0714: Taiwan VP Lai’s Visit to Japan; U.S. Sen. Scott Meets With Taiwan President Tsai

Taiwan’s VP Lai Visits Tokyo to Pay His Respects to Shinzo Abe — Most Senior Taiwan Official to Visit Japan in Five Decades

Taiwan’s Vice President William Lai (or Lai Ching-te) became the most senior Taiwanese official to visit Japan in five decades when he recently traveled to Tokyo to offer condolences after the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Shortly after arriving in Tokyo on July 11, Lai was filmed by Japanese media paying a visit to Abe’s residence accompanied by Taiwan’s representative to Japan Frank Hsieh. Later that evening, he attended a wake for Abe at Zojoji Temple near Tokyo Tower.

On July 12, Lai attended a private funeral service at the Zojoji Temple. The funeral service was attended by family members, foreign dignitaries, and close acquaintances of Abe, including current Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

Lai’s trip to Tokyo made him the highest-ranking government official from Taiwan to visit Japan since Japan broke official ties with Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1972.

Japan’s broadcaster NHK reported that it was “rare” that an incumbent Taiwanese vice president’s trip to Japan has been made public, noting that Lai’s trip could anger China, which opposes any official interactions between Taiwan and countries China has diplomatic relations with.

Both Japanese and Taiwanese governments, however, have downplayed Lai’s visit, stressing that Lai had traveled to Tokyo “in a personal capacity.”

Nevertheless, a Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator said that Lai had been instructed by President Tsai Ing-wen to make the visit, while another fellow lawmaker described Lai as “a special envoy” for Taiwan.

Although Japan has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, some senior Japanese officials have become increasingly outspoken in their support for Taiwan in the past few years.

Meanwhile, on July 11, President Tsai offered her condolences in a visit to Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA), saying that she would continue Abe’s legacy of closer Taiwan-Japan relationships and deepen ties between the two countries.

She had ordered Taiwan’s flags to be flown at half-staff through July 11 to honor Abe, who was widely considered in Taiwan as being key in contributing towards warming Taipei-Tokyo ties in recent years.

Tsai said she was offering condolences to Abe’s family of behalf of the government and the people of Taiwan.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202207120006
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202207120013
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/07/12/2003781599
[4] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/taiwan-vice-president-makes-rare-japan-visit-pay-respects-abe-official-media-2022-07-11/

U.S. Should Help Taiwan Defend Freedoms: Visiting U.S. Senator Scott

The United States should work with its partners to help Taiwan defend its freedoms, U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) told Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen at a meeting on July 8, during his three-day visit to Taiwan.

The U.S. and all other freedom-loving countries should work together to “make sure that Taiwan has the opportunity to decide their future, not have it decided by some foreigner,” said Scott.

The free world should continue working together to make sure Taiwan is well-positioned to defend its freedoms, he added, alluding to the growing influence of China in the Indo-Pacific region.

He said that as a member of the U.S. Senate committees on both armed services and commerce, he remained committed to the freedoms and security of Taiwan, and looked forward to meeting with Taiwanese officials and business leaders to discuss ways to increase bilateral trade.

Similarly, President Tsai stressed the need for “democratic partners to deepen cooperation” in light of several challenges facing the world in recent years, mentioning, in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic, the expansion of authoritarianism, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Taiwan will continue to work closely with the U.S. to jointly safeguard the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region,” Tsai said.

Speaking about a joint initiative — the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade — launched in June, Tsai said that both sides were working together to map out a clear pathway to negotiating and signing a U.S.-Taiwan trade agreement. 

She thanked Sen. Scott for twice in the past two years introducing a bill that would be crucial for the security of Taiwan, referring to the proposed “Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act.”

After the meeting, Scott told reporters he believes that “the world has changed” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We all have to put ourselves in a position that we can make sure we defend the freedom we all believe in,” he added.

“I do think it would be helpful if Taiwan participated in RIMPAC and I hope that’s what happens in the future,” Scott said, referring to the “Rim of the Pacific Exercise,” the world’s largest international maritime drills.

In the U.S.-led format’s ongoing edition, 26 nations have since last month been participating in drills around Hawaii and southern California.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202207080008
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/07/09/2003781424