Responding to a recent article by Kyodo News Agency titled “When Taiwan-Japan relations run afoul, there’s always Hatta Yoichi,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Tokyo last week once again highlighted the government’s tendency to obfuscate and its refusal to acknowledge public apprehension about its policies.
The office called a passage in the report “groundless” that read “while Ma has wooed China, restarted formal negotiations across the Taiwan Strait and signed trade agreements with Beijing, Taipei’s relations with Tokyo have mostly stagnated.” Yet the office did not meet the allegations directly, choosing instead to rehash the old platitudes of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — no unification, no independence and no use of force — while adding that the ongoing negotiations with China are “based not on political but rather economic objectives.”
The response defies reality. If, as the office claims, Ma’s administration “wishes to enhance its substantial relationship with Japan,” then how do we explain a series of unnecessary and avoidable political spats since Ma took office?
Soon after Ma became president in May last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs recalled its envoy to Japan over a maritime incident near the Diaoyutai (釣魚台) involving Japanese and Taiwanese vessels. Less than a year later, it was raising a storm over perfectly acceptable comments by Japanese envoy Masaki Saito to the effect that Taiwan’s status remains “unresolved.” The Ma administration played the hurt party and refused to meet Saito for months.
If Taipei wanted to enhance relations with Tokyo, it would have handled those minor matters differently.
Meanwhile, Beijing continues to threaten Taiwan by deploying more missiles across the Strait, and Chinese academics and generals speak of war on visits to Taiwan — a rejection of the nation’s status far worse than Saito’s comments. Yet Ma says nothing. No Chinese officials are barred from coming; in fact, more are welcome.
If questioning Taiwan’s status were an offense in Ma’s eyes, then not a single academic or Chinese official would be allowed on this side of the Strait.
It is also evident that the objectives of ongoing negotiations with Beijing are, despite what the office says, not solely economic. Time and again, the top leadership in Beijing has said that economic integration is part of its plan to annex Taiwan. That the financial agreements are a Trojan Horse cannot be wished away.
This is not the first time a government agency defends its policies in such a matter. The Ministry of Justice has responded to open letters concerning the erosion of rights and liberties in Taiwan and the trial of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Like the Tokyo office’s letter, the ministry’s replies engaged in avoidance while encouraging the illusion that the Ma administration is beyond reproach.
The truth, as Kyodo highlighted in its article, is that the Ma administration has neglected Japan at the expense of better relations with China, and that it is putting Taiwan’s sovereignty at risk by ignoring the political ramifications of “economic” deals. Unless the government provides clear, direct answers to those allegations, we will continue to treat its indignant responses as mere propaganda.