President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) failure to mention Japan in his inaugural address last week disappointed the large Japanese delegation, who had high hopes that Ma would continue the Japan-friendly line he took during his presidential campaign and after winning the election.
Many had expected Ma to pledge to bolster ties with Japan and reiterate his support for the US-Japan Security Alliance in the speech, Kyodo news agency reported.
Considering Ma’s focus on Japan at key junctures during his presidential campaign, the omission raised eyebrows. But Ma’s even stronger focus on China, whose relations with Japan are often strained, goes a long way to explaining why Ma apparently felt Japan — a key, albeit unofficial, ally — did not deserve mention, the agency quoted experts as saying.
“China definitely played a factor,” said Luo Fu-chuan (羅福全), Taiwan’s former representative to Japan.
The Sankei Shimbun reported on Friday of a translation mishap at Ma’s lunch meeting with the Japanese delegation at the Presidential Office following the inauguration on Tuesday, which inadvertently turned the “goodwill” of the Japanese delegation into “bad will.”
The report said that as Ma had made no mention of Tokyo in his inaugural address, Takeo Hiranuma, leader of the Japanese delegation to the inauguration and head of the Japan-ROC Parliamentarian’s Council, told Ma during the lunch meeting that “Japan will do its utmost, and I hope that you will mention Japan in your next inaugural speech.”
However, the interpreter made a mistake in the translation.
“I hope that in four years’ time, President Ma Ying-jeou will use Japanese to deliver an even more complete speech,” the interpreter said.
Hiranuma’s original words were meant to express goodwill and modesty, but the message got lost in translation and ended up sounding like an arrogant order, the paper reported.
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said the interpreter also failed to translate important questions in Hiranuma’s address.
The mishap added to the disappointment felt by the Japanese delegation.
In response, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that after questioning the interpreter, it appeared the sound volume diminished during this part of Hiranuma’s address, making it difficult to hear and that was what caused the interpreter to make a mistake.