Taiwan-Japan relations could suffer as a result of the new government focusing on improving ties with China, Japan’s former top representative to Taiwan said in an interview published yesterday.
Relations between Taiwan’s new government and China are in a “honeymoon period,” said Tadashi Ikeda, former head of the Japanese Interchange Association’s Taipei office, Japan’s de facto embassy in Taiwan.
But it is uncertain how long the cross-strait warming will last, he said.
Ikeda made the comments in an interview with the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun, before leaving his post on July 10.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said Taiwan will maintain good relations with Japan, the US and China, Ikeda said. But the Japanese government would like more clarification on Ma’s priorities, Ikeda said.
Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have been working to establish closer economic ties with China since Ma took office in May.
Ikeda said he does not see Ma as “anti-Japan,” despite Ma’s tough stance in demanding that Japan apologize over a boat collision last month.
He was referring to an incident in which a Taiwanese fishing boat sank after colliding with a Japanese coast guard ship off the disputed Diaoyutai island chain. Those islands are claimed by Taiwan, Japan and China.
But Ikeda warned that anti-Japan sentiment in Taiwan could be stirred up easily by sensational media reports.
The Sankei Shimbun reported that Japan was shocked by Ma’s tough attitude during the ship collision incident, and by Premier Liu Chao-shiuan’s (劉兆玄) comment that he would not rule out going to war with Japan over the dispute as a last resort.
The incident caused unease over the future of Taiwan-Japan relations, the paper reported.
Recalling his private negotiations with officials including Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and Foreign Minister Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊), Ikeda said that Ma’s administration does regard Taiwan-Japan relations as important, as does Japan.
He said Taiwan and Japan should improve ties to ensure regional stability.
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