All national dailies reported extensively from Taipei on visiting Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar’s meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai yesterday, during which they agreed to strengthen mutual cooperation on a range of issues, including combating the coronavirus pandemic. Pointing out that Secretary Azar is the highest ranking USG official to visit the island territory since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979, the articles noted that China reacted sharply to the Trump administration’s alleged moves to undermine its “One China” policy. The papers viewed the first trip to Taiwan by a U.S. cabinet member in six years as an expression of President Trump’s resolve to step up pressure on Beijing amid the escalating friction between the two superpowers, with Nikkei conjecturing that Secretary Azar’s possible visit to the location where the body of former Taiwanese President Lee is enshrined would trigger further opposition from Beijing because of Lee’s pursuit of Taiwan’s independence.
In a related story, Sankei wrote that the GOJ is keeping a low profile with regard to the rising tension between the U.S. and China over Secretary Azar’s Taipei trip, quoting an unnamed high-ranking MOFA official as saying: “We don’t know how extensively the hostility toward the Chinese Communist Party is shared within the Trump administration or to what extent the U.S. administration plans to confront China.” The Japanese diplomat reportedly went on to say: “We will support Taiwan with the measures available to us. The U.S. understands that there are limits to what Japan can do on this front.” The daily noted that Tokyo considers Taipei to be an “extremely important partner with which it shares universal values,” pointing out that Japan is willing to allow Taiwan to join the TPP-11 and the WHO.