Sun, Dec 28, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Shift in Japan's policy on the way?

Former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori arrived in Taiwan on Dec. 25 for a three-day visit. Mori, the predecessor of current Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, was in office from 2000 to 2001 and is only the second former Japanese prime minister to visit Taiwan. Under the circumstances, his visit is very significant to the Taiwan-Japan relationship.

The significance of Mori's visit is demonstrated by the strong protests lodged against it by Beijing. Major newspapers in Japan have quoted Liou Jian-Chao (劉建超), an official with the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs, as saying that Mori's visit, over the protests of China, was "regrettable" and "upsetting."

According to Liou, because Mori is a former prime minister, his visit to Taiwan is equivalent to an official visit, with strong political connotations.

This forced the Japanese government to offer explanations. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi explained to the media, respectively, that Mori had made the visit in his private capacity and that the Japanese government had had no hand in it.

In any event, this kind of reaction by Beijing is not surprising in view of its notorious record. However, Beijing is at least right about one thing this time -- while Mori's visit was in no sense an official one, it nevertheless had much political significance.

Koizumi was a key member of Mori's team when Mori was in office. This is not to mention that Mori played an important part in Koizumi's election. Moreover, since having left office, Mori remains an important and active figure in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Besides, during his visit to Taiwan, Mori met with both President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

To understand the significance of Mori's visit, one must keep in mind the special ties between Japan and Taiwan, both in the past and at present.

At the end of World War II, Taiwan had been a Japanese colony for more than five decades. It was Japan that surrendered Taiwan's sovereignty at the end of the war. While the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime then ruling China accepted the surrender on behalf of the Allies, the future of Taiwan was still to be decided.

Yet what many believed should have been an interim measure -- rule of Taiwan by the KMT -- lasted for five decades. In a sense, it was Japan that handed Taiwan its present dilemma of being a sovereign country not recognized by most members of the international community.

Many ethnic mainlanders in Taiwan feel that the people of Taiwan should be ashamed of this part of Taiwan's history and feel animosity toward the Japanese. However, that is at odds with native Taiwanese culture.

Having been passed around among different rulers over hundreds of years, without the right to have a say about their future, the people of Taiwan have come to see their history with sober objectivity, recognizing that Japanese rule brought both good and bad things to Taiwan.

Learning from the mistakes of their past passivity, they now understand they alone have the right to decide their future.

At the same time, the public in Japan feels sympathetic to the plight of Taiwan as a result of the two countries' special historical ties. Yet, under tremendous pressure from China, the Japanese government has recognized the "one China" policy since the 1970s.

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