TAIPEI (BLOOMBERG) – Taiwan’s vice-president visited Tokyo on Monday (July 11) to pay respects to former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, becoming the most senior Taiwanese official to visit Japan in decades.
Vice-President William Lai travelled to Japan on Monday to offer his condolences in the wake of Mr Abe’s murder last week.
Mr Lai visited Mr Abe’s family residence in Tokyo, accompanied by Mr Frank Hsieh, Taiwan’s representative to Japan, according to footage broadcast on local news networks.
Presidential Office spokesman Chang Tun-han declined to comment on Mr Lai’s itinerary, only saying the Vice-President and Mr Abe were old friends and Lai was saddened by the former prime minister’s death. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry also declined to provide further details, describing Mr Lai’s visit as a “personal trip”.
Mr Lai is the most senior Taiwanese official to visit Japan since Tokyo severed relations with Taipei in favour of the Communist government in Beijing in 1972, according to Taiwan’s state-run Central News Agency.
Mr Abe was a largely popular figure in Taiwan for his support of the island. He was a key figure in creating a stronger Indo-Pacific alliance among the region’s democracies in an effort to push back against an increasingly assertive China.
He was also a strong advocate for a more robust Japanese commitment to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of an invasion by China.
In a speech in November last year, Mr Abe warned any Chinese efforts to take control of Taiwan would pull in Japan and the United States, and would be “economic suicide” for Beijing.
Lai’s visit is likely to elicit an angry response from China, which urges countries to avoid any official contact with Taiwan.
China regards Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan says it will defend its freedoms and democracy.
China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday about Mr Lai’s visit.
Mr Abe’s death has been widely mourned in Taiwan.
President Tsai Ing-wen said in a statement that the international community had lost an important leader, and Taiwan had lost a dear friend. Taiwan’s tallest building, Taipei 101, has displayed a message of condolence for Abe since Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also in Tokyo Monday to deliver condolences from President Joe Biden.
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MCI (P) 031/10/2021, MCI (P) 032/10/2021. Published by SPH Media Limited, Co. Regn. No. 202120748H. Copyright © 2021 SPH Media Limited. All rights reserved.


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