High-level Japanese official visits

CLOSER::After the renaming of Tokyo’s representative office in Taipei, a high-level official’s visit is the next step in warming ties between the two nations, a source said

By Peng Wan-hsin, Lu Yi-hsuan and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer and CNA

Sun, Mar 26, 2017 - Page 1

Japanese Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Jiro Akama arrived in Taiwan yesterday on a one-day visit to promote tourism in his country, becoming the highest-level Japanese official to visit Taiwan since the two nations ended official ties in 1972.

Shortly after his arrival, Akama chaired the opening of a two-day Japanese tourism fair at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei.

The fair, titled “Colorful Japan,” was organized by the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, which represents Japan’s interests in Taiwan in lieu of a formal embassy.

Organizers said the tourism fair also aims to expand the market for Japanese regional foods and creative works in Taiwan.

A source connected with the tourism fair said the visit represents the next step forward in the improvement of relations with Japan, coming after the Japanese delegation’s recent name change from “Interchange Association, Japan.”

Akama’s attendance, as well as his hosting of the fair’s opening ceremony, show that Japan places great importance on its relationship with Taiwan, the source said, adding that the visit demonstrates a departure from past handling of Japanese cultural events, which were typically hosted directly by association representatives.

At the event’s opening ceremony yesterday morning, Association of East Asian Relations President Chiou I-jen (邱義仁) said that the closeness of the relationship between the nations was underlined by the “shared challenges” that they face.

While not easy to put together, the visit had great significance, Akama said, adding that he was happy to share Japanese culture with Taiwanese.

Akama said he hoped that Taiwan would soon allow imports of products from Fukushima Prefecture.

Reconstruction work there has been completed, and its products have tested safe and are back on store shelves in Japan, he said.

Later, speaking on the sidelines of the event, he repeated statements on food from Fukushima, but said he was aware of differing opinions in Taiwanese society.

Food imports to Taiwan from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba have been suspended since March 25, 2011, due to fears that the areas might have been contaminated by radiation after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster.

Importers of Japanese food products have since May 15, 2015, been required to present certification to prove their produce does not originate from any of the five prefectures.

After President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) assumed office in May last year, her administration briefly considered a plan to lift the ban in two phases, retaining the ban on Fukushima imports while allowing imports from Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures on condition of batch-by-batch inspection.

However, the plan met strong public opposition, forcing the Cabinet to put it on hold.