Ma Ying-jeou criticizes Koizumi in Japan

WARMING UP: The KMT chairman, who is said to be seeking to convince critics he is not anti-Japanese, said the Japanese PM needed to take a broader look at history


Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 3

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's controversial visits to a war shrine and urged him to take a broader look at history.

The visits seemed to be "a contradiction to the Japanese value of honoring human rights and freedom," Ma said.

Ma is on a trip to Japan partly aimed at allaying concerns he is anti-Japanese.

Relations between Japan and its neighbors have been badly strained by Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors 2.5 million war dead including 14 top war criminals.

"I think particularly for countries in Southeast Asia [and] Korea, China, Taiwan and the Philippines, they would certainly like to see Japan have a much broader concept of history," said Ma.

"As a friend I certainly hope Japan can do more in this area to accommodate the very strong sentiment of its neighbors and that would make Japan much greater than it is now," he said.

Ma, seen as the KMT's likely candidate for the 2008 presidential election, also said Taiwan should resist unification with China until the country shows respect for democracy and human rights.

"At the moment we should concentrate our efforts on maintaining the status quo," he said. "In our view, we will keep unification as an option only when the mainland has become democratic, free and respects human rights and equitable distribution of wealth."

Ma said Taiwan could be a gateway to China "without sacrificing the existing relationship with the United States and Japan not only in the economic area ... but also in the security area."

In other related news, back in Taipei, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he was "satisfied" with the state of Taiwan-Japan relations, which he described as "friendly" and "close."

The president made the remarks when receiving a Japanese delegation at the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon.

Chen cited three examples to illustrate his point. Two years ago, he said that the Japanese government voted in favor of the country's bid to join the World Health Assembly as an observer.

Last year, Japan and US jointly affirmed that the protection of Taiwan is a "common strategic objective" of both countries. Last September, the Japanese government offered visa-free status to all Taiwanese in a bid to promote tourism, he said.

As the country and Japan are "optimum security partners," Chen said it was understandable that the Japanese government voiced concern over Taiwan's defense.

Additional reporting by Ko Shu-ling