TOKYO (AP) – Japan’s relations with Taiwan are non-governmental and practical, based on the “one country, two systems” policy that recognizes China as the only legitimate government, a senior Japanese official said on Friday, following the Beijing protests against a recent reference to the island as a country.
As China deploys its weapons in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region, the Taiwan issue is a sensitive subject, especially as Japan, the United States and other democracies develop closer ties. with the autonomous island which Beijing regards as a renegade territory to be united by force if necessary.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular press conference on Friday that “Japan’s position is to maintain relations with Taiwan as practical and non-governmental,” according to the 1972 Japan-China Communiqué, when Tokyo transferred diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. “This is our basic policy and there is no change in it.”
Kato’s remark came a day after China protested Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s reference to Taiwan as a country during a parliamentary debate on Wednesday.
Suga, while responding to a question about pandemic measures, referred to Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia as “three countries.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Thursday that the comment violated Japan’s “solemn promise not to treat Taiwan as a country.”
“We deeply regret Japan’s erroneous remarks and have lodged solemn complaints with Japan, demanding that Japan immediately provide clear clarifications to eliminate the adverse effects caused by the relevant remarks and to ensure that such situations do not recur.” Wang said.
Japan’s upper house on Friday passed a resolution calling on the World Health Organization to include Taiwan in its general assemblies, saying its expertise on coronavirus measures is indispensable.
China has so far blocked the move and increased Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation, leaving it with just over a dozen official diplomatic allies. Taiwan still operates a network of trade offices around the world that act as de facto embassies, including in the United States, Japan, and most other major countries.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi carefully referred to Taiwan as a “region” in his brief remark stressing the importance of including the island for the benefit of international public health.
Japan has also donated 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan as it battles its biggest outbreak of infections amid a vaccine shortage. Taiwan has criticized China for interfering in a potential deal for another vaccine.