Although the close relations between Taiwan and Japan will likely continue despite the death of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, the ties have lost a key figure, academics have said.
The sudden passing of Abe, who was assassinated during an election campaign event in Nara, Japan, on Friday, has sparked discussions on whether it would change Taiwan-Japan relations.
Abe’s spirit of “protecting Japan” is reflected in the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) platform, which seeks to raise the country’s defense budget to 2 percent of GDP, similar to a goal set by NATO, Voice of America yesterday quoted Tamkang University Graduate Institute of Japanese Political and Economic Studies director Tsai Hsi-hsun (蔡錫勳) as saying.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is unlikely to change the platform, Tsai said, adding that Abe’s notable statement that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japan emergency” remains valid, as Japan and Taiwan have similar interests.
Abe’s death is similar to the death of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) last year, Tsai said, calling the two former leaders key figures in their countries’ relationship.
Before the two leaders became friends, such public, high-profile interactions between Taipei and Tokyo were unthinkable, the radio broadcaster quoted Tokyo International University Department of International Relations professor Masumi Kawasaki as saying.
The two had a teacher-student, or even father-son relationship, which motivated Abe to promote Taiwan-Japan ties, said Kawasaki, the author of Lee’s Dialogues.
But unfortunately, he has no successor, as LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council chairperson Sanae Takaichi, an outspoken friend of Taiwan, has too little power in the party at the moment to significantly boost the ties, Kawasaki said.
China might seek to profit from Abe’s death and use the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Beijing and Tokyo to push Japan in a more China-friendly direction, he said.
There is currently no member of the LDP faction formerly dominated by Abe who can confront China, while the faction led by Kishida might replace Cabinet members closely associated with the former prime minister, such as Minister of Defense Nobuo Kishi, at the next opportunity, he said.
If Kishi and Takaichi were to be replaced, the Japanese government might become more China-friendly, Kawasaki said.
When Abe was prime minister, he placed a strong focus on national security and pushed for amending Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which would remove curbs on the country’s defense capabilities, he said.
Whether constitutional reform remains on the agenda depends on whether Kishida remains prime minister after yesterday’s Japanese House of Councilors election, Kawasaki said.
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