Since the sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan naval vessel in March, tensions in Northeast Asia have been on the rise. On Nov. 23, North Korea bombed South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island and the US sent the USS George Washington aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea. On Nov. 28, the US and South Korea carried out joint military exercises in the Yellow Sea. The US and Japan then held the largest joint military exercises they have ever held on Friday, believing that such actions would stop North Korea and also contain China.
As all this was going on, former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori visited South Korea on Wednesday. He used the trip to stop over in Taiwan and visit some friends in the capacity of a Japanese tourist, not a former leader, thus bypassing the diplomatic system in the process.
As soon as Mori arrived in Taiwan on Friday, he jumped on the high-speed rail and headed straight for Taichung and met with former Taiwanese representative to Japan Koh Se-kai (許世楷.)
I accompanied Koh, his wife and several local dignitaries to meet Mori before going to Koh’s house for discussions. While no sensitive political issues were touched on, the long-term friendship and mutual trust that exists between Mori and Koh, as well as the friendly attitude that Mori displayed, went beyond fancy diplomatic parlance.
It also highlighted the fact that the friendship between the people of Taiwan and Japan is as strong as ever, regardless of what may be happening around the region now.
Furthermore, diplomacy cannot work without interpersonal relationships and friendship. At times, Tokyo utilizes retired prime ministers and heavyweights from opposition parties to carry out supporting diplomatic missions and these often result in diplomatic breakthroughs.
The trip Mori made to South Korea before coming to Taiwan was a prime example. Mori bypassed diplomatic channels for his trip to Taiwan, possibly because at the start of last month, when former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was organizing his visit to Taipei, Taiwan’s representative office in Japan exhibited a negative attitude about Abe meeting members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This caused a certain degree of obstruction in the official channels. I believe this is why Mori consciously kept his visit out of the official channels.
Diplomacy is about the interests of a nation and diplomacy should transcend political parties. The government should make good use of people from opposition parties that are well known internationally so as to improve its chances in succeeding in diplomatic tasks.
There was a lot of talk about whether diplomatic protocol was breached when Abe was forced to call a taxicab so he could make it to a late-night event with DPP members after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials that were looking after him failed to provide transportation.
DPP leaders, including Koh, were already at the function when Abe took a taxi. This highlights the close friendship and deep mutual trust that exists between Abe and the members of the DPP.
If the government can get rid of its own preconceptions and utilize the personal relations those from opposition parties have with leaders from other nations to secure Taiwan’s overall diplomatic interests, the results would be enjoyed by all our citizens and would even maximize the achievements of the governing party.