Japan’s opposition calls for closer ties with Taiwan, FTA

Staff Writer, with CNA

Tue, Jan 11, 2011 - Page 3

A high-ranking politician in Japan’s main opposition party yesterday called for closer Japan-Taiwan relations and bilateral free-trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.

Speaking at the Commonwealth Economic Forum in Taipei organized by Commonwealth Magazine with the theme of “The Rise of New Asia: Asia’s Conflicts, Growth and the New Future,” Yuriko Koike, chairwoman of the General Council under the Liberal Democratic Party, also said a strong Japan-US relationship would serve Taiwan’s interests.

The 58-year-old member of Japan’s House of Representatives said friction between Japan and the US “has emboldened China, which has long aspired to a maritime hegemony, which has created concern for Taiwan.”

“Do not forget that we always consider the security of Taiwan … It’s also vital for Japan and Taiwan to share the same democratic foundation, which will also have a positive effect on China,” said Koike, who has previously served as defense minister and environment minister.

The fact that electorates in Japan and Taiwan both threw out previous administrations in the last major elections in 2009 and 2008 respectively shows that people in both countries share the same democratic values, she said.

While both sides enjoy solid relations, it would be mutually beneficial if Japan and Taiwan could cooperate to develop alternatives to rare earths — the lifeblood of the information technology industry — and collaborate on areas such as environmental protection, energy saving, curbing air pollution, improving water quality and protecting intellectual property rights, she said.

The instability of Japan-US relations was a part of “mismanagement that the ruling Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ] has made in diplomacy and national security in the 16 months” since it took power, said Koike, who also described the party as amateurs with an aimless foreign policy.

Koike accused the DPJ of pursuing a foreign policy of “chasing two rabbits” — by which she meant catering to the US and China at the same time — and of ending up “fetching neither.”

Assessing the situation in East Asia, she said that while the Chinese regime might be efficient in a period of strong economic growth, whether that growth will be sustainable was in doubt.

She said Japan would be able to make great contributions to Asia thanks to its experience dealing with an aging population and low birthrate, issues that are facing many Asian countries, including Taiwan.