Wed, Jan 21, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Foreign ministry to promote special ties with Japan

By Jenny W. hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set this year as the year to boost Taiwan's “special partnership” with Japan, it said yesterday.

Describing Japan as one of Taiwan's staunchest friends, Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said that despite the absence of formal diplomatic relations, the two countries enjoy a “strong, unique partnership at many levels,” including history, culture, economy and security.

In September 2005, Japan extended a 90-day visa waiver program for Taiwanese passport holders. Last year, Japan and Taiwan mutually recognized each other's drivers' licenses. Japan is also expected to sign an agreement to include Taiwanese youth in its working holiday program.

In 2004, Japan and the US were the only two non-allies that supported Taiwan's bid to become an observer at the World Health Assembly.

According to the ministry, Japan has given the green light for Taiwan to set up a representative office in Sapporo, Hokkaido, but no date has been set yet.

Ou said the Executive Yuan had asked the ministry to fund the establishment of the new office from its own budget. It is estimated that more than 280,000 Taiwanese tourists visit Hokkaido annually.

Taiwan and Japan are also negotiating on possible regular direct flights between Taipei Songshan Airport and Haneda Tokyo International Airport.

However, these will have to wait until after next year, when Haneda completes its fourth runway, Ou said.

Taiwan is also vying to boost cultural exchanges between the two sides by inviting more Japanese dance and theater troupes featuring traditional Japanese arts to perform in Taiwan, the ministry said.

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