TOKYO -- Taiwan is "an important partner that shares Japan's values and interests," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday, according to a ruling party lawmaker, in the latest expression of a cozy relationship that riles China.
Keisuke Suzuki, director of the Liberal Democratic Party's youth division, spoke with reporters here after briefing Abe on his meeting earlier this month with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a trip to Taiwan.
Abe also said he wanted to strengthen ties with Taiwan around the youth division, according to Suzuki.
This echoed friendly words from Tsai on her meeting with Suzuki. The president tweeted in Japanese on March 21, "I hope that young politicians from Taiwan and Japan can join hands and further deepen our exchanges."
On Saturday, Jiro Akama, Japanese vice minister for internal affairs, called Taiwan a wonderful partner for Japan at tourism promotion event in Taipei. Akama became the highest-level Japanese government figure to make an official visit to Taiwan since 1972, when diplomatic ties between Japan and the island were severed.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs protested Akama's trip to Taiwan. Such overtures strike a nerve with Beijing, which regards Taiwan and the mainland as part of "One China."