China skips 3/11 rites over invite to Taiwan

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

China’s absence at Monday’s national ceremony in Tokyo commemorating the second anniversary of the 3/11 disasters was unfortunate, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday, with the snub apparently in response to the invitation extended to Taiwan.

Seoul’s envoy, Shin Kak Soo, laid his nonattendance, however, to a “clerical mistake.”

During the state-hosted ceremony at National Theatre, the Japanese organizer invited to the stage foreign envoys, representatives from international organizations and “miscellaneous” foreign guests to dedicate flowers for the victims of the disaster that devastated coastal Tohoku areas in 2011.

Shen Ssu-Tsun, head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan, Taiwan’s de facto embassy in Tokyo, was among them, classified as a “miscellaneous” foreign guest.

On its website Monday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed “strong displeasure and protest” with Tokyo, saying Japan had given the Taiwanese representative the same treatment as official foreign envoys.

Facing reporters Tuesday, Suga said Japan invited the Taiwan representatives to the stage “to express a sense of gratitude” for the Taiwanese people’s support of the disaster-hit region.

At last year’s ceremony, the Taiwanese representative was not invited to the stage. This was despite an enormous outpouring of aid from the Taiwanese people — more than ¥20 billion in donations for victims of the calamities in the first two months after the disaster, by far the most in the world.

Suga said Japan’s position on Taiwan had not changed and it will “firmly maintain” its stance based on the 1972 Japan-China joint communique.

Suga added that he explained this to the Chinese, “but they didn’t understand and didn’t attend the ceremony, which is extremely disappointing.”

South Korea, which, like China, has a strained relationship with Japan over territorial and historical issues, also did not send any representatives to Monday’s ceremony.