Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso has arrived in Taiwan today for a three-day visit (August 7-9), during which he will attend the Ketagalan conference and meet with top Taiwanese officials. Critics say that Japan’s cordial and open attitude towards Taiwan might displease China’s new foreign minister, Wang Yi, who previously served as China’s envoy in Japan for five years.

Escorted by a representative for Japan-Taiwan affairs, former PM Aso took off from Taipei Songshan Airport today around 11 am. He was wearing his signature gray gentleman’s hat and passed through the crowds with an amiable smile.

The 82-year old man has been the vice president of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since 2021. He previously took up important seats in Japan’s top authority, including prime minister from 2018 to 2019, and deputy prime minister from 2012 to 2021.

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Aso will speak at the Ketagalan Forum, an annual forum focusing on security in the Indo-Pacific region, and later, he will meet with President Tsai Ing-Wen and other senior Taiwanese officials, such as Vice President Lai Ching-te, Taipei Mayor Chiang Wan-an, Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, and former Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng.

Yaita Akio, the Taipei Bureau director for the Japanese news agency Sankei Shimbun, who is also a journalist and politics commentator, analyzed on his Facebook page about the symbolic meaning of Aso’s arrival.

“It is a pivotal breakthrough in the history of the Taiwan-Japan relationship, ever since Japan severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1972.” Commentator Akio explains that Aso, representing the top authority of Japan’s ruling party LDP, wields his influence secondary to the current Japanese Prime Minister, Kishida Fumio.

Akio also pointed out that Aso showcased his “real support” for Taiwan, by meeting with different candidates running for Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election. Local media reported that back in Tokyo, Aso has also met with Kuomintang (KMT) presidential candidate Hou Yu-ih last Tuesday and Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) candidate Ko Wen-je in June.

This time in Taipei, Aso will meet individually with Taiwan’s Vice President Lai Ching-te, who is the official candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). This demonstrates the former PM’s willingness to understand Taiwan’s current political situation, as analyzed by commentator Akio.

On the other hand, Akio regarded Aso’s high-profile visit and cordiality might dissatisfy China, particularly with the newly appointed Foreign Minister Wang Yi on board now.

“Wang Yi was once China’s envoy in Japan, and also an expert in Japan-China diplomatic relations. Just returned to the office, and immediately encountering this matter, one can imagine that it’s definitely causing quite a headache.”

Yaita Akio also stated that the last time a Vice President of the LDP visited Taiwan was Shigenzaburo Chii in September 1972, discussing the issue of diplomatic relations between Japan and Taiwan.

“That was an unpleasant visit,” he said. He hopes that this time, after a total of 50 years, Aso’s visit to Taiwan will be a pleasant one, and he looks forward to both sides elevating Japan-Taiwan relations to a new level.

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TNL Editor: Kim Chan (@thenewslensintl)

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