Thu, Sep 05, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Legislators push Japan ties

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP legislators Tang Bi-a, center, Hsu Cheng-tao, second right, Tsai Huang-liang, right, Chiu Yi-ying, second left, and Chiu Chuang-chin announce the establishment of the Taiwan-Japan Political Elite Society at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

Dozens of DPP lawmakers yesterday formed a group that vows to make the signing of a free-trade agreement with Japan its top task, nearly 20 years after the country severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The group, called the Taiwan-Japan Political Elite Association, will serve as a venue of communication between legislators from the two countries despite the absence of official ties, Tang Bi-a (唐碧娥) said at the opening ceremony.

"The inauguration of the group is significant, as Sept. 29 will mark the 20th anniversary of the cutting of diplomatic relations between the two sides," said Tang, who organized the association.

Formed by 25 DPP lawmakers, most of whom were born in the 1960s, the group hopes to improve exchanges culminating in the signing of a free-trade agreement in the near future.

Tang said that while private exchanges between Taiwan and Japan have not ceased, pressure from China has made progress in official contact very slow.

Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), a group member and director of the DPP's Department of International Affairs, said that being young and vigorous, the new association will stand apart from other existing groups with a similar agenda.

To that end, the US-educated lawmaker is learning Japanese in the hope of strengthening communication with her Japanese counterparts.

Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯), another group member, who recently returned from a trip to Japan, said that the neighbor is interested in signing a free-trade agreement with Taiwan as such a pact could cushion China's "magnet effect." However, he added that a desire to avoid provoking Beijing has prevented Tokyo from inking such an agreement.

Fellow colleague Lai Ching-te (賴清德), who in May traveled to Geneva to advocate Taiwan's entry to the WHO, said it is in Taiwan's interest to improve ties with Japan. He noted that despite protest from China, Japan openly voiced support for the country's WHO bid.

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