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Politics

Tokyo cheers Tsai's victory

TOKYO -- Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida on Saturday issued a statement congratulating Taiwanese President-elect Tsai Ing-wen on her electoral victory.

     The Japanese government will work to "further deepen cooperation and exchanges" between Japan and Taiwan, maintaining the current "non-governmental basis" relations between the two, Kishida said in the statement.

     He also stressed that Taiwan is an "important partner and a precious friend of Japan." He noted that Taiwan and Japan share basic values, enjoy close economic ties and are frequent travel destinations for each other's people.

     The foreign minister also mentioned Taipei-Beijing relations, saying Japan expects issues between the two "will be resolved peacefully by direct dialogue" in a way that promotes peace and stability in the region.

     The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to want stronger ties with Taiwan, especially regarding economic issues. He assumes Tsai will maintain a certain distance from China, unlike current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who has promoted closer relations with Beijing.

     Anticipating Tsai's victory, Abe has been preparing to deepen Japan's relationship with Taiwan for months now. In October, when Tsai visited Japan, Nobuo Kishi, Abe's younger brother and a lawmaker himself, escorted Tsai on a tour of Yamaguchi Prefecture, in southwestern Japan.

     Abe visited Taiwan and met Tsai in 2010 and 2011, when Abe's Liberal Democratic Party was Japan's main opposition party.

     Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party is now Taiwan's leading opposition party, though it also won big at Saturday's polls.

     Abe saw the Ma administration's moves to cozy up to Beijing as an offshoot of Taiwan's rapidly growing economic dependence on China.

     In a related matter, some government officials in Tokyo are considering whether to ask Taiwan to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging economic pact that is awaiting ratification. China is not part of the framework.

     Meanwhile, in Taipei, Tsai at a press conference emphasized her willingness to strengthen relations with Japan.

     Answering a question regarding the Japan-controlled Senkaku Islands, known as Tiaoyutai in Taiwan and Diaoyu in China, Tsai reiterated Taiwan's claim of sovereignty over the islets. She immediately followed that up by saying, "Even though we have some disputes over sovereignty, we do not wish to influence the development of our bilateral relations."

     Tsai mentioned she would like the two neighbors' economic, security and cultural ties to grow stronger.

     The president-elect also spoke of Taiwanese sovereignty over islets in the South China Sea, where China is currently building artificial islands, partly to beef up its territorial claims. She said Taiwan will abide by international law in resolving the issue.

     Keeping China's elevated aggressiveness in mind, she endorsed the necessity of guaranteeing freedom of navigation and aviation, saying she is "opposed to any actions that heighten tensions."

Nikkei deputy editor Kenji Kawase contributed to this story in Taipei.

(Nikkei)

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