- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

Chen eyes China ties to aid Taiwan's economy
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Grappling with an ailing economy, Taiwan looks set to take its boldest move toward opening direct commercial ties with China, but it may not buy much good will from Beijing.
Tawainese leader Chen Shui-bian's 120-member economic development advisory committee, charged with finding ways to boost the economy, begins a three-day meeting today and is expected to recommend scrapping many of the former nationalist government's curbs on direct transport, trade and investment in China.
The island's second-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 2.35 percent — the worst rate in 26 years — with its full-year GDP forecast to contract 0.37 percent — a performance not seen since Taiwan began compiling growth data in 1962.

Mindanao kidnap gang scares off aid workers
MANILA — A new kidnap-for-ransom group calling itself "The Pentagon" is flexing its muscles in the southern Philippines, causing fear among foreign workers in the crisis-ridden region.
The renegade group drawn from the largest Muslim separatist organization in the Philippines executed two Chinese hostages last weekend after a clash with the military.
The victims were employees of a multimillion-dollar, Japanese-funded irrigation project in north Cotabato on Mindanao, where other Asian and Western professionals as well as Christian missionaries live and work.
The military claimed it shot dead 20 of the bandits during the gunbattle in remote Sultan Kudarat province, but the group's leader, Abu Hamsa, vowed to behead the two remaining Chinese and Filipino hostages if a $10 million ransom was not paid and if the army attacked again.

Oil find off Vietnam is announced in Seoul
SEOUL — South Korea announced yesterday that its state-run oil firms were part of a consortium that had found hundreds of millions of barrels of oil in waters off Vietnam.
The find 85 miles off Vungtau is believed to contain 570 million barrels of oil, of which 420 million barrels are recoverable, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy announced.
The announcement coincided with a visit to South Korea by Vietnam's President Tran Duc Luong. Two South Korean companies — state-run Korea National Oil Corp. and the private SK Corp. — have a 23.25 percent stake in the project, while the U.S. firm Conoco has a 23.25 percent stake and Vietnam's state-run oil firm has 50 percent.

Weekly notes
Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi voiced opposition yesterday to using controlled inflation to fight falling prices, which discourages spending as consumers wait for lower prices to return. "Once inflation starts, we would not be able to control it because the economy is a living thing," Mr. Koizumi was quoted by Jiji Press saying while vacationing at a summer resort. A visit by Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri revives both state and family ties between Cambodia and Indonesia, King Norodom Sihanouk told reporters while waiting at the airport for her. "Our country and Indonesia have always been close friends, since the time when Mrs. Megawati's father was still alive."

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