Seven Japanese lawmakers will visit Taiwan later this month in an apparent show of support for the island, according to Frank Hsieh, Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Tokyo.
Hsieh said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that it was particularly meaningful for the legislators, who belong to a cross-party parliamentary group focused on security affairs, to visit Taiwan following the death of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.
Hsieh said the upcoming trip showed the Diet's support for Taiwan would continue despite Abe's death, and more Japanese legislators with "shared values of freedom and democracy" had joined the "pro-Taiwan camp", increasing its influence.
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Abe, 67, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, was gunned down at a campaign rally in the southern city of Nara on Friday.
Taiwan's foreign ministry confirmed the upcoming visit but said it would only announce the names of the delegates and details of the trip "at an appropriate time".
The ministry stressed that Taiwan and Japan had maintained close exchanges for years, and it was normal for the two sides to continue now that they had relaxed Covid-19 border controls.
"The foreign ministry welcomes various Japanese sectors to organise trips to Taiwan to deepen bilateral and substantive relations in all areas," it said.
Huang Shih-chieh, a legislator from the island's ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the group was expected to exchange views with Taiwanese authorities on security and trade issues during the visit.
It was not immediately known if the Japanese legislators would meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
Tsai met a delegation of lawmakers from the Youth Division of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party at her office in May. During the meeting, she called for close cooperation with Tokyo on security issues in the Taiwan Strait and Japan's support for Taiwan's bid to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
News of the upcoming visit came just as Taiwanese Vice-President William Lai returned from an unannounced trip to Tokyo to attend the funeral of Abe, which the island's government said was a "personal trip" in his capacity as the late prime minister's close friend.
Beijing protested to Tokyo on Tuesday, saying that allowing Lai's visit was against the "one-China" policy Japan had committed to when the two sides established formal ties in 1972.
Beijing, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory and has not ruled out the use of force to take it under its control, opposes official contact between the island and other nations, including visits by Taiwanese officials.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Tuesday that Lai's Tokyo trip was a "political scheme" that would not succeed.
Lai, who returned to Taiwan on Tuesday, made no mention of his overnight trip. He is the highest-ranking Taiwan government official to visit Japan in decades.
Japanese media showed Lai at Abe's private funeral service – attended by family members, foreign dignitaries, and close acquaintances of the former Japanese prime minister, including current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida – at the Zojoji Temple near Tokyo Tower.
Mark Chen, head of the Friends of Abe Shinzo Association in Taiwan, said it was unlikely that Kishida would stray from Abe's political line, which had become increasingly anti-Beijing after he left office.
"With the ruling LDP winning two-thirds of the Diet seats, Prime Minister Kishida is expected to adhere to Abe's political line, which is to ally with the United States, [be] pro-Taiwan and counter China," said Chen, a former Taiwanese foreign minister.
He said the LDP's victory represented Japanese voters' support of Abe's political stance.
Tung Li-wen, an advisory committee member of the Taipei-based Taiwan Thinktank, said the fact that Japan had allowed Lai to visit reflected Kishida's willingness to support Abe's political stance towards the island.
"By allowing Lai to visit, Kishida meant to tell Taiwan there would be no change in friendly Taiwan-Japan relations," Tung said, adding that the visit also signalled to Beijing that Japan would not change its Indo-Pacific strategy.
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2022. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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