The government had encouraged Taiwanese expatriate groups to protest against the recent visit to Washington of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) representative to the US, Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), said on Wednesday.
Wu said that on the eve of Abe’s visit, the groups were asked by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office’s (TECRO) cultural division to sign a petition supporting President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) East China Sea peace initiative for the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), known as the Senkakus in Japan.
Twenty-two of the groups signed the petition and members of some organizations protested against Abe’s visit at the Japanese embassy and on the streets of New York, where they waved flags alongside Chinese banners.
“It was not appropriate for TECRO to become involved in this way,” Wu said.
“We really care about Taiwan’s relationship with Japan — Taiwan should not be working with China to counter Japan,” he said.
Wu raised the issue this week, when he met with US Congressional members during a short visit to Washington. Based in Taipei, Wu comes to Washington every few months.
During a briefing for the Taiwanese press — held in the DPP’s new Washington office near the White House — Wu repeated: “It was not appropriate for TECRO-related groups to start a fire to undercut relations with Japan.”
Wu said that he would have no objection if Taiwanese exaptriates, acting on their own initiative, decided to protest Abe’s visit, but the protests took place after TECRO asked the groups to sign its petition at the very time that Abe was visiting.
He said the protesters had been “encouraged” by the petition.
“It was not appropriate for the cultural division to send these things out at a time coinciding with the visit,” Wu said.
Wu said he hoped to talk with Taiwanese Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) while in Washington, but was not able to arrange a meeting.
“Unfortunately, the schedules couldn’t be worked out,” he said.
Wu met with a number of US representatives, leading members of the US House and Senate staff, think tank analysts, academics and members of the Taiwanese-American community.
He said that one major topic of discussion was the East China Sea dispute and that he stressed the DPP wanted to maintain good relations with Japan, a close US ally in the region.
“Taiwan should not provoke Japan,” he said.
“Although there is a sovereignty dispute between Taiwan and Japan over the Diaoyutai issue, good Taiwan-Japan relations and peace and stability in the region are more important,” Wu said.
Wu was also arranging a visit to Washington by DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌). While the exact dates have not yet been fixed, the visit is expected to take place in late May or early June.
In Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the allegations.
Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), the director-general of the ministry’s Department of North American Affairs, said yesterday that the ministry was “absolutely not” behind the anti-Abe protest.
“We have been very clear in our position that we do not want to see Taiwanese expatriates join anti-Abe protests staged by Chinese expat groups. If some Taiwanese were involved, they were there on their own initiative,” he said.
The peace initiative, which emphasizes that “sovereignty is indivisible, while resources can be shared,” is the overarching principle for the ministry’s policies on the East China Sea, and therefore the ministry does not encourage any anti-Japan moves, Linghu said.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan