Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, known for his pro-Taiwan stance, had always viewed Taiwan as an important friend to his country, regardless of whether he was in office, Taiwanese officials said yesterday.
Abe — who served two terms as prime minister from Sept. 26, 2006, to Sept. 26, 2007, and from Dec. 26, 2012, to Sept. 16, 2020 — died yesterday after he was shot while giving a speech.
Abe had always been on friendly terms with Taiwanese politicians and had visited the country several times.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
In 2010, Abe met with then-legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) with members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group of the Japanese Diet. When asked by reporters about the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) — which are also claimed by Japan, where they are known as the Senkaku Islands — he said that “given Japan and Taiwan’s deep friendship, there are no unsolvable problems.”
Former president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) office issued a statement yesterday saying that he met with Abe at the Presidential Office in 2010 and 2011 during visits to Taiwan.
Establishing the Sapporo branch of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan in 2009, resuming direct flights between Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in 2010, and signing the Taiwan-Japan Fisheries Accord in 2013 were major milestones in Taiwan-Japan relations and proof of Abe’s friendliness toward Taiwan, the office said.
Photo: screen grab from Twitter
During Abe’s second term, he said that “Taiwan is Japan’s friend” when answering inquiries from the Diet, and later said that “Taiwan is an important partner and friend, which shares [Japan’s] general values.”
Abe still closely followed Taiwanese issues after stepping down in 2020, notably saying in February that a “Taiwan emergency is a Japan emergency,” and calling on the US to abandon its “strategic ambiguity” policy by declaring that it would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack.
Last year, Abe was instrumental in Tokyo donating 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan.
“Taiwan is Japan’s important, old friend. It’s only natural to provide vaccines when such a country is facing difficulties,” he said at the time.
Ten years before, Taiwan made the largest donation of money after a massive earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011, and the nation donated masks to Japan after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, which Abe said that “Japan must not forget.”
In addition to befriending cross-party politicians, Abe’s friendly relationship with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) is also well-known.
Lee’s daughter, Annie Lee (李安妮), yesterday said the Lee Teng-hui Foundation had planned to invite Abe to a seminar this month.
While Taipei and Tokyo lack official diplomatic ties, informal diplomatic relations are stronger than ever thanks to Abe’s support, Annie Lee said, adding that news of his assassination was “heartrending.”
Agriculture and Food Agency Director-General Hu Jong-i (胡忠一), who had been posted in Japan for several years, said that Abe and his brother Japanese Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi used to attend national day celebrations arranged by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, adding that Abe particularly loved Taiwanese fruit.
Pingtung County Commissioner Pan Men-an (潘孟安) wrote on Facebook that Abe strongly supported the county’s pineapples and groupers, and sent a letter to thank Pan in May after receiving pineapples grown in Pingtung.
Abe’s death was “was not only Japan’s loss, but a loss for the world,” Pan said.
Additional reporting by Yang Yuan-ting and Lo Hsin-chen
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