Vice President William Lai (賴清德) yesterday became the most senior Taiwanese official to visit Japan in five decades when he traveled to Tokyo to offer condolences after the assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Tokyo broke official ties with Taipei in 1972 and established relations with Beijing.
Lai’s visit was regarded as a part of his “personal itinerary,” based on a tacit understanding between Taiwan and Japan, sources said.
Photo: screen grab from Twitter
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had no comment on Lai’s personal schedule.
Japanese TV news footage showed Lai, accompanied by Representative to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), visiting Abe’s residence in Tokyo to offer his condolences.
Lai is scheduled to attend Abe’s funeral today, the sources said.
Photo courtesy of the Presidential Office
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not immediately available for comment.
Although Tokyo has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, some senior Japanese officials have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Taiwan in the past few years.
In Taipei, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) offered condolences in a visit to the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA) yesterday morning.
Photo: Tien Yu-hua, Taipei Times
Abe, the longest-serving prime minister in Japan, died on Friday at the age of 67 after he was shot in the back that morning while campaigning on the street in the city of Nara for the Diet’s upper house elections held on Sunday. Police arrested a 41-year-old male suspect who allegedly shot Abe with a homemade shotgun.
Tsai has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff yesterday to honor Abe, who was widely considered in Taiwan to have contributed to bilateral ties.
Tsai yesterday said she was offering condolences to Abe’s family of behalf of the government and the people of Taiwan.
She said she clearly remembers Abe’s warm smile and greetings as they spoke during an online meeting in March, adding that they had expressed the hope of meeting in person soon.
“Thank you for your contribution to the friendship between Taiwan and Japan as well as to the world’s democracy, freedom, human rights and peace,” Tsai wrote on a memorial wall set up by the JTEA.
Abe will be “the good friend of Taiwan forever,” she wrote.
Tsai was accompanied at the JTEA by Presidential Office Secretary-General David Lee (李大維) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮). They were welcomed by Japanese Representative to Taiwan Mitsuo Ohashi.
Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Legislative Speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) separately visited the JTEA to offer their condolences.
Su said he was grateful for Abe’s assistance in facilitating the donation of millions of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses from Japan to Taiwan last year, when Taiwan was facing a shortage of vaccines.
Abe repeatedly voiced his support for Taiwan whenever the nation faced political suppression by China, even saying the US and Japan could not idly stand by if Taiwan were attacked by China, Su said.
You said he met with Abe several times when he visited Japan, adding that the former prime minister received him in person.
Even when the Democratic Progressive Party was in opposition from 2000 to 2008, Abe still received him in his office, You said, adding that the gesture touched him.
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