Wed, Sep 25, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Japanese official presses for Taipei-Tokyo relations

SPEAKING OUT Kenichi Mizuno, who quit his Japanese foreign ministry post in a row over Taiwan, says Tokyo should stand up to China with regard to Asian affairs

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A former Japanese foreign ministry official who quit last month after his government prevented him from visiting Taiwan said yesterday his country should establish official ties with Taiwan.

"Judging from the close cultural, economic and trade interactions between these two nations, it is unnatural and unreasonable for Japan's foreign policy to neglect Taiwan's existence," Kenichi Mizuno (水野賢一), a member of the Japanese Diet, said at a seminar on Taiwan-Japan relations.

The seminar was hosted by Taiwan's Taiwan-Japan Forum in the 21st Century (21世紀台日論壇) and Japan's Committee of the 21st Century of Japan-ROC Diet Members' Consultative Council (日華懇談會). Both organizations comprise Japanese and Taiwanese politicians and act as informal communication channels between the two countries.

Mizuno, of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said that while formal China-Japan relations were important to Japan, such relations should not be built at Taiwan's expense.

"I personally think that Japan should seriously consider establishing formal ties with Taiwan, for both countries shares common values in democracy and freedom, values that China lacks," he said.

Conceding that such a proposition would be strongly opposed by China, Mizuno said that Japan should stand firm and not yield to pressure from Beijing.

"Japan should not fear raising tensions between Japan and China and curtail its decisions based on presumptions about China's reaction," he said.

Mizuno recently stirred an uproar in Japan when he resigned late last month as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a post he had held since January, to protest Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi's rejection of his request to pay an official visit to Taiwan.

No high-level foreign ministry official or even parliamentary secretary has paid an official visit to Taiwan since 1972, when Japan and Taiwan ended official diplomatic ties.

Other than cultural and trade exchanges, frequent interaction should also be promoted between Japanese and Taiwanese government officials, for Taiwan is an important partner of Japan, a reality that cannot be denied, Mizuno said.

DPP legislative whip Wang Tuoh (王拓) commended Mizuno and many of the younger generation of Japanese parliamentarians for having a global vision, their own political ideals and the courage to confront the old system that too easily gave in to pressure applied by China when it comes to relations with Taiwan

The possibility of Taiwan signing a free-trade agreement with Japan was also discussed at the seminar yesterday.

While the DPP late last month vowed to push for such an agreement within two years, Japanese Diet member Isao Matsumiya, however, said that it would be difficult to stick to the timetable as a consensus had not been reached between the two countries.

Matsumiya also said Japan was waiting to see how China's overtures to ASEAN developed before exploring a free-trade deal with Taiwan.

Aside from Mizuno and Matsumiya, Diet member Shoichi Nakagawa also took part in the seminar as well as several Taiwanese legislators, including Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) of the DPP, Chen Horng-chi (陳鴻基) and Shyu Jong-shyong (徐中雄) of the KMT and Wu Tung-sheng (吳東昇) of the TSU.

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