Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ma attempts to sooth Japan ties

Remember when Ma said that Taiwanese who like Japan are "brainwashed"? Japan Times had an interesting article the other day (hat tip to Steve and Jim). After reporting that ex-President and Japanophile Lee Teng-hui is off to Japan soon, the Japan Times observes that President Ma is in damage control mode with regard to Japan. To wit:

But scratch the surface and a different picture emerges, with Japan increasingly worried over Ma's attitude toward Tokyo and his handling of ties with rival China. Increasingly acute, those concerns have prompted Ma to scramble, albeit quietly, for damage control before Taipei-Tokyo ties deteriorate beyond repair.

"There is a growing feeling of suspicion from Japan, and so President Ma is moving to ease those concerns," says Lo Chih-cheng, a Japan watcher and chairman of the political science department at Soochow University in Taipei.

Eager to calm nerves in Japan, Ma has assigned Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng to articulate his policies and lead a delegation of lawmakers on a goodwill visit.

Taipei's top envoy for China, Chiang Pin-kun, is also scheduled to visit Tokyo later this month. Unlike Wang's trip, news of Chiang's upcoming Japan mission has been subdued, with few officials commenting on his itinerary and objectives.

Chiang's visit, Lo says, "is strange considering his role now is chief negotiator for China affairs."

But Chiang is also a Japan affairs expert and ruling Nationalist Party vice chairman, and is thus uniquely positioned to soothe Tokyo over what seems to be its greatest concern — that Ma is moving Taiwan too close to China.

According to the story, Ma is attempting to explain to the Japanese that Taiwan moving closer to China is actually good for them.

As chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation — the semiofficial agency in charge of direct contact with Beijing — fewer Taipei officials are better versed in cross-strait relations than Chiang, who, says a source familiar with the situation, received instructions from Ma to portray those warming relations as beneficial to Japan.
One foreign policy success of the DPP was the warm relations with Japan, which had begun to see Taiwan as integral to its security. As I noted in 2006, Japanese tourists often preferred Taiwan to China, since China is hostile to Japan, and visits from legislators and other politicians were common. Ma's foreign policy, aptly described by Tsai Ing-wen as "I've stopped struggling, don't beat me", has not been good for Japan-Taiwan relations.

1 comment:

Richard said...

Japan has good suspicions to be suspicious of warming ties with China. An "enemy" of China is a friend of Taiwan. Only in the eyes of those who wish to get back in bed with China is warming ties with China more important with Japan.