"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] President Ma Meets Japan Interchange Association Taipei Office Chief Representative Masaki Saito

[Place] Taipei
[Date] Desember 14, 2009
[Source] Office of the president, Republic of China(Taiwan)
[Full text]

President Ma Ying-jeou met with Masaki Saito, the outgoing Chief Representative of the Japan Interchange Association Taipei Office, at the Presidential Office on the morning of December 14. The president expressed his appreciation to Representative Saito for his contributions during his tenure here, adding that he hopes that Taiwan-Japan relations will become even stronger in the year ahead.

The president remarked that ties between the two countries have grown more rapidly over the past year than at anytime in the past. He said that he has promoted a policy of "flexible diplomacy" since taking office. Taiwan and Japan share deep historical bonds and have strong ties, he commented. While bilateral relations in the past have been tested due to factors associated with mainland China, the improvement in cross-strait relations has helped to alleviate obstacles in interaction between Taiwan and Japan, he said.

President Ma said that over the past year and a half, progress in relations between Taiwan and Japan has been seen on many fronts. For instance, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office opened a branch in Sapporo on December 1, which in the future will provide services to the roughly 280,000 Taiwan tourists visiting Hokkaido each year. This is Taiwan's sixth in Japan, and the new facility will extend the scope of dealings between the two nations to northern Japan, he said. President Ma commented that he specially asked Legislative Yuan President Wang Jin-pyng to represent him in making the trip to Sapporo to attend the opening of the office. This demonstrates the importance that the ROC (Taiwan) government puts on this event, he said. Meanwhile, the president also pointed to the signing of an agreement between Taiwan and Japan on December 11 that will allow for charter flights between Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Taipei's Songshan Airport. Under the arrangement, which is expected to commence in October of next year, four charter flights each day will fly the route. The introduction of these flights will realize an important platform of his during his campaign for the presidency, he said.

The president said that Representative Saito has played a prominent role in promoting the establishment of the Center for Modern Japan Studies at National Chengchi University here. This marks a new step forward in efforts to enable Taiwan's academic community to understand contemporary Japan. Also, in June of this year, a youth working holiday agreement between Taiwan and Japan formally went into practice. This will allow young people from each side between the ages of 18 and 30 to visit the other nation and engage in working holidays. This arrangement, the president said, will not only prove beneficial in attracting young people to each nation for tourism, but also in promoting mutual understanding. On the cultural front, Taiwan is preparing to open a cultural center in Tokyo, he said, and efforts are being made to allow items from Taiwan's National Palace Museum to be displayed in Japan. This will help to promote cultural and artistic interaction, he said. President Ma also mentioned that Taiwanese who reside in Japan were in the past only allowed to designate their nationality as China on their residency cards, which created various identification problems. Recently, however, the Japanese government has passed amendments to related laws, enabling Taiwanese compatriots to designate their nationality as "Taiwan." President Ma said he wants to specially thank Representative Saito on behalf of the government and people of the ROC (Taiwan) for all that he has contributed during his time in his post here.

President Ma also stressed that in the future the government will promote even more windows for dialogue between Taiwan and Japan, including private avenues. At present, the government is constructing a Yoichi Hatta memorial park at the Wushantou Reservoir. He said that he expects interaction between the private sectors of the two countries to become even more frequent in the future. The president also commented that a white paper was previously issued by Japanese firms operating in Taiwan that includes various suggestions. According to the paper, in light of the historical bonds between Taiwan and Japan and the lengthy experience of cooperation between the two, should Japanese enterprises and Taiwanese enterprises establish strategic alliances to jointly develop the mainland China market, this would result in a degree of competitiveness that would be unmatched by other countries, resulting in mutual benefit. The paper said such a move would be advantageous in improving the trilateral relationship between mainland China, Japan, and Taiwan, and would also foster peace in East Asia. President Ma said that since taking office, he has strived to improve relations between Taiwan and Japan. Over the past year-plus period, he has met with Japanese visitors on 51 occasions, he said, which demonstrates the emphasis he places on ties between the two. President Ma said he hopes that in the future, contacts via various avenues will enable various sectors in Japan to understand that we have every intention of continuing to work to improve Taiwan-Japan ties. The president stated he also hopes that Taiwan-Japan relations will continue to prosper.

Representative Saito said he will leave his position on December 20th, concluding a stay of one year and five months here. He expressed his deepest appreciation to Taiwan for its warm welcome as well as to President Ma for supporting his efforts. Representative Saito said that Japan has just selected the kanji that it believes most represents 2009-新(New). Looking ahead to 2010, Japan's new representative to Taiwan, he said, will turn a fresh page in relations between Taiwan and Japan. He added that he is willing to continue to concern himself with and lend assistance to the development of Taiwan-Japan relations.