Taipei, July 12 (CNA) Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) returned to Taipei Tuesday night after wrapping up a previously unannounced trip to Tokyo, where he attended the funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier the same day.
Lai arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport at 8:20 p.m. He nodded at reporters without making any comment, before being escorted away by national security officials.
The vice president later took to social media to thank people for their concern. However, he made no mention of his brief trip which made him the highest-ranking government official from Taiwan to make an extended visit to Japan since Tokyo severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in September 1972.
Earlier in the afternoon, Lai was at Abe’s private funeral service, which was 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.
Lai, who traveled to Tokyo on Monday, was also filmed by Japanese media paying a visit to Abe’s residence and at a wake held at Zojoji Temple later that day.
However, both Japanese and Taiwanese authorities have downplayed the visit, stressing that the vice president traveled to Tokyo in a personal capacity.
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi told a press conference Tuesday that Lai had attended Abe’s funeral as a private citizen, adding that Tokyo’s policy toward Taipei has not changed.
In Taipei, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said at a press briefing Tuesday that the ministry would not comment on Lai’s “private schedule” in Tokyo.
Asked to comment on Lai’s visit to Japan, Wang Wenbin (汪文斌), spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused the Taiwanese authorities of “political manipulation” over Abe’s tragic passing, during a press briefing Tuesday.
Wang added that Beijing had expressed its position clearly to Tokyo over the matter.
Abe died on Friday evening at the age of 67, hours after 41-year-old suspect, Tetsuya Yamagami, allegedly shot the former prime minister twice during a campaign speech on a street in Nara, near Osaka, ahead of upper house elections in Japan, which took place Sunday.
(By Yeh Chen and Teng Pei-ju)
Enditem/AW

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