Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Ma hurting Japan ties: academics

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's good relations with Japan could be damaged as the government tries to curry favor with Beijing if the administration continues to place cross-strait relations above diplomatic affairs, a group of academics said yesterday, adding that the recent Diaoyutai boat clash has decreased Tokyo’s confidence in President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Speaking at a forum sponsored by the Taiwan Thinktank, Soochow University professor of political science Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said China is playing Taiwan and Japan against each other.

On the one hand the Chinese foreign ministry “protests” against Japan for intruding into its territorial waters, but on the other it has forged closer economic ties with Tokyo by signing a bilateral agreement on oil exploration, he said.

“China is pleased to see the rising rift between Taiwan and Japan because it is benefiting from the tension,” he said.

“What would Ma do if China demands he let Taiwan’s relations with Tokyo falter in return for better cross-strait relations? Would he be able to stand up to China to protect Taiwan-Japan ties?”

Former Taiwan representative to Japan Lo Fu-chuan (羅福全) said Ma’s delayed response to the accident has sparked concerns and doubts about his real intentions toward Japan.

“Fortunately, the incident came to a peaceful end. Although the accident alone will not shake the foundation of bilateral ties, it could damage mutual trust between two friends,” he said.

Earlier this month, a Japanese coast guard patrol boat sank a small Taiwanese fishing boat in waters near the Diaoyutai islands, a much disputed region claimed by China, Japan and Taiwan.

The Japanese have since released all 16 men on board the fishing boat, agreed to pay reparations and expressed regret over the clash.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, is insisting that Tokyo give a formal apology even though many Japan experts, including former representative to Japan Koh Se-kai (�?�), had argued the word “regret” was a sufficient expression of sorrow, since the word is often used by Japanese to demonstrate an apologetic stance.

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