Following a spat with China, Japan claims its relations with Taiwan are just “informal.”
According to a top Japanese official, Japan’s relations with Taiwan are non-governmental and pragmatic, and are based on Tokyo’s recognition of China as the sole legitimate government.
The clarification comes after Beijing’s officials protested the Japanese prime minister’s recent reference to the island as a country.
The issue of Taiwan is a sensitive topic as China flexes its muscles in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region, especially as Japan, the United States, and other democracies develop closer ties with the self-ruled island that Beijing regards as a renegade territory that must be united by force if necessary.
In accordance with the 1972 Japan-China Communique, when Tokyo transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular news conference that “Japan’s position is to preserve working connections with Taiwan at the non-government level.”
“That is our basic policy, and it will not change.”
Mr Kato’s statement came a day after China objected Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s use of the term “country” in a parliamentary discussion on Wednesday.
Mr. Suga made a fleeting reference to Taiwan, New Zealand, and Australia as “three countries” when responding to a question concerning pandemic preparedness.
The remarks, according to Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, breached Japan’s “solemn vow” not to recognise Taiwan as a country.
Mr Wang said, “We firmly lament Japan’s erroneous remarks and have made solemn objections with Japan, requesting that Japan provide clear clarifications as soon as possible to eradicate the negative consequences produced by relevant remarks and to ensure that similar situations do not occur again.”
On Friday, Japan’s upper house of parliament passed a motion urging the World Health Organization to include Taiwan in its general meetings, citing the importance of Taiwan’s expertise in coronavirus prevention.
China has so far resisted the move, further isolating Taiwan from the rest of the world, leaving it with only a few dozen formal diplomatic friends.
Taiwan has a global network of commercial offices that serve as de facto embassies, notably in the United States, Japan, and most other significant countries. (This is a brief piece.)