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Taiwan and Japan Strengthen Relations Before Presidential Inauguration

News Analysis

Taiwan has seen a closer relationship with Japan in the lead-up to President-elect William Lai Ching-te’s inauguration, to which Japan plans to send a delegation of 38 parliamentarians. One expert believes that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pushed the two closer.

On May 8, Mr. Lai attended a memorial event in Tainan City for the late Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta, organized by the Republic of China (ROC)’s Ministry of Agriculture. He laid flowers at his seated statue. Mr. Hatta, born in Kanazawa, Japan, passed away on May 8, 1942. During Japan’s rule over Taiwan, he led the construction of several water projects, which transformed barren lands into fertile grain-producing areas.

In his speech, Mr. Lai said that with limited technology a century ago, these projects could not have been completed without Mr. Hatta’s expertise and dedication. He noted that after his inauguration on May 20, he would continue to strengthen cooperation with Japan in various fields, especially in increasing personnel exchanges, semiconductor industry cooperation, and maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

“We have seen that during President Tsai Ing-wen’s second term, Vice President Lai Ching-te has generally represented the president in interactions with various sectors in Japan, becoming a liaison for Japan. For instance, it was Vice President Lai who represented Taiwan at Abe’s funeral,” Ding Shuh-Fan, an Honorary Professor at National Chengchi University’s College of International Affairs, told The Epoch Times on May 9.

A day after Mr. Lai commemorated the deceased’s merits, President Tsai Ing-wen honored contemporary contributors to the Taiwan-Japan friendship.

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On May 9, Ms. Tsai awarded Hideo Tarumi, former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon in recognition of his contributions to Taiwan-Japan relations.

In her speech, she stated Mr. Tarumi, a long-time good friend of Taiwan, was dedicated to a diplomatic vision, actively worked to further Taiwan-Japan cooperation, and contributed to the development of current bilateral relations.

“Now Taiwan and Japan are a model for the world of mutually supportive democracies, both countries sharing values like freedom and respect for human rights and constituting a key force for safeguarding regional peace,” she said.

Mr. Tarumi, who served twice in Japan’s representative office in Taiwan, said that having lived in Taiwan, he knows very well that Taiwan and Japan have a close and intimate connection. He added that “since both countries have experienced many natural disasters and face challenging international circumstances, we always look out for each other.”Expert: CCP Brought Taiwan and Japan CloserSun Kuo-Hsiang, associate professor at the Department of International Affairs and Business at Nanhua University, believes that the close Taiwan-Japan relations are not only due to traditional friendship but also negative external factors caused by the CCP, which “have driven Taiwan-Japan relations closer,” he told The Epoch Times.In recent years, the CCP has continually sent coast guard ships to patrol, set up maritime buoys, and harass Japanese vessels in the waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands, which Japan accuses of infringing on its territorial sovereignty and violating international law.

As Mr. Lai’s inauguration approaches, the CCP’s pressure on Taiwan has intensified.

On May 9, in addition to dispatching 23 military aircraft (including eight that crossed the Taiwan Strait median line) and five warships around Taiwan, the CCP also sent more than ten vessels to sail along the coast of Kinmen Island, with a fleet of seven ships entering restricted waters.

Since May, Taiwan has tracked CCP military aircraft 98 times and naval vessels 41 times.

Taiwan's Vice President and president-elect from the Democratic Progressive Party Lai Ching-te speaks to supporters at a rally at the party's headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan on January 13, 2024. (Annabelle Chih/Getty Image)Taiwan’s Vice President and president-elect from the Democratic Progressive Party Lai Ching-te speaks to supporters at a rally at the party’s headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan on January 13, 2024. (Annabelle Chih/Getty Image)Lai: Taiwan and Japan ‘Share a Common Destiny’Dealing with the CCP’s provocations on Taiwan, the United States and Japan have responded with clear diplomatic and military actions.

On May 9, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, a bipartisan alliance of Japanese parliamentarians, held a full meeting and announced that 37 Japanese parliamentarians would attend Mr. Lai’s presidential inauguration on May 20, a record number. Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, Taiwan’s representative to Japan, also attended the meeting.

Keiji Furuya, chairman of the Association, said, “Strengthening cooperation with Taiwan, the United States, and other countries with shared values is our greatest role.”

In response, President Lai said in a video, “Taiwan and Japan share a common destiny. A Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency, and a Japanese emergency is a Taiwanese emergency.”

The Japanese parliamentary delegation plans to visit Taiwan from May 18 to 20. It expects to meet with Mr. Lai and Ms. Tsai and Legislative Yuan President Han Kuo-yu. The delegation also intends to hold an early face-to-face “Japan-U.S.-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue” involving U.S. congressmen.

The delegation donated 1 million yen ($6395.65) from membership fees as a condolence fund for the earthquake disaster in eastern Taiwan.

The United States, on the other hand, supported Taiwan through military actions.

On May 8, the U.S. Seventh Fleet stated that the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Halsey transited the Taiwan Strait on a routine mission.

“Halsey’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to upholding freedom of navigation for all nations as a principle,” reads the statement. “No member of the international community should be intimidated or coerced into giving up their rights and freedoms.”

The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd transits the Taiwan Strait during a routine mission. (U.S. Navy/AFP)The Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd transits the Taiwan Strait during a routine mission. (U.S. Navy/AFP)International Forces Unite to Contain CCPOn April 30, ROC Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Japanese media that while there are currently no signs of the CCP actively preparing to attack Taiwan, the possibility of an economic blockade against Taiwan cannot be ruled out.

He said that strengthening cooperation with democratic countries to prevent the expansion of authoritarianism is the most important current step to avoid military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Mr. Wu positively evaluated Japan’s contributions to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. He mentioned Japan’s alliances with the U.S., South Korea, and the Philippines and its role as a major member of the QUAD.

He noted that the UK, Canada, and the EU are reassessing their Indo-Pacific strategies and strengthening relations with Taiwan. High-level meetings and important international conferences repeatedly emphasize the importance of stability in the Taiwan Strait for world security. In addition, the United States is actively practicing freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait to ensure peace and security in the region.

Mr. Ding believes that today’s Taiwan has become a symbol:

“In the competition and confrontation between the Western democracies represented by the United States and the authoritarian regimes represented by the CCP, Taiwan is at the forefront of this rivalry,” he said.

Mr. Sun said that among the countries supporting Taiwan, “the United States is the leader and protector of the world order, and Japan is actively keeping pace.”

“The U.S. has deployed medium-range missiles on Luzon Island and may deploy them on Ryukyu or the Southwest Islands in the future,” he added.

He believes that after Mr. Lai’s inauguration, Taiwan, which is at the forefront of the battle between good and evil, “will be able to play a good role in safeguarding the democratic system.”

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