Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Japan and Taiwan: Eastern Rift Parley

As the Ma Administration prepares to place Taiwan firmly in China's orbit, it appears to be adopting remarkably different strategies toward the island's traditional patrons, Japan and the US. The US is treated as the wife who must be given all due proprieties in order to placate her even as Ma conducts a torrid affair with China, while Japan is being tossed aside, the occasional one-night stand whose association is now an embarrassment to the new order.

The latest sign of the apparent distancing of Japan is the resignation of Tokyo's man in Taiwan, Makoto Saito. Japan Times has the call:
Japan's top envoy to Taiwan, Makoto Saito, resigned as director of the Interchange Association, Tokyo's de facto embassy in Taipei, association officials said Tuesday.

Saito quit for "personal reasons," the officials said on condition of anonymity. They did not elaborate.

Saito's resignation comes amid a tiff with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who has been reluctant to meet with Saito or allow him to meet with senior administration officials for some eight months over a comment the envoy made earlier this year.

On May 1, Saito angered the Ma administration by referring to Taiwan's status in the international community as "unresolved" in remarks at a Taiwanese academic symposium.
The paper also notes:
Besides virtually freezing out Saito from high-level contacts, Taiwan has been tough with Japan under Ma's leadership.

Shortly after Ma took office last year, Taiwan's then prime minister even threatened war with Japan over a collision between a Taiwanese fishing boat and a Japan Coast Guard vessel in disputed waters claimed by the two sides but controlled by Japan.
At the time, right after Ma's election, the affray over the incursion into the Senkakus even then seemed artificial.....the Senkakus, after all, had been the subject of Ma's thesis.

The faltering relations between the two sides also sparked a sharp letter from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs directed at a piece by Max Hirsch in the Japan Times. The Hirsch piece stated:
But where the movie appeals to the Taiwanese administration, the reality of bilateral relations misses the mark, as gaffes and hurt feelings have abounded between Taipei and Tokyo since Ma took office last year — a reality spurring him to bring into play his vision through politically charged sites, figures — and even cartoons.
This drew a sharp rebuke from the TECRO office in Tokyo, which stated:
Hirsch's statement that "while Ma has wooed China, restarted formal negotiations across the Taiwan Strait and signed trade agreements with Beijing, Taipei's relations with Tokyo have mostly stagnated" is also groundless. President Ma has always insisted on a "three-no's" policy on China: no unification, no independence and no use of force. His current negotiations with China are based not on political but rather economic objectives. Taiwan's signing of trade agreements with Beijing will not affect Taiwan's intentions to improve relations with Japan.

Furthermore, Hirsch's mention that the delay in opening a new office in Hokkaido is "a sign that the Ma administration's interest in Japan is flagging" is totally inaccurate. Taiwan and Japan share fundamental values such as democracy, a free market and rule of law.

TECRO did indeed open the office Dec 1, in Sapporo, which KMT Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng attributed to Saito's hard work at improving Japan-Taiwan relations. Note the presence of the tiresome party line that politics is not part of the trade agreements with China. Does anyone out there actually buy that?

In any case, now compare the US and Japan. In May Japan's Saito pointedly tells Taipei that Japan does not recognize China's claim to Taiwan and that the island's status remains unresolved. This caused a massive ruckus between Japan and Taiwan. Yet after Obama's visit to Beijing in November, AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt said exactly the same thing in his prepared remarks to clarify what went on (and very reassuring remarks they were, thank you, Mr. Burghardt). To wit:
For 37 years we have made clear that "acknowledges" does not mean recognize, does not mean accept, does not mean anything else except acknowledges. On a number of occasions in the past 37 years there have been efforts to press the United States to take a more specific position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, or to define Taiwan in political terms. We have never agreed to do so.
Public reiteration of the US position, which is identical to Japan's, that the status of Taiwan remains unresolved, yet nary a whimper from the bloviators in the current ruling party.

Sure looks like the problems with Japan are artificially flavored.
Daily Links:
EVENTS: Dr Dafydd Fell, Taiwan specialist at SOAS, will be giving a talk on party politics in Taiwan on Dec 3 at 2 pm at the Academia Sinica.

2009-12-03 (thursday)
主講人 Dr. Dafydd Fell (Senior Lecturer, Department of Political and International Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies)
講題Party Politics in Taiwan Revisited

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


D.E. said...

(add link) A good pdf on China overcapacity can be found here:

Overcapacity in China: Causes, Impacts and Recommendations

Thirsty Ghosts said...

Thanks for the commentary. Just a quick note: It's Kyodo News that ''has the call.'' Japan Times published it, but the reporting is all Kyodo's. ;)

Diego said...

"... the wife who must be given all due proprieties in order to placate her". Mmh ...
I wonder where did you get that convincing analogy.

Michael Turton said...

Ha thanks Max.

Thirsty Ghosts said...

Also, I got his name wrong! It's actually Masakai Saito, not Matoko Saito. Oops. Nevermind, don't credit Kyodo! -m