Articles in the local Chinese-language papers as well as in the Bangkok Post said that Taiwan may face a major quake soon….

Some Taiwan scientists have warned that a major earthquake might strike Taiwan soon because the number of small quakes has been unusually small in the first half of 2007, a newspaper reported Monday.

The Liberty Times said that in the first half of the year, Taiwan has recorded only 147 mild quakes, which is only a quarter of the tremors on a normal year.

In the same period, there were only six earthquakes measuring between 5 to 6 on the Richter scale, down from 27 on a normal year.

This has caused some scientists to worry that a major quake might be coming.

Chen Chen-yu, a professor of geology at the National Taiwan University, said: “Lack of release of seismic energy could be an indicator of a major quake. Taiwan’s cities and counties which stand on fault lines must take precautions,” the Liberty Times quoted him as saying.

Kuo Kai-wen, director of the Seismological Observation Centre, said the lack of seismic activities is unusual, but “currently no country can predict when an earthquake will occur.”

But Yen Hong-yuan, an associate profession at the Geophysics Department of the Central University, did not agree with the “killer quake” theory.

“Although there have been less than normal seismic activities in the first half, that does not necessarily mean there will be a killer quake, because there is an active period and sedate period for seismic activities. Seismic activities under Taiwan could pick up in the later half this year,” the paper quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile a tectonic shift is underway in Taiwan’s political realm as the KMT looks to finally re-absorb the People First Party (PFP):

Chairman James Soong of the opposition People First Party (PFP) yesterday denied press reports that said he would return to the Kuomingtang (KMT) by the end of the year if everything goes smoothly.

Soong issued the denial when asked by reporters to comment on a report by the Chinese-language United Daily News while attending the funeral ceremony of Wu San-chiou, a Taipei county councilor of the PFP who was killed last month.

The UDN reported yesterday that Soong repeatedly mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of rejoining the KMT, probably by the end of the year at the earliest, when the PFP would be automatically merged into the KMT. The KMT wouldn’t rule out installing one more honorary chairmanship for Soong, the report continued.

In response, Soong said he wondered why a certain newspaper has kept making personal attacks on him. “The report is totally groundless,” Soong stressed.

On another front, KMT presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday that a future merger with the PFP to form a single political party is a possibility, given current trends.

It’s been long expected that the KMT would absorb the PFP back into itself. Without the monster war chest and leadership of luminary James Soong, its influence was limited. In the elections last year in Kaohsiung and in Taipei it lost big, a signal that Blue voters had finally decided the solution to the problem of splitting the Blue vote was simply to give up on the PFP.

The shift isn’t so much the loss of the PFP, inevitably a casualty of the emerging two-party system in Taiwan, but the return of Soong to the KMT fold. He stepped out in 1999 to run as an independent for President, missing by only 3 points. Right after election was finished he announced the formation of a new political party, the PFP, with himself as Chairman. His star seemed ascendant, but it was only a shooting star, spent after four years. Defeated in 2004 as Lien Chan’s running mate in an election in which the KMT blew a 20 point aggregate lead over the DPP to lose by less than a point, Soong’s political career bottomed out in a crushing loss in the Taipei mayoral elections last year, in which he garnered less than 10 percent of the vote.

Many in the KMT consider Soong a traitor, and his return is likely to cause grumbling among the Deep Blue core. However, one thing it might do is shore up the KMT’s relations with its unruly Taiwanese faction, since Soong is popular with them, and is close to the faction’s unofficial leader, current legislative Speaker Wang Jyn-ping. Bringing Soong back will also put an end to the terrifying possibility of an independent Presidential run by Soong, which would undoubtedly put a spike in Ma Ying-jeou’s Presidential hopes, since this election is likely to be close as well.

KMT Secretary General says the merger will occur in Jan after the current legislative session ends. It will be interesting to see what position the KMT offers Soong and how much real clout he has. He is one of Taiwan’s canniest politicians and his career is certainly not over yet. In fact, at the moment, he’s denying the reports entirely…..