Sat, Jul 15, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Ma gives Japan trip a good review, says he'll return

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Satisfied with what he called a "worthwhile" trip to Japan, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday confirmed that he will visit the country again next spring to boost understanding between the two countries.

"I feel better about my Japanese visit than the US trip ... The visit was worthwhile, and a very good learning trip for me," Ma said yesterday at Taipei City Hall.

Ma came back late on Thursday night from a four-day visit to Japan in his capacity as Taipei Mayor.

He was scheduled to visit Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto and Osaka in five days, but cut his trip by one day short because of Tropical Storm Bilis.

In addition to meeting Japanese mayors, Ma also visited Foreign Minister Taro Aso, Shinzo Abe, Chief Secretary to the Japanese Cabinet and former Chief Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, according to Chinese-language United Daily News.

The three are the key contenders to replace Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in September.

However, according to a source quoted in the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times's sister paper), Ma didn't actually meet with Abe in person, but merely talked over the phone for about 10 minutes.

While declining to reveal who he met, Ma lauded the country's top politicians for possessing good qualities from both the East and the West.

"[They] have both the persistence of the East and the vision of the West. I was very impressed," he said.

Ma said that his Japan trip had helped the host country increase its understanding of KMT policy.

In addition to visiting more cities on his next trip to Japan, Ma said he will have a "Mandarin-Japanese speech contest" with Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada in an attempt to boost Taiwan-Japan exchanges.

During a conversation to discuss municipal exchange student programs with Hiroshi, Ma said, the two decided to have a one-minute speech contest with each person using the other's language to deliver the speech. The loser will have to donate US$10,000 to a fund for exchange students.

"Even though I will no longer be Taipei mayor by then, I will still sponsor the contest and make the donation if I lose," he said.

Through more communication in both the governmental and civil sectors, Ma said, Taiwan can play a role in improving Sino-Japanese relations. He said the KMT's promotion of peaceful cross-strait relations will help facilitate that goal.

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