- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 7, 2006

TAIWAN

Municipal vote seen as verdict on president

TAIPEI — Voters in this island’s two major cities — Taipei and Kaohsiung — will cast ballots tomorrow to choose their mayors in what the opposition has labeled a “no-confidence” vote on President Chen Shui-bian.

The polls are also being seen as a test of support for political leaders likely to contest in the 2008 presidential election, among them Ma Ying-jeou, chairman of the leading opposition Kuomintang (KMT) and Taipei’s outgoing mayor.

Political observers expect the KMT to retain control of Taipei after its candidate Hau Lung-bin, the son of the former military strongman Hau Pei-tsun, overcame a smear campaign to remain the front-runner. Mr. Hau’s main rival, former Prime Minister Frank Hsieh of the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party, has trailed far behind in recent surveys.

JAPAN

Schoolboy questions Abe about war shrine

TOKYO — It was supposed to have been a feel-good occasion to show that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is committed to the country’s youth and serious about his pet project of educational reform.

But instead Mr. Abe found himself being cornered by a elementary school student over the prime minister’s sensitive visits to Yasukuni Shrine during a visit to a Tokyo school yesterday.

Mr. Abe was all smiles as he enjoyed a school lunch with a class of 12-year-old students until a boy asked “about the Yasukuni visit.” The shrine to Japan’s war dead since 1868 is considered by China and South Korea to be a symbol of Japan’s 20th century militarism, because some convicted war criminals are honored there.

AUSTRALIA

Wheat exporter hit for Iraq kickbacks

SYDNEY — The Australian Senate rushed through a bill yesterday temporarily stripping disgraced wheat exporter AWB Limited of its 67-year-old monopoly powers following its involvement in an Iraq oil-for-food kickbacks scandal.

AWB’s power to veto export applications from other firms was transferred to Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran for the next six months. The bill passed without amendment, despite opposition efforts to have more scrutiny of the minister’s new role, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

The move came less than two weeks after an official inquiry recommended that 11 former executives of AWB face criminal prosecution over corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Weekly notes …

The head of the International Criminal Court welcomed Wednesday Japan’s planned accession to the body, hoping it will encourage other countries in Asia, where few states have joined. Court President Philippe Kirsch said the body, strongly opposed by the United States, needs more universal backing. “Asia is not adequately represented at this stage,” the Canadian judge told a press conference in Tokyo. A week after typhoon-spawned killer mudslides ravaged Philippines’ eastern islands, dead bodies continued to wash onto the shores of coastal villages as heavy rains hampered rescue and relief efforts yesterday. Meanwhile, a new tropical depression is on track to become the second typhoon in 10 days to batter the archipelago. It was about 600 miles east of Leyte and forecast to make landfall tomorrow before moving toward Cebu, where Asian leaders are gathering for a three-day summit starting Monday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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