President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) defense of the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) in his National Day address does not impact bilateral relations between Taiwan and Japan, the Presidential Office said yesterday, dismissing concerns about the absence of Japanese lawmakers from the National Day ceremony on Wednesday.
“President Ma delivered his National Day address and declared the nation’s stance on the issue. Our friendship with Japan is not affected,” Presidential Office Spokesman Fan Chiang Ta-chi (范姜泰基) said.
The Japanese lawmakers had congratulated the nation in a meeting with Ma in the Presidential Office prior to the celebration, Fan Chiang said, without commenting further on their absence from the ceremony.
In his address on Wednesday, the president reiterated the nation’s sovereignty over the Diaoyutais and renewed his call for all parties to resolve the dispute peacefully.
While stressing the nation’s close economic and trade relations with Japan, Ma said his administration intends to continue to patrol the waters surrounding the islands and protect the rights of local fishermen.
He also reiterated the previously proposed East China Sea peace initiative, and called on each nation involved in the dispute to set aside their differences and engage in dialogue in handling sovereignty disputes over the islands.
According to the Sankei Shimbun, a Japanese business daily, the Japanese delegation was in Taiwan to attend the National Day celebrations, but decided not to go after learning that the issue of the Diaoyutai Islands would be addressed in Ma’s speech.
Fan Chiang yesterday dismissed speculation that the absence of the group, composed of 39 lawmakers from across the political spectrum and their aides, might affect the resumption of long-stalled fisheries talks, while insisting that the president did not cancel a “lunchbox” meeting with the group.
Ma had lunchbox meetings with Japanese guests at the previous two National Day celebrations, as well as at his inauguration ceremony on May 20 this year. However, the lunchbox meetings are not a regular arrangement, and the Presidential Office did not cancel such a meeting on Wednesday, he said.