Wed, Dec 26, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan-Japan ties keep improving

By Sumit Kumar

Over the years, Taiwan-Japan ties have improved significantly, with the two nations having cemented their engagement in a number of areas.

The links between Taiwan and Japan are very old. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan was under Japanese rule. After giving up its claim to Taiwan in 1952, Japan recognized the Republic of China as a nation instead of China. Even after September 1972, when Japan cut off diplomatic ties with Taiwan and established ties with China, Tokyo continued to strengthen ties with Taipei, with Japan establishing the then-Interchange Association in Taipei and the Association of East Asian Relations in Japan.

While these institutional and other efforts at various levels by both nations continued to transform the ties between the two sides, the coming of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to power further increased the prospect of expansion in bilateral engagement between Taiwan and Japan, given the strong political chemistry that Tsai and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe enjoy.

This can be viewed from the fact that Tsai as a presidential candidate had visited Japan’s Cabinet Office in Tokyo. While Abe sent a congratulatory message to Tsai on her election, Tsai also congratulated Abe on his re-election as prime minister last year.

In the same year, while Japan renamed its office in Taipei to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, Taiwan changed its office name in Tokyo to the Taiwan-Japan Relationship Association, reflecting the deepening ties between the two sides.

Furthermore, Abe’s government in March last year sent Japanese Vice Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Jiro Akama to Taiwan to participate in a tourism promotion event.

These political overtures have not been made in a geopolitical vacuum. Taipei and Tokyo have their own and shared interests in promoting their engagement to the next level.

One of common factors that has had profound impact on the relationship between the two nations has been economic, trade and commerce issues. While Japan is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner, Taiwan is Japan’s fourth-largest trading partner, with the volume of the bilateral trade having reached US$62.7 billion last year.

Japan has a strong presence in Taiwan’s retail trade, construction and real estate, while Taiwanese companies have been cooperating with Japan in the manufacturing of semiconductors, electronics and electrical products.

While the two nations annually hold the Taiwan-Japan Economic and Trade Conference, along with other mechanisms to address difficulties encountered in bilateral trade, the two last month signed five trade agreements to boost bilateral trade relations.

These agreements assumed huge significance for the direction of trade between the two sides, because only five days before in a referendum, Taiwanese had supported an ongoing ban on food product imports from 31 regions in Japan that Taipei imposed after the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster.

At the same time, the move was also aimed at speeding up customs clearance processes for goods traded between the two nations, among other things.

Another important dimension of the sustained engagement between Taiwan and Japan is security cooperation.

At a time when China is aggressively focused on reshaping the balance of power in Asia in its favor, it has become imperative for Taipei and Tokyo to ensure that Beijing does not succeed in its evil endeavor, given the fact that both nations have security threats emanating from China.

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