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Talks between the ruling parties of Japan and Taiwan have raised the possibility of miliary exchanges. Photo: AFP

Landmark Japan-Taiwan ruling party talks yield agreement on coastguard drills

  • In their first security dialogue, DPP and LDP representatives raise the possibility of military exchanges
  • Both parties expressed grave concern about Beijing’s military activities in the Taiwan Strait and waters close to Japan
In their first security dialogue, the ruling parties of Taiwan and Japan have agreed to push for cooperation between their coastguards, including holding joint drills.

In the landmark online meeting on Friday, representatives from Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party discussed the possibility of military exchanges between Japan and the self-ruled island, which Beijing sees as its territory.

Chinese foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing had protested to Japan over the dialogue, calling on Tokyo to stop any official exchanges with Taiwan.

“The Taiwan issue is related to the political foundation of Sino-Japanese relations,” Zhao said. “We solemnly request Japan to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and not to send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces.”

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Known as the ruling party version of the “2+2” security dialogue normally convened between governments, the talks involved two senior lawmakers from each party.
Tsai Shih-ying, a legislator from the independence-leaning DPP who sits on the defence affairs committee of Taiwan’s parliament, said that during the 1½-hour meeting the two sides discussed defence and security issues in depth, including the military activities of the People’s Liberation Army in the Taiwan Strait and waters close to Japan.

“During the talks, our two sides expressed our grave concerns about the activities of Chinese warplanes and warships in waters southwest of Japan and the area southeast of Taiwan … and the growing military challenge from China,” Tsai said.

The LDP representatives said Japan needed to increase its military budget to ensure its air and sea supremacy, while the Taiwanese side said it would do the same in strengthening its defences in eastern and northeastern Taiwan, according to Tsai.

“[Masahisa] Sato introduced the idea of having deeper cooperation between the coastguards of Taiwan, the United States and Japan,” he said, referring to the director of the LDP’s foreign affairs division.

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The dialogue was initiated by the LDP, which was also represented by Taku Otsuka, the director of the party’s national defence division. Both Sato and Otsuka have held senior positions in the Japanese government in the past.

The DPP was also represented by Lo Chih-cheng, who sits at the parliament’s foreign affairs committee and is also head of the DPP’s foreign affairs department.

Tsai said the two sides reached a “high degree of consensus” over bilateral coastguard exchanges, including joint maritime disaster and humanitarian assistance drills.

“Another important topic in the talks was national defence, during which military exchanges between Taiwan and Japan were brought up,” Tsai said without giving details.

He said the two sides agreed to report back to their respective coastguard, defence and security authorities for deliberation.


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China calls Japan ‘irresponsible’ over Tokyo’s ‘sense of crisis’ for Taiwan Strait tensions

Lo said the two sides also discussed economic and technology issues, including Taiwan’s hi-tech supply chains and Japanese investment in the island’s tech industries.

He said they agreed to hold further dialogues and did not rule out expansion to other issues.

“We also did not rule out adjustment of the levels and number of participants as well as the form of the meeting in the future,” Lo said.

“From a certain perspective today’s talks represent the efforts of both governments to raise relations,” he said, adding “even if the two sides face possible pressure from China, both sides can promise to express their strong willingness and hope that such a dialogue will continue”.

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According to a DPP statement, Sato said that because of restrictions on official exchanges between Taiwan and Japan, the ruling party dialogues were a way for the two sides to increase cooperation in the face of growing mainland challenges to security in the Taiwan Strait and Japan.

Taku also said the dialogue was necessary in the face of military expansion of the PLA which had caused instability in the region, it said.

Beijing has warned Japan against holding such dialogues with Taiwan, saying Tokyo should adhere to the one-China policy by refraining from having any official contact with the island.

Lo said objections and warnings from Beijing were expected.

“But as a sovereign and independent country, Taiwan has the right to promote bilateral and multilateral ties with all countries,” he said.

Beijing has stepped up pressure on Taipei since the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen was elected president in 2016 and refused to accept the one-China principle. It has staged numerous war games close to the island and sent warplanes into its air defence identification zone to intimidate Taipei.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Japan and Taiwan in historic talks over coastguard drills