BEJING – China tried to force Japan’s embassy in Beijing to cancel its cultural exchange event earlier this month after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made remarks on Taiwan, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.
On Dec. 1, Abe, an influential lawmaker who still heads the largest faction within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said at a virtual event that any emergency concerning Taiwan would be an emergency for Japan and for the Japan-U.S. security alliance.
The Sino-Japanese event supposed to be held on Dec. 7 was eventually canceled, the sources said, probably making bilateral relations more fragile although next year marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of their diplomatic ties.
Since one day after Abe made comments on Taiwan, many Chinese among around 250 invited guests had been put pressure by the authorities not to join the event on the grounds of the risk of infections with the novel coronavirus, the sources said.
Similar events, however, were held at other embassies in Beijing in December, they added.
Noting there was a “special background,” a Chinese official suggested a connection between the cancellation of the event and Abe’s remarks, which came with Beijing stepping up military intimidation against Taiwan.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 as the result of a civil war. The Communist-led government has regarded the self-ruled democratic island as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Abe, a conservative politician known for his hawkish views on security, had invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to Japan as a state guest during the latter term of his tenure. He resigned as prime minister in 2020 after nearly eight years in the post.