for its moral courage in turning down China's unreasonable demand," Yeh said. "Like other Western countries, Japan advocates democracy, freedom and human rights. There is no reason Japan should yield to Chinese pressure."
MND lowers bar on health
The Ministry of National Defense said yesterday it would relax its health exam standards in order to recruit an additional 5,000 soldiers in the near future. Deputy Minister of National Defense Lin Yu-bao (林於豹) said the plan was not complete but that extra recruits were needed to fill vacancies. Lin made the remarks during the legislature's National Defense Committee meeting yesterday morning in response to a question by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁芳). Lin Yu-fang was worried that relaxing the standards would have a negative impact on national defense. Lin Yu-bao said today's wars have gradually become "high-tech wars," which means that a real battle does not necessarily have to involve soldiers confronting soldiers on the battlefield.
NYC orchestra to visit
The New York Philharmonic announced plans on Wednesday to tour Taiwan and China, but did not confirm media reports that the US' oldest symphony orchestra would also perform in North Korea. In Taiwan, the orchestra will play in Taipei and Kaohsiung in February. The New York Times reported that the New York Philharmonic would likely visit North Korea. "The Philharmonic has a significant record of touring Asia, but this will be our most substantial tour of the region in our history," said Zarin Mehta, the orchestra's president and executive director. The orchestra was founded in 1842 by local musicians and plays some 180 concerts a year. The New York Philharmonic gave its 14,000th concert in late 2004.
Web `assassin' questioned
Taipei police yesterday were questioning a man over an alleged Internet threat to assassinate President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Officers said the man, identified by his surname, Dai (戴), had left a message on an Internet bulletin board saying that he would assassinate the president on his way to work yesterday morning. He also invited other users who hate the president to join him. The message "warned" the public to stay away from the presidential residence during the "assassination period" to avoid being accidentally shot by machine gun. Police discovered that Dai had checked into a hotel room in Taipei's Zhongzheng District on Wednesday night. Dai was picked up near the presidential residence yesterday morning and immediately taken to a police station, where officers discovered he only had a few flags in his possession. He was released but police referred the case to the Taipei District Prosecutors' Office on charges of plotting to kill and blackmail.