Thu, Jul 13, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Ma grilled by Japanese Diet members

HARD QUESTIONS A group of pro-Taiwan parliamentarians wanted to know if the KMT chairman would make Taiwan anti-Japanese if he becomes the next president

By Chang Mao-sen  /  STAFF REPORTER IN TOKYO, WITH STAFF WRITER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was confronted with a series of hard questions in a meeting with scores of Japanese Diet members yesterday.

Facing a volley of questions from Diet members, on issues ranging from concern over Ma's reportedly anti-Japanese views, to his stance on the dispute over the Diaoyutais (釣魚台) and Taiwan's long-stalled arms procurement plan, Ma appeared overwhelmed.

Ma's current trip to Japan is his first visit to the country in his capacity as KMT chairman. He had said that he would use the trip to correct the "misunderstandings" that some Japanese politicians have about him.

Saying that Taiwan is a friendly country which understands Japan well, Diet member Yasuhiro Oe, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan and one the nearly 70 parliamentarians from a pro-Taiwan Japanese parliamentary group present at the meeting yesterday, expressed concern over Ma's stands on the Diaoyutais and his rhetoric about the Yasukuni shrine.

Ma took part in a campaign in the early 1970s to defend the disputed Diaoyutais, known as the Senkaku islands in Japanese, and surrounding waters.

Japan declared the islands to be part of its territory in 1895. They were temporarily put under US control after World War II, before being returned to Japanese rule in 1972, together with the Ryukyu island chain.

On Tuesday, Ma criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the shrine, urging him to take a broader look at history.

Oe added that he is worried that Taiwan could become an anti-Japanese country, should the KMT gain power under Ma's leadership in the next presidential election.

Former Japan Defense Agency head Shigeru Ishiba asked "what kind of logic is it" that, despite the intensifying military competition in East Asia, arms procurements are still being blocked in the legislature by the KMT.

In response to both Oe and Ishiba's comments, Ma said that "although both parties have different views, [these different views] will not affect Taiwan-Japan relations."

Ma stressed that the internal disagreements on these issues would not affect relations between Taiwan and Japan, and that it was impossible for two countries to have the same stance on all issues.

Taiwan and Japan should, via contact and negotiations, broaden the views that they both share and shorten the gaps on issues on which they are at odds, Ma said, adding that this is the most effective way to ensure mutual friendship.

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