Nov 02, 2010

Taiwan: Abe’s Visit Marks an Improvement in the Relationships with Japan

Former Japanese Prime Minister was in Taipei for a two-day visit, during which he had the opportunity to meet President Ma and to discuss foreign policy and economic issues with the KMT and DPP leading figures.

Below is an article published by The China Post

Ma stresses value of ties with Japan on Abe visit

President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday [1 November 2010] that his administration will continue to step up interchanges with Japan.

He also stressed that his policies show no leaning toward Beijing, as alleged by some critics.

Concerning a visit by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's to the nation's Martyrs Shrine, Ma described it as an act of good will and he welcomed such a friendly attitude.

At a reception marking resumption of direct flights between Taipei's Songshan Airport and Tokyo's Haneda Airport after a suspension of 31 years, Ma said the flight service is one of the concrete moves to strengthen interchanges with Japan.

He also explained that this proved that the Chinese mainland is not the only counterpart his administration has been engaging.

Ma refuted some people's allegations that he has been leaning too heavily toward Beijing.

He explained that while the government has taken steps to improve relations with Beijing, it has at the same time continued to beef up ties with both Japan and the United States.

Ma also pointed out that during his meeting with Abe on Sunday [31 October 2010] , the visiting former Japanese leader had expressed support for the efforts to improve the relations across the Taiwan Strait and defuse the tensions in the region.

At a meeting of senior officials of the ruling Kuomintang, Ma told participants in his capacity as party chairman that Abe's presentation of a wreath at the Martyrs Shrine exemplifies Japan's goodwill and friendly attitude to Taiwan.

Ma's spokesman, Lo Chih-chiang, disagreed with former President Lee Teng-hui, who asserted that people in Taiwan should also pay respects at Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine — a memorial to Japan's war dead.

Lo explained that the situations in Taiwan and Japan are different, and it is improper for the nation's officials to pay respects at the Tokyo shrine.

Some other KMT officials also said that Lee's analogy between the nation's Martyrs Shrine and the Yasukuni Shrine, where some of Japan's war criminals were also dedicated, was inappropriate.

Abe was quoted as saying that he will find a chance to recommend that his predecessor — former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi — also visit Taiwan soon. He made the remarks when meeting with Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng and other lawmakers yesterday morning.

KMT Legislator Lee Hung-chun said that Wang invited Abe to give a speech at the legislature next time he visits. “He (Abe) happily accepted the invitation and said he will find a chance during his next visit,” Lee added.

The 56-year-old arrived in Taipei a day earlier [30 October 2010] for the two-day visit.

Abe's Cabinet had pushed hard for direct flights between the two capital cities during his time in office, so he took the resumption very seriously, Lee said.

Abe said there are no problems that cannot be solved between Japan and Taiwan, thanks to the solid bilateral relations.

Asked whether the meeting touched upon the Tiaoyutai Islands controversy, Lee said the sensitive topic was not broached.

However, the lawmaker said Ma, who met with Abe a day earlier, did bring up the subject of the disputed islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, with both men claiming their respective countries' sovereignty over the islands in the East China Sea.

In another major event, Abe held an early morning meeting over breakfast with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen.

Tsai took the opportunity to outline the party's policy and stance on the Tiaoyutais, a group of islands that lies about 100 nautical miles off Taiwan's northeastern tip in the East China Sea.

The islands are controlled by Japan and also claimed by China and Taiwan.

“The DPP thinks that the sovereignty of the Tiaoyutais belongs to Taiwan and that related disputes should be handled peacefully and rationally,” Tsai said.

The party will also not consider cooperating with China on the issue, Tsai said, and she expressed the hope that Taiwan and Japan could cooperation issues related to fishery rights and the development of natural resources.

Tsai also urged Japan to begin FTA talks with Taiwan soon, especially at a time when President Ma is leaning too heavily toward China by signing an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China.

The DPP hopes to strengthen Taiwan's relations with other major economic partners, and lessen its over reliance on China, Tsai said.

Faced with a rising China, the DPP is not seeking to join hands with other nations in Asia against Beijing but wants to grapple with the issue via a regional structure and dialogue involving every country in the region, including China, she explained.

“China has to realize that Taiwan does not like to see that it deals with other Asian countries in a nationalistic and hegemonic way. Equality and mutual respect is the way for it to get along with Asian countries,” Tsai said.

She also said that although economic relations between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have become warmer, China's military threat has continued to increase, noting that it has now deployed nearly 1,400 missiles against Taiwan.

Over two thirds of Taiwan's listed companies have investments in China, and Beijing has used that as leverage to pressure Taiwan's businesses into accepting China's political stance, which is “something that the DPP has worried about and that Japan will have to face in the future,” she said.

On the Nov. 27 municipality elections, Tsai said that the race will be fierce, and the DPP is hoping to “boost its strength in the elections.”