Japan and Taiwan are strengthening their cooperative ties in response to the new coronavirus, with Tokyo lobbying for Taipei to be allowed in as an observer for the World Health Organization assembly, which will be held virtually from Monday.
At a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi mentioned that Taiwan successfully staved off the spread of the virus by swiftly limiting entry.
“The international community has a great deal to learn from Taiwan’s measures. We will make an effort to allow Taiwan to participate in the WHO meeting as an observer,” Motegi said. “Frankly speaking, there’s an issue with China.”
Taiwan has been barred from participating as an observer since 2017, a year after the inauguration of President Tsai Ing-wen. Her administration takes a tough stance on relations with China.
During a meeting of the House of Councillors Budget Committee on April 29, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated clearly that Japan was directly asking WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to allow Taiwan to participate in the WHO, while showing wariness of China.
“The country that opposes this has been exerting its influence,” Abe said.
Japan and Taiwan are cooperating in dealing with infectious diseases, such as helping those stranded overseas return home. In late April, Taiwan sent 2 million masks to Japan through a nonpartisan group of lawmakers in the Japan-Taiwan parliamentary association.
China has been unnerved by the close ties between Japan and Taiwan, lodging a protest when Abe used a tweet on April 8 to thank Tsai for her message of support.
Since Japan wants to avoid provoking China, Abe did not directly responded to Tsai’s Twitter message posted on April 18 regarding Taiwan’s donation of the masks. Instead, sources said, Abe called Frank Hsieh Chang-ting, the representative of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan to convey his gratitude to Taiwan.