Sat, Nov 13, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Sub drama prompts calls for closer ties

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Academics called for closer strategic cooperation between Taiwan and Japan yesterday in response to a Chinese submarine's intrusion into Japanese territorial waters earlier this week.

At the conference entitled the "India-Japan-Taiwan Trialogue: Prospects for Democratic Cooperation" hosted by the Taiwan Thinktank, Japanese political com-mentator Hideaki Kase said China tried to scare Japan by deploying the submarine into its waters.

Kase, also chairman of the Japan-India Goodwill Association, said behind-the-scenes military exchanges have existed between Japan and Taiwan for years.

"Many retired defense officers have visited the island ? I hope we can strengthen such links," Kase said.

"Once Taiwan acquires an anti-ballistic defense system, the Japan-US-Taiwan [defense system] will be linked," said Kase, who supports Taiwan buying weapons from the US.

Ryuji Ichikawa, deputy representative of the Japan Interchange Association (JIA) in Taipei, said he could not comment on the submarine incident as his government is still investigating the incident.

A former Self Defense Agency officer at the JIA, however, has been in contact with people in the Ministry of National Defense about the incident, Ichikawa said.

Lai I-chung (賴怡忠), director of foreign policy studies at the Taiwan Thinktank, said Taiwan needs to strengthen its anti-submarine capacity and underwater monitoring systems.

Once Taiwan acquires P3C anti-submarine aircraft, it will be able to exchange real-time maritime intelligence with Japan.

Currently, Lai said, neither side has developed mature systems for exchanging intelligence.

Premier Yu Shyi-kun, who attended a luncheon with conference participants, reiterated the government's support for Japan's bid for permanent membership on the UN Security Council.

"Although we don't have diplomatic relations with Japan, both sides have developed very good non-officials ties over the years and had intensive educational and cultural exchanges," Yu said.

Last year, said Yu, bilateral trade reached US$40 billion and Taiwan became Japan's fourth-largest trade partner.

"Every year, more than 1.5 million Taiwanese and Japanese tourists visit each other's country," he said.

Yu pointed out Taiwan's relations with India have improved since the end of the Cold War.

"Last year, trade between Tai-wan and India reached US$1.5 billion, which is significantly higher than in the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, annual trade volume between the two sides was less than US$500 million," he said.

"However, Taiwan-India trade accounts for less than 1 percent of Taiwan's overall trade volume. There is still a lot of room for trade growth between Taiwan and India," he said.

George Fernandes, former Indian defense minister and a now a member of the House of the People, gave a keynote speech at the conference.

Fernandes met with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and National Security Council Secretary General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) during his visit.

He is scheduled to return home today.

The conference discussed how India, Japan and Taiwan might cooperate in trade, technology and democracy.

India is a good destination for Taiwan to diversify risks of its overheated investment in China, Lai said.

"Around 69 percent of Taiwan's foreign investment has gone to China. This is too dangerous," he said.

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