Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Japanese body toasts emperor

BIRTHDAY PARTY For the first time in 31 years, the Japanese emperor's birthday was celebrated in Taipei by the Japanese Interchange Association, against China's wishes

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taipei Office of the Japanese Interchange Association (JIA) on Friday night held the first local celebration of Japanese Emperor Akihito's birthday since Japan severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972.

Defying unofficial protests by China against the celebration held by overseas Japanese embassies, the JIA Taipei Office, which is Japan's de facto diplomatic mission in Taiwan, threw a birthday party in Taipei's Ambassador Hotel.

Hailing the birthday celebration as a breakthrough, Katsuhisa Uchida, the mission's chief representative, said the party symbolizes the exuberant exchanges between Japan and Taiwan.

"The bilateral Japan-Taiwan relations will continue developing toward a more diversified future," said Uchida.

High-ranking government officials, including Presidential Secretary-General Chiou I-jen (邱義仁), Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) and Vice Chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vincent Siew (蕭萬長), attended the celebrations.

The JIA Taipei Office kept details about the party quiet following China's failed diplomatic attempts to stop the event. The mission intended the celebration to be a closed-door event and only briefly allowed to the media inside.

The birthday celebration has increased the visibility of Japan-Taiwan relations, said the director of the Taiwan Thinktank's Foreign Policy Studies, Lai I-chung (賴怡忠).

The party had some "symbolic meaning" and "China would not like to see things like this," Lai said.

The mission displayed pictures of the Japanese emperor and his wife on a big screen in the party hall and played the Japanese national anthem at the start of the celebrations.

Uchida and Hsu Shui-teh (許水德), president of Taiwan's Association of East Asian Relations, delivered speeches at the opening ceremony.

Although Japan cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972, the two countries have developed close trade and cultural relationships.

"It is a result of both sides' joint efforts," Uchida said.

Facing the trend of globalization, Japan and Taiwan will expand mutual exchanges to boost their substantial relationship, he said.

Pointing out that last year's trade volume between Japan and Taiwan reached US$39.2 billion, Hsu said Japan has replaced the US this year as Taiwan's largest trade partner.

"Japanese and Taiwanese tourists visit each other's countries very frequently. Various statistics show that Japan-Taiwan ties are very close and congenial," Hsu said.

After their speeches, Uchida and Hsu toasted the Japanese emperor, chanting: "Long live the emperor."

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