Visiting former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori said yesterday that the US' friendship with Taiwan was solid and spoke of firm ties between Japan and Taiwan, while Beijing repeated its protest against Mori's trip.
Mori reassured Taiwan over its relationships with Japan and the US during a dinner banquet he hosted for the Taiwanese alumni of Japan's Waseda University and Keio University in Taipei's Grand Formosa Regent Hotel, where he is staying during his three-day private visit.
Lo Fu-chen (羅福全), representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, and Hsu Shui-teh (許水德), president of Taiwan's Association of East Asian Relations, accompanied Mori to the banquet.
The banquet started at around 6:30pm and Mori left the hotel before 8pm. According to Hsu, Mori left the dinner early to meet with his old friend Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation, Taiwan's semi-official body handling cross-strait affairs.
Banquet participants quoted Mori as saying that "the US has treated Taiwan better than it has done Japan" because Taiwan's geographic position is important to the US.
Mori talked a lot about rugby during the dinner, participants said.
Banquet guests included national policy advisers Huang Tien-lin (
Mori met with former president Lee Teng-hui (
Prime minister from 2000 to 2001, Mori defied pressure from China and at home, including from his then-minister of foreign affairs Yohei Kono, to issue a visa to Lee so that he could undergo heart surgery in Osaka in April 2001.
Still influential in Japan's politics, Mori's faction occupies 51 of his Liberal Democratic Party's 245 seats in the 480-seat Japanese House of Representatives.
Mori is a supporter of current Japanese Prime Junichiro Koizumi, who is also a member of the Mori faction.
After his meeting with Lee yesterday, Mori's heavily guarded motorcade drove him to an undisclosed location at Shihlin. Mori was tight-lipped in his public appearances and declined to answer questions from reporters.
At around 3:30pm, accompanied by Lo, Mori visited the family of his late friend Lin Chin-ching (
Lin, also a national policy adviser and former president of the Association of East Asian Relations, passed away on Dec. 10. Mori paid tribute to his friend and told Lin's five children to take care of Lin's 79-year-old wife Wu Ai-kuei (吳愛桂).
Meanwhile, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested against Mori's visit to Taiwan yesterday.
NHK, Japan's public broadcast network, yesterday reported that Mori told President Chen Shui-bian (
The report quoted Mori as telling Chen to consider the difficulties faced by the US, now preoccupied with Iraq and North Korea.