TAIPEI — Japan should recognize that Taiwan currently exists as a separate political entity from China, and it should help persuade China that maintaining a friendly relationship with Taiwan will benefit both sides of the Taiwan Strait, a leading Taiwanese businessman said recently.
Expressing concerns over the recent deterioration of cross-strait relations, Theodore M.H. Huang, chairman of TECO Electric & Machinery Co., said that Japanese politicians only give an ear to mainland China although some indicate privately that they understand Taiwan’s situation very well.
“I wish Japan would openly tell China that maintaining a close relationship with Taiwan will help both sides of the strait develop,” he said in an interview.
Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui’s explicit remarks in July that the relationship between Taiwan and China is a “special state-to-state relationship” infuriated Beijing, which claims China has sovereignty over Taiwan. Cross-strait tensions have since heightened, with Beijing threatening a possible attack on Taiwan.
Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ruling Kuomintang party late last month adopted President Lee’s view at its convention as the party platform.
Although Japan appears reluctant to support Taipei’s position out of fear that siding with Taiwan will fuel Beijing’s anger, Huang, who was educated in Taiwan, Japan and the United States, pointed out that Japan is gradually changing.
The businessman, who is close to President Lee, particularly welcomed the recent move by Japan to approve legislation implementing the updated Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines, saying Japan did not rule out the Taiwan Strait in its definition of “areas surrounding Japan.”
Under the defense guidelines laws enacted in May, Japan will be able to provide wider support for U.S. military forces during emergencies in such areas, which remain unspecified.
Taiwan tops the list of sovereignty disputes in East Asia, followed by the Senkaku Islands. However, the Japanese government remains ambiguous about the areas referred to by the laws, saying the government should not create a limit.
“Before, Japan may have overtly said that an emergency in the Taiwan Strait is not included in the areas (spelled out in the laws),” he said.
Huang said that Lee’s comment came after the president carefully contemplated cross-strait relations.
“President Lee wanted to clearly position Taiwan on equal footing with China when negotiating with Wang Daohan, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Wang, whose Chinese association deals with cross-strait matters, is expected to visit Taiwan in October for dialogue with his Taiwanese counterpart, Koo Chen-fu.
Huang also said that Lee aimed to set the tone for his successor before the end of his term next March, and that Lee made the comment during an interview with German media because he was hoping that media from Germany, a reunified country, would be able to understand his feelings.
Contrary to the reactions of Chinese people on the other side of the strait, many Taiwanese support Lee’s stance. “When opinion polls were conducted, 75 percent of Taiwanese supported Lee’s remarks,” Huang said.
“We are like an engaged couple,” he said. “Unification is about the future, and the ‘one China’ policy hailed by Chinese officials does not describe the current situation.”
However, Huang also added that Taiwan need not declare independence at the moment.
“It would be better to create a good atmosphere between us and negotiate without a specific deadline,” he said. “During that period, we can continue cultural exchanges as well as economic and business exchanges.”